As I went to bed last night, I read Ephesians 5. I was thinking and praying through what I would share with the Fellas @ 5 this morning and what I will share at LSU's BCM this coming Thursday night. One verse that grabbed my attention was 5:20 where Paul wrote "giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." What a challenge! Be thankful for everything? Thankful for traffic this morning as I took Arabella to school? Thankful for morning breath? Thankful for cancer? Surely, this is a hermeneutical mishap and the translator's have made a grievous error in interpreting what should have been "giving thanks most of the time" or "giving thanks some of the time and especially for the good stuff." Unfortunately, my convictions about the Bible being without error prevent me from wandering too far down this path. Nope, God meant what He said through Paul: Give thanks always and for everything to Me.
How can we give thanks always and for everything to God? There are two keys in the text of Eph. 5. The first key is in the rest of the verse: in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can give thanks to the Father through Jesus because "all the promises of God find their Yes in him" (2 Cor. 1:20). What does this mean? It means that in Christ God will keep His promise to us that "all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." This does not mean that all things that happen to us are good, but that God promises that even the worst of things He will work for our good in Christ (ask Joseph - Gen. 50:20). So I can give thanks for a spouse leaving me? Yes. So I can give thanks for lightning striking my house? Yes. So I can give thanks for someone lying about me on facebook? Yes. In Christ, God works all things to our good, so we can thank Him always and for everything. Another reason we can be thankful at all times is because in Christ Jesus, God has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). So no matter the circumstance, in Christ we are never alone. He is with us. We may not see Him, hear Him, or even "feel" Him, but He has promised to be with us and so He is. In our darkest moments, give thanks that we are not alone. Oh how much darker they would be without Christ!
A second means of giving thanks always and for everything is found earlier in Eph. 5. Paul wrote, "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:17-18). The second means of giving thanks to God at all times is being filled with the Spirit. As a matter of fact, the only way we can give thanks always is if we are filled with the Spirit. God does not expect us to be grateful all the time in our own power. All God expects from us He provides for us. Gratitude (for everything) is one of the evidences of being filled with the Spirit. If we are not walking with and being led by the Spirit we will not be thankful for everything. We will have minds set on the flesh and we will focus on what is seen rather than what is not seen. As we are filled by the Spirit, He will produce gratitude to the Father in us through Jesus no matter the circumstance. Perhaps we are not very "thankful" today because we are not "keeping in step with the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25).
So what about us today? Are we thankful for everything we are experiencing currently? Do we thank God always and for everything? Do we understand that in Christ, God is working all things for our good? Do we understand He owes us no explanations? Do we understand that in actuality we deserve no good from Him at all?
No matter what is going on, if you are in Christ Jesus, He has already experienced the worst thing that could happen to you. In going to the cross, Jesus took our place in experiencing the wrath of God for our sin and dying the death we deserved because of our rebellion. Make no mistake, the most awful thing that could happen to any of us would be to experience God's wrath poured out on sin for all eternity. Christ experienced this curse for us. Christ was forsaken on our behalf. So no matter how difficult life is (and it is gut-wrenching at times) the worst thing that could happen to us has happened to Christ on our behalf. In His strength, we can endure everything else.
Will we live Eph. 5:20? Are we? We have all that we need in Christ and His Spirit.