We always thank God for all of you
and continually mention you in our prayers.
We remember before our God and Father your work
produced by faith,
your labor prompted by love,
and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3
Is how I feel like starting my journal writing and prayer time with God a lot of mornings.
The need to begin the day by sending out an SOS to God is often strong.
So much has changed and continues to change.
So much is divided and continues to be divided.
So much is unhealthy and continues unhealed.
HELP!!! makes sense as a good beginning prayer many days.
Yet…I make the choice to go another way.
Not because I am so wise. No, it’s absolutely not me.
I make the choice to go another way because the faithful followers,
servants, and lovers of God have shown me a better way.
God’s word is filled with examples of people facing difficulties
who chose the way of thanksgiving over panic.
Paul is a great example.
One of our lectionary texts for this Sunday is 1Thessalonians 1:1-10.
Paul begins this letter with thanksgiving for the many ways that the
Thessalonians have continued to live out their faith.
Paul started the church at Thessalonica early in his missionary journey,
and he has moved on to other mission fields.
Yet, he is encouraged to hear that despite his absence,
the work that God began through him has continued.
The Thessalonians have continued to grow in their faith,
and not only that, they have continued to live out that faith!
Paul rejoices and gives thanks, that even in the midst of difficulties, change, and challenge,
their work of faith,
their labors of love,
and their hope in Christ continue.
And thanks be to God, the same can be said about the Fairway District!
What an honor and joy it is to share in Charge Conferences with you,
to worship with you on line, to read the reports of continued ministries, to hear
your stories of adapting and growing through the difficulties of a pandemic,
as well as challenging yourselves through study and hard conversations
around systemic racism, injustice, and all that continues to divide us.
Fairway District, I echo Paul in giving thanks for all of you!
Yet, even with so many reasons to give God thanks
each and every day, those reasons are not the key to Paul’s
preference for praise and thanksgiving seen within his letters.
Toward the end of this letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says in 5:18
“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
In all circumstances.
That means the good, the not so good, and the downright bad.
Please notice Church, Paul doesn’t say give thanks “for” all circumstances,
he says give thanks “in” all circumstances.
Paul wants us to know that our ability to give God thanks and praise shouldn’t be tied
to what is going on in our lives or in our world.
If that is the case, then our circumstances have the greater power over us.
Paul doesn’t want us to be ruled by circumstances.
Paul wants US to be RULED by RELATIONSHIP.
We can give thanks in all things because we have a RELATIONSHIP
with a loving GOD that circumstances can’t change!
Praise the Lord!
One of my favorite scriptures is Lamentations 3:21-24
Jeremiah is considered the author of Lamentations.
He is called the “weeping prophet” because he had an extremely difficult ministry.
Jeremiah never saw large success and rarely saw people turn back to God.
Jeremiah’s circumstances were often rejection, loneliness, and hardship.
As a result, he battled depression at times.
Listen to how Jeremiah addresses his circumstances from a place of despair:
Yet, this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in Him.”
Jeremiah’s RELATIONSHIP with GOD is what gives him HOPE.
His RELATIONSHIP with GOD is what helps him to hold on.
Later on in his ministry, Paul will say in Philippians 4:11-13:
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
Paul’s RELATIONSHIP with God is what keeps him anchored
no matter the circumstances.
Paul’s relationship with God is what gives him reason for praise.
Absolutely, there are mornings when I feel like starting my prayer time
with the SOS prayer of HELP, all CAPS, exclamation points.
But that would be giving my circumstances the power to define my day
and define my state of heart, mind, and spirit.
Instead, my spiritual practice has become to intentionally choose
“Thank You God” as my first written words.
Not because I always feel it,
but because I always trust…that no matter the circumstances,
the love of God is greater and more powerful than what is going on in my life
or the world in any particular moment.
That truth never changes.
For that reason alone, God deserves our praise.
Thank You God!
Praising God with you, thanking God for you,
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