I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). It’s one of those verses we can quickly read over. Paul was wrapping up his letter and was writing several commands for these new believers. He was wanting them to take these instructions and ingrain them in their new lives early on so that they would become a habit long term. Each of the things he said were important, but this one always jumps out at me.
He said, “Be thankful in ALL circumstances.” He didn’t say we had to thank God for our circumstances, but that we need to find something to give thanks for. In my most difficult time. I was living minute to minute. I would watch the clock and tell myself, “If I can survive this minute, I can get through this problem.” When the minute would pass, I would thank God for helping me to survive that minute, then the process would start over. I didn’t thank God for the mess I was in. I thanked Him for keeping me alive in it.
Paul, the writer of Thessalonians, had gone through some pretty dark days himself. He learned that if you focus on your problem, despair sets in. If you focus on finding something to be thankful for, praise fills your heart. That’s how he and Silas could praise in prison. I’m sure it started out as a conversation on things to be thankful for that turned into singing praises to God. It was in those praises that God moved the earth and set them free from their chains.
Don’t miss that powerful truth. When you praise, God frees you from your chains. Praise comes from a heart that is thankful. A thankful heart comes from a person who looks for the good in every situation. If you’re breathing, you’ve got something to be thankful for. If you have a bed to sleep in, you’ve got something to be thankful for. Your world may be falling apart, but God has not abandoned you. Give thanks for that. When you learn to give thanks in all circumstances, you’ll learn to praise in all circumstances.
Were you ever taught, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? I was. My parents were trying to teach me a few lessons, including that not everything that comes into your mind needs to be said. They were building filters in at an early age. I know people who don’t have any filters. He things they say are almost comical, if they weren’t so sad. They are often saying the truth, but not in a way that gets heard.
When I’m developing a relationship with someone, one of the first conversations I have with them is about the truth. I let them know that if they ask me a question, I’m going to tell them the truth, whether they want to hear it or not. I also will try to give them that truth in love because as Warren Wiersbe said, “The truth without love is brutality.” I’ve found that the brutal truth is just like not having a filter.
So why do we watch what we say? As James 3:6 says, the tongue can be a world of evil. Even though it’s a small member of our body, it can destroy relationships that have taken a lifetime to build. James 3:5 says, “Just think of how large a forest can be set on fire with a tiny spark” (GNT). He was reminding us of how small words from a small member of our body can burn down things that have taken years to build.
I believe he was also teaching us to watch what we say so that we will get along with others. James concludes the chapter by saying, “You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor” (MSG). We are to be developing healthy community, and the way to that is learning to control what we say, and how we say it. If you’re not sure what needs to be said or how it needs to be said, ask God for wisdom. A well placed word brings life rather than destruction.
My son is competitive like most kids. He wants to be first everywhere we go. The problem is that he doesn’t always know where we are going. Sometimes when he gets a few steps ahead, I turn and he keeps going straight. I’ll usually make a noise to let him notice. He then runs over and tries to stay in front. With each turn, I remind him that I’m the one who knows where we are going, and that he should follow.
There are other times when he’s just trying to keep my attention. If I’m trying to do something, he’ll get in my face. If I direct my attention elsewhere, he moves to try to stay in my face. Sometimes it makes me laugh how hard he tries to get and keep my attention. The truth is that it’s a picture of how we are to be with God. Sometimes we forget to be like children, which is what Jesus told us to be like.
I believe God is looking for us to be in His presence. He’s not wanting us to be out in front of Him trying to guess where He’s leading us, and He’s not just wanting us to be somewhere in His vicinity. He wants us to go get in His face, and to be where He is looking. Psalm 116:9 says, “I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth!” (NLT) The Psalmist understood what God desires from each of us, and that is to walk in His presence.
The word “presence” in its original meaning, is the word for face. So to walk in the Lord’s presence is to walk where He’s facing. In order to do that, we need to be constantly looking at Him to make sure we are going the same way He is. We have to spend time in prayer throughout the day constantly grabbing His face and attention. It’s what children who love their parents do. God is not annoyed by us in trying to do this. He is honored when we walk in His presence.
To me, pastors are special people. They carry the burden of the local church, and they often wear many different hats. They not only preach, but they make sure the church is open. They’re usually the first to arrive and the last to leave. They are counselors when we need Godly advice. They are prayer partners when we need God to intervene. These men and women stand in the gap between God and the world, and are the watchmen for their flock.
Knowing how much they do, it’s easy to forget they’re human and to think of them as super Christians. The truth is that they struggle with sin just like us. They need friends who will lift them up in prayer, and give them an encouraging word from time to time. They deserve our honor, our support, and our prayers. We should honor them all year long because their job never stops. So, to all the pastors out there, I want to say, “Thank you!”
Here are some Bible verses on appreciating pastors.
1, Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness.
Hebrews 13:7 MSG
2. Then [in the final time] I will give you [spiritual] shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and [true] understanding.
JEREMIAH 3:15 AMP
3. Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”
1 Timothy 5:17-18 MSG
4. In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.
1 Corinthians 9:14 NLT
5. The one who is taught the word [of God] is to share all good things with his teacher [contributing to his spiritual and material support].
GALATIANS 6:6 AMP
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
I was recently at the viewing for a friend I’d known for over 20 years. As I went around hugging necks and catching up on where everyone was in life, I decided to stop and take a moment. I sat down on one of the pews and watched the crowd as they interacted. There were a group of young men standing near the coffin silently staring at the body. I then noticed there were huddles throughout the sanctuary around the family members left behind. They were hugging and offering condolences. Then there was everyone else affected by this person’s life. They weren’t stationary like the others. They moved around making their way up front and then around and that’s when I noticed something out of the ordinary.
There were smiles on their faces. I checked another roaming group and they were smiling as well. I gazed back to the family huddles to look at their demeanor and it was the same. The atmosphere was not one of sadness, but of joy. It was then that I was reminded of I Thessalonians 4:13. Paul wrote, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope” (NLT). Here was living proof of this scripture. I was in a crowd of people smiling and enjoying themselves, while mourning the loss of a friend, because we have hope beyond the grave.
Yes, it hurts to lose someone who impacted our lives and there’s a big, gaping void in us that only they could fill. But we don’t have to carry on like those who have no hope. We don’t see this as the end of life, but rather that person’s birth into eternal life. Their spirit has been set free from the cocoon of the human body, and they have been released into the heavens. We know that one day we will cross from death to life as well and be reunited with them and a host of others who knew Jesus as their savior. That’s how we can smile in midst of such a great loss. It seems foreign to those who have no hope, but it’s natural to those of us who do.
I Thessalonians 4 concludes with these words, “Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words.” We have comfort in sorrow and courage in despair because our loss is Heaven’s gain and we know that we will be reunited. Hope is a powerful force that can light up our darkness and give us strength to smile in the pain. It keeps us from the pit of despair and points us to better days. I’ll finish this post with the words from I Corinthians 13:12-13 that I think are fitting. “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (MSG)”
I took an assessment at work last year that reveals things about your nature and how you do things when it comes to sales. A question came up a few times that listed about ten vocabulary words. In each instance, i knew all the words except one. The answers were: a) I know none of these words, b) I only know a couple of these words, c) I only know some of these words, and d) I know all of these words. I didn’t like those choices since I knew all but one. I reasoned that I would write the word down and look it up later, then chose “d”.
When I looked up the words that I didn’t know, they didn’t exist. I then got my results back that called me a Hyper-Pro. It revealed that I care about Impressions and that I will embellish things to make me look good. It affects the way I dress, act, sell, and speak. As I challenged the result, I had to look inside to see if it was true. I then had to find out why it was true, where it came from, and then correct it. The assessment revealed what was going on inside versus what I was showing outside.
Proverbs 27:19 says, “It is your own face that you see reflected in the water and it is your own self that you see in your heart” (GNT). We spend a lot of time and effort trying to hide our heart because it reveals who we really are. We are afraid no one will love us if they really knew our heart. So we put our best face forward. The real problem is that we try the same thing when we approach God. We may be able to fool people, but we aren’t fooling God.
When Samuel went to choose a king for Israel, he looked at all of Jesse’s sons. He saw their outward appear and thought they were kingly, but God said, “Pay no attention to how tall and handsome he is. I have rejected him, because I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Your heart reveals who you really are. That’s why God looks at it. Even if you have flaws like me, and you try to cover them up, God sees you for who you really are. You don’t have to put your best face forward because that’s not what He’s looking at. He knows who you really are, and He loves and accepts you as His child.