by Shawn Brasseaux
On this Thanksgiving Eve, we will take a moment to learn a valuable lesson from the Holy Scriptures. We will reflect on sound Bible doctrine, and we will thank God that He has preserved Word so we can read and rejoice in that sound Bible doctrine!
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This life is filled with uncertainty. It is dynamic, constantly changing. In short, it can be likened to a roller coaster. Furthermore, emotions intensify that ride, too! People are worried about their financial stability; their health; their social life; their education; and the wellbeing of their children, grandchildren, and friends. Again, life is uncertain, as material possessions are “uncertain riches” (1 Timothy 6:17). Because of sin, this life abounds with a variety temptations—sickness and disability, grief, poverty, and stress, and, short of the Lord’s coming, physical death. Life can change in only a moment, so we need to rely on something that does not change. Once we identify what that “something” is, we need to thank God daily that we have it.
The Apostle Paul was certainly not exempt from this life’s troubles. Unbelieving Jews followed him wherever he went (as documented throughout the book of Acts). They persecuted him and his Gentile converts (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). Eventually, these wicked Jews convinced the Roman government to imprison—and finally execute—Paul.
Paul’s second epistle to Timothy was the last letter he wrote before his execution. Let us read the following excerpt from that epistle: “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:11,12 KJV).
Undoubtedly, when Paul spoke of his “suffering” for the sake of the Gospel of the Grace of God, he was reflecting on his ministry, the last 35 years of his life. We cannot imagine the horrific suffering of Paul, who endured at least 195 lashes; three beatings with rods; one stoning; three shipwrecks; a night and a day stranded in the sea; food, clothing, and shelter shortages; and numerous other troubling ordeals the Bible only briefly recounts (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
Above all, while writing this final epistle to Timothy, Paul is in prison again, and he confesses, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11a). Over three awesome decades of ministry are drawing to a close, but Paul’s circumstances seem grim. He has been forsaken by nearly everyone, and his beheading is near. Regardless, Paul declares, “I am not ashamed.” He knew, no matter what had happened or would happen to his physical body, his spiritual body was secure in Christ. Read his words again: “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12 KJV).
Life is dynamic; life in Christ is not! Paul’s circumstances repeatedly changed, but he knew his soul was still secure in Christ. It took time for him to learn that, and it will take time before we come to grasp that. Paul would eventually lose his physical life, but never his spiritual life. All those spiritual blessings he had in Christ would never be lost (Ephesians 1:3). We can rejoice in that, too. In Christ, we believers will always have redemption, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and reconciliation, to name just a few.
Paul remembered what the Lord Jesus Christ told him years earlier, when the Apostle pleaded with the Lord as he endured his mysterious “thorn in the flesh:” “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a KJV). Thus, Paul could “glory in [his] infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon [him].” He could “take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when [he was] weak, then [was he] strong” (verse 10). Paul did not enjoy suffering, but rather he recognized the value of that suffering for the sake of the Gospel of Grace. He valued God’s Word to the extent that he willingly suffered for the sake of preaching it! The more he suffered, the more he realized how much God could bring him through anything and everything!
After all, Acts 14:22 KJV says, “[Paul and Barnabas were] Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Christians are not appointed to “some tribulation,” but Scripture says, “much tribulation.” “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12 KJV). Furthermore, when we are willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake, we demonstrate that we value God’s Word. Just as the apostles and prophets of old suffered, we are also privileged to suffer for God’s Word.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV). God has equipped us in Jesus Christ to handle all of life’s difficulties. He does this, not by removing the troubles, but by empowering us to “bear [them].” It is for this reason that we can give thanks to God.
We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Notice how this Scripture does not say, “For every thing give thanks”—it says, “In every thing give thanks.” We do not thank God for our troubles; we thank God while we are enduring those troubles. This is tough, I know, but it takes time for us to learn it. It took a long time for even the Apostle Paul. Observe what the Apostle wrote in Philippians 4:11-13 KJV:
“11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
God wants “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3,4). To be “saved” here means you have been rescued from the penalty of sin (hell and the lake of fire), and that you have a home in heaven, because you have trusted the death, shed blood, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as sufficient payment for your sins.
To “come unto the knowledge of the truth” is when a person who has trusted Christ, begins to understand why God saved him or her, and how God will use him or her for His glory. Although soul salvation is instantaneous, spiritual maturity is a life-long process. The way we spiritual mature is by studying the Holy Scriptures, and then believing them. In this case, we spiritually mature by learning how to handle problems as Jesus Christ would. Bear them in Christ—rely on Him to strengthen you!
When we consider all of the provisions that God has given to us who have trusted Jesus Christ alone as our personal Saviour, we can be thankful that these spiritual blessings will never be lost. We can rejoice that, no matter what happens in this life, we can join our Apostle Paul in declaring, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” We can thank God that He is there to comfort us, and to encourage us to continue. God has completely equipped us to make it through this life, no matter how dire it seems at times.
It is human nature to avoid difficulties and stress, to flee them, rather than confront them. This self-preservation is advantageous, particularly in “life or death” situations. However, running from troubling circumstances is not the way God has designed our life in Christ to function. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV, “In every thing give thanks,” not “For every thing give thanks.” We do not thank God for our troubles; we thank God while we are enduring those troubles. This is tough, I know, but it takes time for us to learn it. Even the Apostle Paul had to learn, “Be thankful in every thing.
Dear saints, let us remember this sound doctrine when life is difficult. Our circumstances will change; our identity in Christ never will! J God’s grace is sufficient for you, dear saints, in all of life’s circumstances. When you learn this, you are “[coming] unto the knowledge of the truth.” And, for this reason, we can “in every thing give thanks.”
HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM arC MINISTRIES!