Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I Hate It When God Does This

Sunday, in my annual Thanksgiving Sunday sermon, I dealt with the topic I deal with every Thanksgiving Sunday. Thanksgiving. I’m funny that way. Looking back over my offerings for that special day over the years, I have noticed a theme. Ten years ago, I preached on “In everything give thanks.” Then nine years ago I undertook to exegete the passage, “In everything give thanks.” Then, eight years ago I switched gears and led my people on an in-depth examination of “In everything give thanks.” Of course, seven years ago…Well, you get the picture.

Sunday, I actually included all three commands in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I explained these simple commands. It is God’s will for believers, those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, that we live in a constant state of rejoicing regardless of circumstances; that we live in a constant communion with God, practicing the real presence of Jesus Christ in our lives; and that we give thanks to God, regardless of our circumstances, that He is in control and is working those circumstances for His glory and our good.

I pointed out three things about these commands that every person needs to remember. First, God was not kidding. God does not stutter or stammer. There are a lot of scriptures that Bible believing Christians do not believe. “Love your enemies.” It’s a clear scripture that needs little explanation. You are to devote your life to loving and being a blessing to the people who hurt you, hate you and aggravate you. But whenever I point this out to a believer, they start stuttering and stammering. “I can’t do that, you don’t know what that person has done to me.” But God was not kidding when he told us to love our enemies. And He was not kidding when he told us to live in constant rejoicing, constant intimacy with God, and constant gratitude regardless of circumstances. It is sin if I am living any other way.

Then, I pointed out that He not only commanded these attitudes, but He empowers them. 2 Peter 1:3 says that He has given us “everything we need for life and godliness.” When you were saved, God placed in you His Holy Spirit who empowers you to be obedient to the commands of God. So, you CAN rejoice always. You CAN pray continually. You CAN give thanks in all things. The Spirit inside you will empower you.

That leads me to this final point. If you are not living in constant joy, unending intimacy with God and undying gratitude in all circumstances, it is no one’s fault but your own. You have no control over the circumstances of life, but you have been empowered by God to live in love, joy and peace regardless of them. It is not your spouse’s fault if you are not rejoicing. It is yours for not seeking the Spirit’s power to rejoice. No circumstance can pull you away from God, only your failure to walk in the Holy Spirit’s fullness through those circumstances. And complaining, griping and whining is never justified for those who have been redeemed by Christ and indwelled by the Spirit.

I preached that. I preached it good. (I preached it long.)

Then, I woke up Monday. That is never a good thing. But we have been facing a $5500 expense for replacing our septic tank in our back yard. They showed up Monday to do the work. That was actually a good thing. It did not stay good. The septic tank guy (how does one decide to enter the septic tank business?) broke the bad news. The drain field cannot go in our back yard, or our front yard. Since the house was built 30 years ago, there have been several changes in codes and our septic system does not meet any of them. So, we have a septic tank with a collapsed drain field, and no legal way to replace it. We are asking the church next door (Assembly – hope the Spirit moves) if we can put it in their wilderness land.

Then, in the evening, we got the mail. Ben just went to Liberty to try out for a position on the ministry teams there (traveling singing groups) that would pay his tuition. I make just enough money to not qualify for much financial aid, and not enough to afford college. He got the letters from Liberty. Thanks for trying out. Maybe next year.

I found something out about myself. I preach this principle better than I live it. I was stressed, upset, worried, mad. There was little of the joy, the presence of God, and the thanksgiving I had preached 24 hours earlier.

I hate it when God does that. It seems like when I preach about forgiveness, He gives me a chance to practice it. When I preach about sacrificial love, I get a chance to sacrifice. I hate that.

But my sin doesn’t change the principle. It is God’s will that we live in obedience to the commands of the Word. It is great to take a day and give thanks (though I am afraid it has become more about the turkey, the football and Black Friday ads). But we are called to live out thanksgiving 365 days a year. Whatever comes.

So, I have a new message this year for thanksgiving.


1 comment:

Gary said...



You preach it as it must be. You don't preach it as it is.

You know that we are imperfect, yet we strive for perfection. "I press on..." yada, yada.

But what sets us (or should anyway) from the un-saved is that more often than not we actually realize that we have fallen short, ask for forgiveness, and move on promising God that we will do better.

We don't always do better, but given Grace, Mercy, and the prodding of the Spirit, we certainly throw our hat over the wall and go after it.

Next year, why don't you try a different theme? How about "In Everything, Give Thanks"? I think that would be a great Thanksgiving sermon topic.

Gary Skaggs
Norman, OK