"And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Ephesians 5:18-20 (NKJV)
Last week, we talked about returning to the house (physically). After returning, comes revival, recovery, restoration, and rebuilding before our eventual resurrection. This week we focus on thanksgiving. In the story of Lazarus it is interesting that Jesus thanks God for what hasn’t happened yet. Thanksgiving isn’t always easy but it is definitely one of the virtues you want to have. In Ephesians 5 Paul tells us to give thanks for all things. Not give thanks in all things but for all things. When they were in prison, singing God’s praises, God heard and things happened (an earthquake and the salvation of the prison guard) which would not have happened if they hadn’t been in prison. Can you imagine thanking God that you were in prison?
When we complain, whine and moan about our circumstances we are not filling ourselves with the Holy Spirit, we are filling ourselves with the other spirit - the bad one. When things on the internet stoke anger or pride in us, we need to stop and create boundaries because those are not good fruit. Let nothing cloud the message of Jesus that we are to share with people: keep it simple.
We need to give thanks for our past. When we bring God into our history, we bring it under control where it cannot sabotage our present or our future. Consider the example of Joseph when he met his brothers in Egypt. He had a perspective of thankfulness. All the events of his past (being sold into slavery, falsely accused, jailed and forgotten) meant that he was in his current position of power, able to save many lives. Complaining is the language of victims but praise is the language of the victorious. We thank God for all the problems over the years with finding a permanent church home because every storm, trial and battle brought us to where we are now.
We need to give thanks in our present. Where are we now? In a debt-free building! In such a divided world, let’s have God’s agenda and not try to please everyone. We give thanks for our C3 community both on zoom and now in person, which has been still going and growing through the pandemic.
We need to give thanks for our future.
Finally let’s have a look at the story of Lazarus in John 11:1-44:
- In verse 2 we see the sisters Mary and Martha reaching out to Jesus for their sick brother. They didn’t ask because of anything they or Lazarus had done, but on the basis of Jesus’ love for them. We can reach out to God on the basis of His love for us, not our merits.
- Just because God does love you, doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to you. In Lazarus’ sickness, God’s goodness was able to come into play (verse 4, 14-15).
- Death was no match for Jesus but He moved slowly (verse 6). God moves at a different pace to us. Good things can take time (eg. 9 months to grow a baby or 20 years for a tree).
- Martha spoke of “if only” (the past) and “the resurrection” (the future) but she had no faith for the here and now (verses 21-24). We should praise God now for what we are believing for.
- In verse 41, Jesus thanks God for answering His prayer. When you have been praying for years, God hears you. When you thank God, He hears you. Never doubt that these things are powerful.
- Consider that Lazarus was alive inside the tomb but Jesus wanted the people [us] to be involved (verses 39-41) in the miracle by removing the stone door. Whatever obstacles you face in thanking God and pursuing a miracle, roll it away.
- When Lazarus came out of the grave he was wearing grave-clothes (verse 44). When we are in Christ, He gives us new clothes to wear: garments of praise, righteousness and power. What a thing to give thanks for!
SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
- Have you ever had a negative experience that God has used to bring you to where you are now (in His family/house)?
- Are there things that you complain about regularly? How can you change your triggers and turn it into thanksgiving or gratitude? One of the preachers shared at women’s conference that her family daily wrote one thing they were grateful for and put it in their “gratitude jar”.
- What are you having trouble thanking God for or having faith for today, here and now? Praying together in agreement is powerful - let your connect group support you in moving forward.
- We reach out to God in prayer on the basis that He loves us, not on our own merit. Who can you intercede for today, who needs to see God’s goodness & presence come into a dark situation?