It is Possible to Give Thanks in All Circumstances

It is Possible to Give Thanks in All Circumstances

It is Possible to Give Thanks in All Circumstances
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
26 Nov, 2020

In the midst of much upheaval, many difficulties and temptations to discouragement is it realistic to expect us to give thanks? It’s easy to be worn down into a discouraged murmuring spirit. Yet, in spite of the difficulties we always have much to be grateful for to God. Thanksgiving can never be untimely because we are continually receiving good things from God, even if it is only life and breath. As we trust God’s wisdom in ordering all things for our good and His glory, we can give thanks (Romans 8:28). It is good to be able to thank God in adversity. As Thomas Watson put it: “Every bird can sing in spring — but few birds will sing in the dead of winter”. There are many mercies in the midst of all we experience. Everything good is from God’s goodness. Above all, there is the redemption of God in Christ that we must give thanks for. Offering thanks is different from casually thanking a person, it is adoration directed to God (Psalm 92:1). As one of the older writers put it, God not only loves a cheerful giver but also a cheerful thanksgiver. But what can help us give thanks in all circumstances?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are urged to “give thanks” in “everything”. This “is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”. Two other requirements are urged on us in these verses: “rejoice evermore” and “pray without ceasing” (v16-17). They are part of the Christian’s growth in holiness. As James Fergusson points out, rejoicing is significant. It does not simply mean striving to keep our hearts free from anxiety and discouragement due to the many causes of sorrow and grief. As we consider the excellence of Christ and His benefits, we ought also to have spiritual delight to some degree. When we consider His care and providence we ought to rejoice. We are to do so always, in all circumstances and at all times. This does not mean believers should never mourn, they need to do that at times (Ecclesiastes 3:4). But even in their mourning and sorrow it is possible to know some true joy in God and His presence at such times (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Giving thanks and rejoicing are also closely connected with constant prayer. We are in continual need of God’s help for what we need or lack (Matthew 6:11; Philippians 3:13). We also need to pray for forgiveness and help continually (Job 14:1; 1 John 1:8, 10). Praying without ceasing does not mean we are to do nothing else (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We are not to give up praying but continue in it with perseverance (Luke 18:1). We are to pray frequently (Psalm 57:17) and always use any opportunity for spontaneous or more prolonged prayer (Nehemiah 2:4).

Giving thanks means consciously acknowledging the favours we receive from God (Ephesians 5:20; 2 Samuel 7:18-19). We express our thanks either by words (Psalm 104:1) or works (1 Corinthians 10:31) to His praise. We are to do this in all situations (James 1:9-10). The Lord overrules everything which happens to us with much mercy (Ezra 9:13) and for our good (Romans 8:28). Everyone should be thankful (Romans 1:21) but true believers ought to be even more thankful; this is God’s will for them. They are also supplied with constant resources in and by Jesus Christ for obeying His will (Philippians 4:13) no matter what happens to them (Acts 5:41). In this updated extract, James Fergusson draws further lessons for us from this part of Scripture.

1. There Are Always Reasons to Rejoice and Give Thanks

Rejoicing in the Lord is a complete antidote against all impatience and a spirit of revenge for any way we have been harmed. It sweetens everything we experience and elevates the heart above all earthly things. It prevents us from being too much taken up with them in prosperity or having bitter resentment about them in adversity (see verse 15). Believers may rejoice even when they are most dejected and discouraged (Psalm 42:11 and Psalm 43:4-5). Yet there are always grounds for rejoicing even though they do not feel it, yet faith can rejoice (Psalm 60:6). Even though they may not rejoice in themselves, yet they may rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:4). They rejoice in what He has already done (Psalm 71:10-11) and has yet promised to do for them (Philippians 1:6). This command to “rejoice evermore”, implies that there will always be grounds for rejoicing.

2. Prayer Helps Us to Rejoice and Give Thanks

The joy of God’s people is not light and of the flesh. It does not make them sit loose to and be idle in relation to what God has commanded. Rather it makes them spiritual and solidly conscientious in being diligent and circumspect about their duty (Psalm 2:11). It makes them especially so in the duty of prayer, without this we can never maintain nor attain to a rejoicing attitude of heart (Job 27:10). The command to “rejoice evermore” is immediately connected with “pray without ceasing”.

Being frequent, serious and attentive in prayer brings excellent benefits (Matthew 7:7-8). It helps keep the heart always in a rejoicing condition. There is no better way to reduce the weight of our discouragements. These keep our spirits under so that they cannot mount up in this heavenly duty of rejoicing. We need to cast the weight and trouble of all that grieves us on God by prayer (Philippians 4:5). That is why he says “pray without ceasing”.

Christians should be wise in the way they order their time and focus so that being diligent and intent on one duty does not make them neglect or be careless about any other. The apostle wants them to so rejoice evermore that they also pray without ceasing, and so to pray as that in everything they give thanks.

3. Prayer Requires Us to Rejoice and Give Thanks

The duties of prayer and thanksgiving go well together. Each helps the other. Thanksgiving to God for what we have received tends to suppress an impatient and murmuring spirit against God. We are tempted to vent this spirit in our prayers (compare Psalm 77:7 with verses 10 and 11). But prayer elevates the heart towards God and warm the affections with love to God to some extent (Psalm 25:1). This makes us more disposed to engage in thanksgiving: “pray without ceasing…in everything give thanks”.

We cannot have cause for thanksgiving in this life without still having constant need and reason for prayer. There is always something lacking even when we are most in enjoyment (2 Corinthians 5:6). In the same way, there can be no urgent necessity prompting us to pray without some causes for thanksgiving if we search for them carefully. We can see that our situation is not so bad as we deserve (Ezra 9:13) and that we are kept from totally sinking under it (Lamentations 3:21). The connected commands to pray without ceasing and in every thing give thanks imply that there will always be reasons for both.

4. It is God’s Will for Us to Rejoice and Give Thanks

One excellent means to engage our hearts in being conscientious about constant rejoicing, persevering prayer, and continued thanksgiving, is to take serious note that this is not an indifferent matter. We are not free to do or not do them depending on the inclination of our hearts towards them. They are strictly required of us by the sovereign will of God the Law giver. If we neglect these things we are as guilty as if we break any other command e.g. taking His name in vain or not keeping the Lord’s Day holy. “This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”.

5. We Have Christ’s Help to Rejoice and Give Thanks

We are to look on such commands as revealed to us and required of us by Christ. He has made the unbearable burden of commandments (Galatians 3:10) to be an easy yoke to His followers (Matthew 11:30). He pardons their failings (Micah 7:18). renews their strength, makes them mount up and not be weary, Isa. 40. 31. He strengthens them to do whatever He commands (Philippians 4:13) so that His commandments are not grievous and burdensome (1 John 5:3). We are to consider God’s will as revealed and commanded in Christ. “This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

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The Response We Need to Answered Prayer

The Response We Need to Answered Prayer

The Response We Need to Answered Prayer
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.
10 Jul, 2020

Hopefully, the current crisis has prompted greater diligence in prayer and to look for the answers to those prayers. Our response to answered prayer is important, it shows the extent to which we have taken it seriously. Relief and thankfulness are natural but how can we make best use of it? There is indeed a fulness of spiritual joy that may experience in embracing the answers to our prayers (John 16:24). It should humble us, strengthen our faith and increase our readiness to pray for other things expectantly (1 John 5:14; Psalm 5:3). Answered prayer should draw us closer to God in a spirit of worship (Psalm 65:2; Psalm 85:8). It should increase our love (Psalm 116:1). This is why we are to watch in our prayers with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2). If we do not respond in the right way we lose the comfort we ought to experience and rob God of His glory.

How does answered prayer give us comfort? Thomas Goodwin points out three ways:
• we hear from God as from a friend. Even though it may be only two or three words about something small if a letter ends, “your loving father,” or, “your assured friend,” it satisfies us abundantly
• we know that God is mindful of us, accepts our works and fulfils His promises
• we know that we agree in desiring the same things. We rejoice find another person of the same opinion in a controversy but it should give us greater joy that we are in agreement with God.
David Dickson explains from Psalm 145:18-19 how our needy prayers being answered should fill us with praise in the following updated extract.

1. The Lord Loves Praise in Response to His Goodness

The Lord loves the praise that arises to Him from His goodness to His people and those who belong to His Church. He loves this more than any other aspect of His praise. We know this because that reason for praising God is mentioned so often.

2. The Lord is Especially Present with those who Praise Him

Although God is present everywhere there is a kind of presence with greater friendship which God gives to those that worship Him. This is closer than that His common presence everywhere. It is the nearness of grace and friendship; He is near to them that call on Him.

3. The Lord is Near to All that Truly Call On Him

It is God’s will to have His gracious presence revealed manifested to His worshippers by prayer. He also wills that this favour should be clear to all alike without exception that pray to Him and seek Him.
There is a counterfeit and false kind of worshipping and calling on God, this cannot benefit from this promise. This is when those who pray are not reconciled, nor seeking reconciliation through Christ the Mediator. Or they may be seeking something not promised or seeking something for a selfish purpose so that they may feed their lusts. Those who have a right to this promise, must be worshippers of God in faith with sincere intentions. The Lord will show himself near to such, He is near to all those that call on Him in truth.

4. The Lord Answers the Prayers of Those Who Fear Him

True worshippers of God are those who fear Him, their holy desires are prayers that the Lord will satisfy and not refuse. If the Lord does not at first answer the prayer of those that fear Him, yet when they call in earnest while in trouble, straits and danger He will answer with deliverance and salvation.

Further Help

To explore these reflections further, you may find it helpful to read the article Heavenly Violence in Prayer? We are more likely to think of prayer as bringing peace and comfort than something which could be violent. It has a strange ring to it. Yet Scripture describes fervent prayer as wrestling and striving. Samuel Rutherford explains what heavenly violence in prayer is and how we may obtain it.

 

 

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How Should True Thankfulness Impact Us?

How Should True Thankfulness Impact Us?

How Should True Thankfulness Impact Us?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
7 Jun, 2019

It is right to express our deep gratitude for the courage and sacrifice of those who fought for freedom in World War II. We owe so much to that generation. There is little public recognition today, however, of the debt we owe to God. Many prayers were offered 75 years ago for this deliverance and in God’s great kindness they were answered. King George VI’s VE Day speech began “Today we give thanks to Almighty God for a great deliverance”. It ended, “In the hour of danger we humbly committed our cause into the hand of God and he has been our strength and shield. Let us thank him for his mercies and in this hour of victory commit ourselves and our new task to the guidance that same strong hand”. Yet we have to ask ourselves how our nations have made use of this deliverance. Did we use the freedom to honour or dishonour God? Have we been thankful to God? What is true thankfulness?

We ought also to reflect on the many other reasons we have personally and corporately for being thankful to God. How has it left an abiding impact on our lives and hearts? Thomas Case speaks movingly in describing what he calls the “pure, holy, spiritual, active grace and duty of thankfulness”. True thankfulness to God does not “put him off with a few empty, formal compliments instead of the real, spiritual, and vital duty which he expects and deserves” from us. True spiritual thankfulness is a grace which comes down from heaven and ascends back to heaven.

 

1. True Thankfulness Exalts God

We exalt God (Psalm 30:1) and calls on others to help (Psalm 34:3). True spiritual thankfulness wants God to be more exalted and man less.

 

2. True Thankfulness is Prayerful

Truth thankfulness rises towards heaven and God in holy prayer (Psalm 116:13 and 17). We do not give up praying when God has put an end to our troubles (Job 27:10).  With the truly thankful prayer leads deliverance and deliverance leads to prayer. It is love not mere necessity that makes him pray. Love to prayer and love to the God of prayer.

 

3. True Thankfulness Shows Love to God

Love draws the heart out in great love to God (Psalm 18:1). This was David’s song in the day that the Lord had delivered him from the hands of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. The saints express this love in these three ways:

(a) Seeking to know God more  (Exodus 33:18). Moses had seen much of the wonders of God. Now his love is fired with desire to see and know the God of these wonders.

(b) Seeking to enjoy God more (Psalm 86:10-11). The Psalmist seeks to know the way to God to enjoy more communion with God. A thankful heart will only be content with God Himself, not merely the things of God.

(c) Seeking to glory in God more (Psalm 48:3-7, 12-13). The Church concludes that Psalm of rejoicing for victory with this as the greatest triumph “This God is our God for ever and ever (Psalm 48:14). The God that has done all these wonders is my God. She does not glory so much in the victories God had given her, as in belonging to the God of those victories.

 

4. Truth Thankfulness Requires Self-denial

Self-denial for God’s sake (Ezra 9:13-14). There is more thankfulness in one act of self-denial than in twenty days of thanksgiving.

 

5. True Thankfulness Fulfils our Vows

“What shall I render?” David says (Psalm 116:12). “I will pay my vows” (Psalm 116:14 and 18). This is as right a response as any for all the mercies of God to His people, whether national or personal, whether victories or supplies. All of these are God making good His covenant to them. We must pay our vows to God (Psalm 56:12).

 

6. True Thankfulness Trusts God

If God delivers a thankful heart it will trust Him another time (Exodus 14:31). A people or person cannot honour God more than by trusting Him. Abraham was strong in faith giving glory to God (Romans 4:20).

 

7. True Thankfulness is Life Changing

Thankfulness makes us order our life to God’s glory (Psalm 50:23). The main work of thanksgiving is the ordering of our lives (literally in Hebrew, disposing our way aright). Thankful lips do well, but thankful lives do better. A day of thanksgiving is something, but a life of thanksgiving is everything.

 

8. True Thankfulness Desires Others to Praise God

A thankful heart is filled with enlarged desires that others, that all would be thankful. The holy psalmist cries out to all that receive mercies, that they would respond with praise to God (Psalm 107:31). He observes how much people receive from God and how little they give back to God. He is troubled by this. He cries out like someone in pain and grief. He is not willing that God should lose anything by any of the wonders He does. Surely this a high expression of thankfulness, when the heart labours with holy desires for the whole world to give glory to God (see the whole of Psalm 148). A gracious heart does not think it enough to praise God alone; even though it would praise God supposing were there none in heaven or earth to keep it company.

 

9. True Thankfulness Speaks of God’s Works

A thankful heart delights to speak of the wonderful works of God (Psalm 145:5, 10-12).  The Church praises God’s great goodness, mercies and the multitude of His lovingkindnesses (Isaiah 63:7). The saints not only stir up one another to speak of His praises but seek to preserve the memory of His wonderful works to all generations (Psalm 145:4-7; Psalm 78:2-5).

 

10. True Thankfulness Longs for Heaven

Since gracious spirits adorned with thankfulness can only live a short while to praise God on earth, and since their generations will not continue forever to do this work–they long for heaven. There in the presence of God their praises will be perfected. Here they are feeble, weary, full of natural and sinful weakness There they will be vigourous, active, pure and perfect without change or end to all eternity (Revelation 8:4).  Thankfulness is a pure flame of a restless motion, always mounting upward until it comes to heaven. There it will sing everlasting hallelujahs to Him that sits on the throne and to the Lamb. There it will observe a day of thanksgiving that will never have an evening.

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