Paul wrote something in the fifth chapter of Ephesians that has really confused believers. So I’m going to use a translation called, “The Voice,” because it seems to capture the intention of Paul’s message:
“Let God fill you with the Holy Spirit. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you are empowered to speak to each other in the soulful words of pious songs, hymns, and spiritual songs; to sing and make music with your hearts attuned to God; and to give thanks to God the Father every day through the name of the Lord Jesus, the Liberating King, for all he has done” (Ephesians 5:18-20).
Usually you will see this written as something like: “. . . always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You see, when you read it that way, you get a much different message, don’t you think? There is a lot of discussion about this verse in churches today. I mean as a Christian, am I suppose to thank God for everything that comes my way? Well, that’s a reasonable question, but we need to be scripturally discriminating about this and try to analyze what we are giving thanks for.
When there is a crisis in your life, such as the death of a child or the loss of your husband, are you supposed to thank God for that? How about when a spouse dies and leaves you with five children to raise, do you thank God? Well that’s what some preach each Sunday. They preach that we are to give thanks in these and other evil situations. They say, “Well, the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” No! That is not what Paul was telling us.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t thank God after someone dies or some crisis befalls my family. I can’t thank God when someone is crippled with some paralysis and can’t even feed himself. Is this what the scripture is asking us to do? Are we supposed to thank God for everything that happens – good or bad?
By “thanking” the Lord, we are saying, “I understand you did this terrible thing and have caused so much pain and suffering . . . but I thank you for it.” My goodness. Is that what Paul was telling us to do? No. But something George Herbert, a Welsh poet, orator and Anglican priest, wrote, has given us something to consider:
“Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more–a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleases me,
As if thy blessings spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse my be Thy praise.”
What a wonderful prayer we should each offer.
Let me be real honest with you. I freely admit there have been times when I didn’t feel like praising my Lord; times when the last thing I wanted to do was to pray. Maybe you have never experienced that, but if you have, maybe I have something to offer you.
I remember a time when I was going to preach on Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” and I said, “Folks, I’m preaching to myself today–I need this teaching more than anyone.” (Afterward some came up to me and assured me that they needed it as much a I did, but I still doubted them).
When Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” I have a suspicion he didn’t mean for us to wait until we felt like thanking God. He wants us to do it when we are down. I’m also sure that James meant this too: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
When I am down but still thank my Father, I’m doing something that goes against what is natural for most of us to do. It shows that we trust Him during our low times as well as our high times when faith comes easily. I think that is what Paul was saying. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to see beyond the pain and suffering . . . and we are able to encourage each other in the “soulful words of pious songs, hymns, and spiritual songs; to sing and make music with your hearts attuned to God; and to give thanks to God the Father every day through the name of the Lord Jesus . . .”
Do see that? It is because of our relationship with our Lord we can acknowledge our pain, but we can also look beyond it and find Grace and Peace in His Presence.
Father, sometimes I become overwhelmed with despair and sometimes I feel so empty inside. But now I know that through your presence, your Grace is sufficient for me. I can find reasons to rejoice and I can look to my brothers and sisters for support and encouragement . . . and even when I am alone, you are ever present and close at hand. Thank you, my King. Thank you, my Lord. Indeed! I am able to stand strong with victorious power (Psalm 64:7)!
You have said in your Word that there there is nothing to fear, to never look around in terror and to be dismayed, for you are my God. You have promised to strengthen and harden me against any difficulties! You have promised to help me; yes, to hold me up and retain me with Your victorious right hand of rightness and justice (Isaiah 41:10). So this morning I declare that I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the victorious God of my salvation! (Habakkuk 3:18).
Just a reminder. I John 5:4-5 says, “For whatever is born of God is victorious over the world; and this is the victory that conquers the world, even our faith.
Who is it that is victorious over the world but anyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God and relies on that fact?” Is that you? Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you rely on that fact? Then YOU are victorious over whatever the world can throw at you! This morning stand tall and rejoice . . .