"...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thess. 5:18
I find it rather ironic that “Black Friday” follows mere hours after Thanksgiving. A day that has traditionally been instrumental in drawing families back together from around the country, and reigniting in our minds all the reasons we have to give thanks to God, has become relegated to “Turkey Day”. It isn’t uncommon to see family members searching shopping deals on their cell phones while with family! To top it off, some will even leave their family celebrations to line up and camp out overnight to ensure being guaranteed a coveted item on a Black Friday “doorbuster sale”!
Strangely, what seems almost normal to us these days probably would have shocked most generations throughout history. Our consumerism so pervades our culture that most have become blind to its ill-effects. Fill in the blank, if you can: __________________ would be upset at me if I did not give him/her a present this Christmas. How can I call any present a “gift” if I am obligated by social/familial pressures to do so? To attach the name of “Christ” to this expression of expectation seems like idolatry in most cases. I’m simply challenging you to live by 1 Thessalonians 5:21 “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” Examine your family traditions. Explore your motivations. Look deep into the “Why’s” of our “holiday season”. Are there things I’m holding onto that are keeping me from being drawn in thankful worship of the One who gave all for me?
I’ve recently been convicted of these words by Jesus: "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luke 14:12-14) I don’t think He’s talking about church pot-lucks!
If you were to say “YES” to the question, “Are you content?”, I would follow-up with the question, “Is there anything you still desire to buy for yourself?” We happen to live in the most narcissistic culture to date (and sociologists would back that up), and we’re being bombarded with continual advertisements everywhere that seek to make you dissatisfied with your current condition and status. You cannot avoid it unless you close yourself off in a room, cover your eyes and put in ear plugs! Yet to us Christians, we are given the active command: “Give thanks in all circumstances!” How is this possible today?
Paul makes the most amazing statement for our ears, in Philippians 4:11-12 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for 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.” What is that secret, Paul? He shares the results of that state of being with these words: “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:8) Again, what IS the SECRET, Paul??
That answer is found embedded in the words of Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Your desire for money and things have to be replaced with something greater; and there is nothing greater than God Himself! Genuine intimacy with our Creator and Savior surpasses all else, and as long as we live IN Him, we will never be discontent!
You can take away EVERYTHING; I could lose my wife, house, health, success, approval, etc., but as long as I have HIM in His fullness, I will be content! Those words are echoed in the hymn: “Jesus is All the World to Me”:
Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all;
He is my strength from day to day, without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go, no other one can cheer me so;
When I am sad, He makes me glad, He’s my Friend.
We’ve been blessed beyond belief! I’m still amazed at times, looking at all that my family has been blessed with, far beyond what I deserve, and my heart is drawn to Him in gratitude. Why am I given all of this? So I can GIVE! I pray that my mind and yours will be sharpened to realize the gifts of God to the point that none of the World’s advertisements would dampen your thanksgiving, or your Christmas!