In our recent culture, November 1 has marked the beginning of the Christmas season. Fall decorations come down and Christmas decorations go up. It becomes more socially acceptable to begin listening to Christmas music. (Full disclosure: this worship pastor usually begins listening in June… for planning purposes, of course.) And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already looking for Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes in the grocery store. It’s a good thing I haven’t found them in stock, yet!
This year in particular, I believe that the rush towards Christmas is even greater than usual. Most people seem eager to leave 2020 behind and look forward to something better. This year has been marked with pain, confusion, division, unrest, death, and the list goes on. But during this month of November that has its own holiday, Thanksgiving, I want to encourage you to look forward to the end of the year (and the beginning of a new year) while also reflecting on the goodness of God here and now.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Did you catch that? (I hope you did since I added bold, underlined text for emphasis.) It is the will of God for us to give thanks in all circumstances. That doesn’t mean we must give thanks for every circumstance but that we should give thanks in every circumstance. What’s the difference? The passage continues to say to hold fast to what is good and abstain from every form of evil (5:21-22). There are things in this world that are evil. That has become clear. The devil is hard at work seeking to destroy unity and respect between fellow image bearers of God (all people). I’ll be first in line to tell you that I am not giving thanks for all of the negative things that flood the headlines and social media.
But in the midst of these circumstances, I believe God is also hard at work. Harder at work. And we know the end of the story: God wins! So in every circumstance, I urge you to give thanks because of who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised He will do. He has never failed in His faithfulness to us and He never will. The worship pastor in me can’t help but have the bridge of “Way Maker” on my mind as I write this:
Even when I can’t see it, you’re working.
Even when I can’t feel it, you’re working.
You never stop, You never stop working.
You never stop, You never stop working.
A tangible way to give thanks in all circumstances is to ask yourself and ask those around you: What are you thankful for?
My girlfriend, Sarah, and I have made it part of our daily routine to ask each other what we are thankful for that day. Some days our circumstances want to dictate that we don’t have much to be thankful for. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, especially for those who are in Christ. We have breath in our lungs and a hope in Christ that sustains us through the most difficult of circumstances.
In saying all of this, I don’t want to diminish any hardships that you may be facing. Saying what I just said and living it out are two different things. God never promised this life would be easy. In fact, He promised that in this world we would have troubles. For some people, that has become truer than ever in 2020. But in the same verse, He also said to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). I believe that in this difficult year, this truth has become truer than ever for many of those who are in Christ.
If that isn’t the case for you, I encourage you to dig deeper and hold faster to the promises found in His Word. It may seem forced at times, but consider making a list of things to give thanks for every day this November. And then keep it going! I’ll start.
I’m thankful for…
- Salvation in Christ
- The ability to worship Him freely
- The gift of music
- My family & friends
- Unconditional love and grace and mercy from the Father
- Good health
- Beautiful weather (at least it’s sunny when I wrote this)
- Coats Baptist and other churches that have molded me
- The ability to think for myself
- God’s Word
- The Holy Spirit’s comfort, guidance, and conviction
- My small group
- Food to eat and a roof over my head
- A great big world to explore
I wanted to save this item of thanksgiving until the end, but not because it deserves to be at the bottom of the list. And I can’t say that I was saving the “best for last” because that would be reserved for my salvation. I just didn’t want this blessing to distract you from reading the rest of the blog post. I am so incredibly thankful to be ENGAGED TO SARAH BYRD as of this past Thursday!
We both want to say ‘thank you’ to our church family for your prayers and support for us as individuals and as a couple. Many of you have prayed for me and with me in regards to finding the one whom God was preparing for me to marry. More recently, you’ve prayed for and encouraged us while Sarah is serving kids in Mexico City. While 2020 has been marked with personal hardships and a long distance relationship, I KNOW that God has been at work in our lives and in our relationship. Continue to pray for us as we enter in this new and exciting season of life. We love you and are thankful for you, Coats!