A couple of years ago, a sister bore a testimony that she had been going through a very difficult time in her family. She had been praying diligently, yet it seemed God was not listening. She asked the Lord why He wasn’t hearing and answering her, and the Lord responded by asking her why she hadn’t thanked Him for all He had done for her and her family. She realized that she had been so consumed by the problems and troubles, she had forgotten to thank the Lord for the blessings He had given. This was a turning point in her life and a key to God helping her family through their struggles.
I thank God today for the power of testimonies and experiences that call us to remember what is important. This testimony touched my life and opened my mind to try to understand this important concept. I want to share this reminder in a time of trouble, so that we as God’s people can always be quick to remember the goodness of our God, especially in times of crisis and trouble.
The apostle Paul went through so many difficulties and yet his message to the Church was always the same. The following verses from Philippians 4:4-13 capture the view of a servant of God during a similar trial like many of us are facing today. Paul was on house arrest in Rome awaiting an audience with Nero that would cost him his life. His freedom to move around and fellowship at will was taken and he was subject to conditions he had no control over. God used him to write these verses for all of us with wisdom that is timeless and true from the beginning. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:4-5)
This message to us in our time is to rejoice in the Lord and to set an example in the world of moderation, meaning an appropriate response for a Christian is to be mild, gentle and patient. He sums up the reason we can do these things when he states, “The Lord is at hand.” God is near in place and time. This is the reason we are always able to rejoice, because no matter what is happening or what trial we are facing, even in life or death situations, the Lord is near to us.
Life has taught me, if we are not finding a way to rejoice in the Lord, we are often complaining and lack contentment in Christ. This is the human reaction to life. We see this example in the children of Israel on their journey from bondage in Egypt to the promised land of Israel. God did mighty miracles of deliverance, protection and caring for their daily needs. He was constantly in their view and provided a cloud by day to shield them from the desert sun and was a pillar of fire by night to give them assurance of His protection. Yet after all He did, some still complained at every inconvenience and trial the Lord gave them to strengthen and prepare them for the next challenge He knew they would face.
Paul reminds us of this example and our duty today in 1 Corinthians 10:10-11. “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
God uses every opportunity to help us grow in Him and calls us to open our eyes to see what He is doing in our lives for His purposes. When we see Him at work in our lives, rejoice because He is close, and His plan will help us grow in faith and trust in Him.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain (Philippians 2:13-16).
God is at work in our lives. There is nothing that we struggle through that is in vain, but everything is of use to learn to do His will and His pleasure. So today, let us be an example in this world to our families, friends and communities that we serve a living God who is with us right now in this current situation and we have cause to rejoice in Him! “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
God’s message to us is to not be anxious about anything but take everything to Him in prayer and seek Him with thanksgiving. Giving thanks causes us to look up and see what our great God has done for us in times past. It calls us to see and acknowledge God has been with us. I believe giving thanks calls us to faith, as we see what God has already done and thanksgiving becomes the recipe for confidence without worries.
In 2011 my family had an event that strengthened this concept through experience and allowed me to clearly see this truth. On June 3rd we got a call that my brother Ed had had a heart attack and passed away. Our family has always been close, and I still remember the emotion I felt at that news. My sister Trish and I had the responsibility of sharing this horrible news with the rest of our family. Our first stop was to share this heavy news with our mom, dad and sister and then we had calls to make to his children. We had gone to our parents’ house and with the help of God I was able to keep it together on the outside, as I told them the news. Our world had forever changed, and my heart was broken.
It was in that moment that my sister Trish began to thank the Lord for the wonderful weekend we had just spent with our whole family and we each had precious moments with my brother. As our family began to thank the Lord for the time He had given us with my brother, my eyes were opened to the blessing of God for our family. I could see He tried to prepare us for what He knew was coming. My own experience with my brother was a special moment I will never forget as he spoke his last words to me in this life, “remember I love you”. This moment of giving thanks brought into our view the love of God for us and exposed His plan to comfort us through the trial. It brought us peace knowing our God was with us all the way, right there in our midst, even though it wasn’t easy to go through it.
While we mourned the loss of our dear one, we rejoiced in our wonderful God who comforts us in our sorrows. This affected even our prayers and we approached God in an attitude of acceptance of His will, knowing He would see us through whatever comes in life. In the difficult moments that followed our family for months, the Lord comforted us, and I praise Him and rejoice in His faithfulness to His promises.
Thanksgiving reminds us, “The Lord is at hand”, and in that confidence we lift our prayers to the God we know can do all things, and our hearts are blessed with peace and courage.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:8-9).
In trying times, we must also remember that the peace of God must be maintained by our very thoughts. While it may be important to keep up on what is happening around us, too much evil news can dampen our spirit and bring up anxiety again. The Lord reminds us we must choose to think on things that are good, uplifting and worthy of praise. We have never been called to live in the negative mind which weakens our faith, but ever to keep the view of our God and His abilities in our minds. Our goal should be to uplift others by our conversations and attitude of joy and courage.
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:11-13).
The Lord reminds us of the need to find contentment in whatever situation we find ourselves, knowing Christ will strengthen us to accomplish His will. I believe the only way to find contentment is through the Spirit of God working in our life and by the grace of God changing our hearts. Paul talked about what the focus of contentment should be:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content…. Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life (1 Timothy 6:6-8, 17-19).
Christians in every circumstance are commanded to find contentment and to trust in God who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Godliness is the goal and with it comes contentment in the Lord who has promised to care for us. I want to end with three verses from this same chapter, 1 Timothy 6:14-16, that exalt our God and to whom we owe all that we have, which includes our spiritual wellbeing.
That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.