Finding Joy In The Journey
A Prayer to Open Our Study
Dear Heavenly Father, despite our current situation, we will give You thanks and praise because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus. Father, we choose not to worry about what we see, as we pray for peace to rule in our hearts. Lord, thank You for what You’ve done, what You’re doing, and what You’re about to do in our lives. Lord, although we cannot see the big picture, we believe you will give us victory over our adversities, because it is You who is fighting for us.
We ask this In Jesus' name, Amen.
Lesson Eleven: Thanksgiving in the Midst of Adversity
Mr. Stanley starts us off with two questions:
Learning: Am I really supposed to give thanks for the suffering in my life?
Growing: How can I use gratitude and thanksgiving to connect with
God in the midst of suffering?
In this lesson, Mr. Stanley wants us to learn about what he calls our "Secret Weapon” and he said it would super-charge our response to adversity. The power he wants us to tap into is the power of Gratitude. Maybe, like me, you are thinking, how in the world can God expect me to be thankful for the hardships I have had to endure and am still suffering from? How can being grateful help me?
In Everything Give Thanks To The Lord
Gratitude is a hot topic these days in and outside Christian circles. In my research, I only found the exact word gratitude used three times in scripture. Although it is only used a few times, gratitude is a theme throughout the Bible and it’s implied that we should make thankfulness a part of our lives.
According to an article in the Harvard Mental Health Letter, “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” So, being grateful is not only good for us physically, but it is part of our commanded responses to life’s challenges. Paul told us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Everything would include bad times as well as good times.
Paul also said in Ephesians 5:20 “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is pretty clear we are to give thanks always for all things. That is a tall order, but not one without benefits. We will find more joy, more peace, and better health. But Mr. Stanley cautions us that we are to never give thanks for something that goes against God’s character. Not for our sicknesses, pain or when we are dealing with loneliness, sadness, or for times when we slip into periods of sin. We don’t give thanks because bad things are happening to us, or for adversity itself, but because we believe in God’s promise in Romans 8:28 that “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
We can be grateful for God’s love and His promises. As Mr. Stanley said, “no matter what happens-no matter our pain, difficult emotions, or even our sin we can say, "Lord, I don’t understand why You allowed this to happen, but I’m going to give You thanks because I know You’ll help me survive. You’ll help me bear the pain, because You will be with me through it all.”
Giving Thanks Keeps Us Aware Of God’s Presence
You may say thank you all the time, but may not feel or even mean the words at all. By the world’s definition, being thankful is a self-focused feeling. Being thankful just means feeling pleased, relieved, or according to Merriam-Webster, being “conscious of benefit received.” A quick thank you, while polite, is not the same as being thankful. There is a huge difference between having a thankful heart and just having a general appreciation for the many blessings God provides.
Read Colossians 3:16-17
The word for “gratitude” in verse 16 in Greek is translated as “extending favor towards” and the word for “thanks” in verse 17 in Greek is translated as “good grace” Biblical thanks means acknowledging the giver, not just the gift. It is God focused, rather than self-focused.
So, let’s read this verse again and change the wording to the Greek translation, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God extending favor (with gratitude) in your hearts,” “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving good grace (thanks) to God the Father through him,” Do you see how this small change turns the focus to the one who gives. Thankfulness in the Bible means showing appreciation for the goodness, effort, and thoughtfulness of the giver, our heavenly Father. The more we acknowledge the presence of God in our lives the easer it will become to give Him the Gratitude He deserves. How do we start giving God our thanks?
1. Look for God working in your life.
Strive to be thankful for something every day. Not just on occasion or at Thanksgiving, but every day. You don’t have to over think this, there is no pop quiz. Be thankful for a beautiful evening or for the rain. Be thankful for your family and friends. Avoid complaining or talking about all that you wish was different. Look for God and find Him in the small things around you each day.
Read Hebrews 13:15
2. Appreciate the Get To’s.
My friend use to complain about all the things she had to do, taking care of her mother and children. She said how because of everything she did for them there wasn’t any time left for her to do something for herself. Then one day her mother passed away, and the kids went off to college. Now she has realized those things she did for them were really GET TO’s and she wishes she could get to do them again. God gives us many get to’s it’s up to us to really see them.
Read Acts 24:3
3. Share your thankful spirit with others.
Show others gratitude. Not only will it improve their day, it will improve your own. Tell your family and friends what you are thankful for and ask them to do the same for you. Tell God each morning that no matter what happens to you during this day you will take joy in the fact that He will be with you ever step of the way.
Read Psalm 9:1
Giving Thanks Motivates Us To See God’s Purposes
Trying to discover our life’s purpose can be overwhelming and stressful. Our feelings of purposelessness is incredibly frustrating. We look around and see our friends and family living passionate, engaged, and meaningful lives. They have deep relationships, rewarding interests and a sense of direction that compels them to hop out of bed each morning with a spring in their step. But we can never forget God has something good in store for us as well. God doesn’t intend for us to live a life of painful drudgery in which each day is a total drag. After all, the Bible is chock full of passages about joy. While this certainly doesn’t mean that every single day is a parade or a day at the circus, it does mean that an overall sense of gladness should permeate our lives. Mr. Stanley reminds us that God is God, and He works all things, including our lives, according to his purposes. Nothing can happen without God ordaining it.
So, we can trust God to lead us where He wants us to go. However, our choices and actions also play a part. In some ways, this is a mystery we can’t fully understand, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. We can choose to do things that will bring us more joy and give us more of a sense of purpose. Psalm 57:2 says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Asking God to help you identify those choices you can make to bring more excitement and God-given purpose into your life. These are a few suggestions to help us on the road to happiness and purpose.
DETERMINE YOUR GIFTS AND STRENGTHS.
God has given you very specific gifts and strengths. Maybe you have a servant’s spirit. Maybe you’re great at organizing people and getting things done. God’s purpose for you probably involves the things you’re already good at.
This is where being part of a church can be particularly valuable in allowing you to discover your gifts and then determine how you’re going to use them. It also connects you with likeminded people who want to help you find your purpose.
Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
DETERMINE YOUR PASSIONS.
What is one thing you’re particularly passionate about? Really, this can be anything. Business, art, economics, alleviating poverty, whatever. If money wasn’t an issue, what would you love to do?
Determining your passions often helps you figure out what God has called you to do. It’s often said that God works at the intersection of our gifts and our passions. Where do your gifts meet your passions? That may be God’s purpose for you.
Read Colossians 3:23
TAKE A SOLITUDE RETREAT.
Sometimes it can be incredibly helpful to get away from it all and take some unhurried time to think, pray and journal. You don’t have to spend a week in the woods for this to be effective. Even just a day away from the hustle and grind can be hugely rewarding.
During these retreats, allow yourself to simply be still. To ponder. To ask God for direction and listen for His voice. This doesn’t need to be complicated God’s not hiding in the dark, trying to keep his will hidden from you. He wants to guide you. God has numbered your days and will fulfill every purpose He has for you.
Read Hebrews 11:6
Giving Thanks Empowers Us To Rejoice
Joy is fundamental to the Christian life. Growing Christians are rejoicing Christians. Paul commands us to rejoice. He repeats this message in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 “rejoice always.”
Remember, with every command of God; there is a related promise. God always empowers us to accomplish His command. Joy has nothing to do with our circumstances but it is connected to the presence of God. Happiness is connected to situations in life. We can be happy when everything is going our way. We are happy when the traffic is light, our job is going well, and we are in a loving relationship. However, even when everything is going wrong and we are unhappy, we can still choose to rejoice. Joy is the evidence of the Holy Spirit working in our life.
How do we rejoice when we see the world around us falling apart?
Joy is a decision. We choose joy. Every day we can choose to either worry or rejoice; we can’t do both. Worry accomplishes nothing. In Matthew 6, Jesus said, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”
As we choose joy, we confess that God is in control. Choosing joy is always a step of faith. It is taking our eyes off our problems and focusing on the goodness and love of God. Joy is choosing to trust God in our situation. We don’t rejoice for the problem; we rejoice in the problem. Even on our darkest day, we can choose to rejoice. As we do this, we will experience the supernatural joy of Christ flowing through us no matter what we are going through.
Read Romans 15:13, Proverbs 17:22
Giving Thanks Energizes Us For Each Day
Here are a few spiritual blessings we should regularly recall, and thank God for, and rejoice in:
1. We have eternal life and can never lose it
2. Jesus has paid for every sin we ever have and ever will commit
3. We are no longer slaves of sin or under its dominion
Read Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 1:7, 1 John 1:7
4. The Holy Spirit of God dwells in, empowers, comforts, and counsels us 5. The Creator of the universe hears our every prayer 6. Someday we will be reunited with our loved ones who believed in Jesus Read John 16:22, Isaiah 26:19
7. Our God is our refuge, strength, and strong tower 8. Nothing will ever separate us from God’s love 9. God is working all things for our good Read Psalm 73:26, Psalm 18:2
10. God has a purpose for our lives which he will certainly fulfill 11. God is in control of every detail of our lives 12. God will supply our every need
Read Psalm 37:4, Psalm 16:11
Charles Stanley wants us to consider these thoughts:
Today and Tomorrow
Today: God acknowledges my desire to express gratitude in Him, even when my feelings don’t match my words.
Tomorrow: I will actively and intentionally express thanks and rejoice this week during a moment of adversity.
Closing Prayer, Charles Stanley
Thank You, dear God, that You don’t remove the adversity from our lives until You have completely accomplished Your purpose within us. Help us today, Lord, to reconsider our response to adversity. Help us to give thanks that You are continually using the trials that come in our lives to make us more aware of Your presence and to see Your purposes. Empower us to rejoice in all things and energize us for each day. Remind us that adversity is the greatest motivation for our spiritual growth-Amen.