Thankful in Hardship

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Thankful in Hardship - 1 Thess. 5:16-18 & Psalm 118

Do you get that a heart of gratitude can literally transform your experience of daily living?
What about in the midst of suffering? (Our series in 1 Peter is what makes me take this approach to our theme of Thanksgiving for today.)
1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 ESV
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Rejoicing at all times… praying persistently and regularly, and giving thanks in everything… this is God’s will for you. - Think carefully of a time when you were the most miserable.... Now try to remember… In your misery, were you wallowing, or were you thanking God, praying dependently on him, rejoicing in who he is and that he has made you his own?

How can we be thankful in trying times?

Here’s what we are doing wrong when we are ungrateful.
- We are tethering our thankfulness to our circumstances and our interpretation (our own definition) of whether or not those circumstances are deemed good. To have thankful hearts, especially in difficulty, we must look beyond our circumstances to the one who is sovereign over them. —> Have you noticed that in our ingratitude, our grumpiness usually spills over into being ungrateful about a lot of other things that don’t even make any sense… even in areas where we should probably actually be thankful bc we are exceedingly blessed?
- We tie our thankfulness to getting what we want… instead of getting what we need, receiving from the hand of our sovereign God that which is BEST for us. In other words, when you are ungrateful, are you not biting the hand that feeds you?
By contrast…
The source of a thankful heart is knowing God and resting in His sovereign care.
Being genuinely thankful in all circumstances isn’t easy. Having an attitude of gratitude is especially a challenge in the midst of trying times.
- But should this be the case? Perhaps it should actually be that suffering deepens our appreciation for who God is in his faithfulness and what he has done to save us, that it should give us a deeper appreciation for what the Savior went through, a thankfulness to a loving Father who disciplines us for our own good, a stronger dependency on the sustaining power of God to help us endure… and a greater expectancy of the hope of glory that is waiting to be revealed at the return of Christ.
I would like us to think through this further this morning by looking more closely at Psalm 118, which we opened with at the beginning of our service.
Psalm 118:1 ESV
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Give Thanks to the Lord! - Gratitude’s Direction (1a)

&

For He Is Good - Gratitude’s Foundation (1b)

By pointing this out in the text I do not mean to suggest that we ought not to express gratitude horizontally to other people in our lives. Of course we should! But even then, in the hearts of believers, expressing gratitude to others should in fact result from thankfulness to God. - I am so deeply thankful to all of you for how well you treat my little family and one another, but the underlying gratitude in my heart is to God because he has so graciously seen fit to put us together in ministry here. God is good and I am grateful when he uses some of you to richly encourage us, and God is good and I am grateful when at times God allows challenges in my life due to a sincere love for you because of Christ.
And speaking of God being the direction of our thanks and our praise, the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians…
Ephesians 5:20 ESV
giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Paul doesn’t say give thanks to God for the good things that he provides, which you interpret or define as good. It means in and for everything. It means thank God, trusting in his sovereign care, when he sees fit to bring deep sorrow into your life through great loss… or to stretch your finances thin. - Of course, don’t let your suffering be because of laziness (sin)…. Nor should we think that God is promoting or causing the sin of others that may result in our sorrow. But when hardship comes as you continue doing good, you can (and should) thank God for his goodness.
His steadfast love endures forever. - When you are tempted to complain about any circumstance, consider God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness, expressing gratitude and praise to Him.

He Has Become My Salvation - Gratitude’s Motivation (14&21)

(what stirs our hearts to respond thankfully)
Psalm 118:14 ESV
The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
– He has become my salvation, therefore he is my strength and my song (it’s personal)
Beginning at v. 5 is a personal testimony of thankful praise for God’s deliverance.
The goodness of God in our distress (5)
Psalm 118:5 ESV
Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.
Is God sovereign when suffering strikes? Is God only good when you feel good about things going your way?
God allows distress as a mercy to cause us to turn to him in dependence. - Isn’t it interesting how we so often get this backward and are angered by our distress and looking for someone to blame? Instead, we should be looking to God, depending on him to deliver us as he sees fit.
The goodness of God to be our deliverance (13-14)
In context, of course, the Psalmist expresses thankfulness for literal physical deliverance from Israel’s enemies in a given situation. But notice that this author (whether Moses or David or Ezra or someone else), even in this OT context, recognizes that it is God who is in fact our salvation.
What would you rather have, simply deliverance from a given situation at a point in time, or have the unmerited favor of God upon you at all times (favor of the one who is sovereign over all situations and all nations for all time and eternity)? - Well, let me think.
It’s the first soccer game of the season, and you’re getting killed, 11-0… and against your greatest rivals. - You have a choice, win this game, or have David Beckham on your team for the rest of the season.
It is God himself who is our deliverance, our salvation… not some shifting of circumstances that he is able to work if he so wills. I mean, the truth becomes that we want him to work his will bc we know for sure that we have the ultimate winner on our side. When I remember that he has perfect knowledge, I’m less inclined to dictate to him when and how he ought to deliver me from current circumstances.
Add to all of this that we often neglect that what we are experiencing very well may be…
The goodness of God to discipline us in love (18)
Another OT passage says…
Proverbs 3:11–12 ESV
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
The NT letter to the Hebrews quotes this very passage to make the following point about God’s loving discipline: Heb. 12:7a “Endure suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons.”
Remember that Peter tells us not to let our suffering be because of our sin. But when that happens, we ought to use it as opportunity to learn and grow. - Do you realize that in the gospel itself, by which we are saved, we find that God is chastising us for sin, and that he will justly punish sin? We accept that as true and good, and we therefore repent of our sin and our efforts to be good apart from him, and believe in the One who suffered to bear the penalty for our sin.
Sometimes it is the adverse and even embarrassing circumstances that teach us something we need to learn:
My tailgating lesson in our first year of marriage. - I’m thankful for that situation and for that hopping mad off-duty cop.
God allowing us to suffer as believers is not a “blessing in disguise”; it is in fact a blatant blessing… an overt display of his affection! :-) And from grateful hearts, we thank him for it.
When I exercise, I understand why the pain is gain. So I don’t complain. - But too often in other scenarios of life, we find that we are forgetting what we know of God.
There is of course the real possibility that you don’t know God as he has revealed himself.
The goodness of God to give us a door of righteousness (20-23)
This Psalm is quoted or referenced in the NT at least 16 times.
Here’s one such time from the Apostle Peter in the book of Acts that makes it abundantly clear that this Psalm also has a Messianic fulfillment in Jesus Christ:
Acts 4:11–12 ESV
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
In the very early days of the Church... so early that the Apostles and other disciples of Jesus have only recently received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, so early that they have literally just begun to fulfill the command of Acts 1:8 that they will be His witnesses not only in Jerusalem but in all Judea, and up and out to Samaria, and beyond, even to the ends of the earth… to all nations and peoples and languages. So they are still yet just beginning in Jerusalem, but many people who hear the message of Jesus there are believing in him. And one day Peter and John heal a man who was lame from birth, and it causes a stir. People are glorifying God and believing in Jesus, in whose name Peter and John speak and heal. Well, this makes the religious leaders none too happy that they are preaching salvation in Jesus and proclaiming the resurrection of the dead when he returns. They put them in jail in order to question them (and threaten them) the next day. When they do so, this is Peter’s response, because Jesus himself had drawn the connection (in Matthew 21, also recorded in Luke 20) that the Jewish religious leaders were these builders rejecting the very cornerstone of salvation offered by God, the very cornerstone of God’s new building, the Church.
Here in Psalm 118 the gate referenced is the gate to the temple, where one enters into the presence of God to worship him. In using the metaphor another way, in John 10 Jesus spoke of himself as the door or gate of salvation for the the sheep to enter into God’s fold.
How did Jesus become the true door of righteousness to grant us entrance into the presence of God? - The Apostle Paul explains it simply:
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
How is that righteousness applied in our behalf? By faith in Jesus Christ:
Romans 1:16–17 ESV
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Since our topic here is gratitude to God, it is more than appropriate that we remind ourselves that even in our response of faith we cannot boast, it is God’s doing:
1 Corinthians 1:28–31 ESV
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
It makes perfect sense that that we should say with the Psalmist:
Psalm 118:23 ESV
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

How do we demonstrate thankfulness to the Lord?

We rightly express thankfulness to and for one another out of gratitude to God. Displaying gratitude to one another increases our thanksgiving to God. - I say, “You don’t have to do that,” and you don’t. But it sure does encourage my heart and make me thankful to God… and thankful to Him for teammates like you!
Especially when it’s hard, demonstrate to people and tell them that you are thankful to God for them. - It will increase your own thanksgiving to God and appreciation for them, and it will have the benefit of their thanksgiving to God and improved relationships between you.
We entrust ourselves wholly to His care, and we give ourselves wholly to His service.
(And of course) We express our thankfulness to Him.
Psalm 118:28–29 ESV
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
[Praise team song]
Believer’s baptism is an outward symbol of what spiritually takes place in a person by the power of the Holy Spirit when they put their trust in Christ. As Paul explains in…
Romans 6:4 ESV
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Baptism is a public declaration, an expression of identification with Jesus Christ, performed in obedience to his command and with a grateful heart.
When we are truly focused and thankful to God for giving us saving faith in Jesus, then we want to obey. When we are thankful for what Christ accomplished on our behalf, then we want to be identified with him in believer’s baptism.
We as a church family are exceedingly thankful to the Lord and are super excited to celebrate this major event in the lives of these believers today: Nancy Williamson, Ezra White, Nehemiah White, McCausland Zsiga, and Sydney Haskell.
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