by Pastor George Van Alstine
In the church pews, next to the hymnals, we have a supply of offering envelopes for missions. Kids think we put them there for them to draw on. This past Sunday, as Rob was straightening up the sanctuary after the service, he found one of these envelopes that had been decorated by five-year-old Brady Barinaga. Next to a drawing of a happy Sponge Bob Square Pants (which may have been the creative work of one of her parents), Brady wrote
I Love God
I Love Everything
Everyone in the World
Brady’s embrace doesn’t leave out anyone or anything. That’s the generous spirit of a young child!
This reminds me of the encouragement of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonian believers: “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes. 5:18). In all circumstances? When you’ve lost a loved one? When you’re behind in paying your bills? When someone has just cussed you out? Come on, we’re not five-year-olds.
Paul’s admonition does seem a bit pollyanna-ish—until you read the context around it. His prodding to constant thanksgiving comes among other seemingly unrealistic assertions: “Rejoice always,” “Pray without ceasing,” “May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely.” Separately, these affirmations seem like idealistic self-delusions, but when they are all wrapped together, they add up to a life lived in the spirit and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I think this combination of super-optimistic attitudes can be summed up in the word Thanksliving! Thanksliving is not just a matter of saying “Praise the Lord!” a lot, even in situations that seem to call for complaints or curses. It’s not just a dogged determination to “grin and bear it” through the dark times. It’s not something a person has to work at to avoid going under. True Thanksliving is natural, authentic and unforced. It’s the honest expression of where the person is and what they’re feeling.
The ultimate basis of Thanksliving is found in this same chapter from Paul’s letter:
“God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. . . The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.” (verses 9, 24)
When we realize that our total destiny is in the hands of our heavenly Father, whether in this life or the next, we come to understand that no apparently negative thing (summarized by Paul in the word “wrath”) can ever threaten our safety and security in him.
This frees us up to experience genuine Thanksliving “in all circumstances,” 24 / 7.