Living thankfully. Paul the Apostle had a continual feast with the Lord by living thankfully. He’d been raised to enjoy the good life—scholars believe his family was moderately wealthy, he obtained the finest Rabbinical education in Jerusalem, and both he and his father were Pharisees, which brought prestige and honor to the family.
However, when he became a passionate follower of Christ, the rug was yanked out from under his comfortable existence, and…well…read his account for yourself: Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm (2 Corinthians 11:24-27 NLT). So much for the good life.
I’ve never been stoned or shipwrecked or adrift at sea. I’ve had sleepless nights and shivered in the cold, but it was because my mattress heater turned off too soon. Few of us can relate to Paul’s sufferings, and yet he told the Colossians (and us) to let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives…always be thankful (Colossians 3:16). If we really do that, a natural outworking will be a desire to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts (verse 16). That amounts to praise.
Praise and thanksgiving are very closely related. Hebrews 13:15-16 (NLT) says, Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to His name. Our praise and thanksgiving are like gifts we give to the Lord, and something quite amazing happens when we give them—especially when we don’t feel like thanking or praising Him, for that is when our praise and thanks become a sacrifice to Him.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel, we read in Psalm 22:3 (NLT). Another translation says God inhabits the praises of His people. Yet another version says He tabernacles with us. The Hebrew word for “enthroned” or “inhabit” is yashab, and it means to sit down, to settle, to marry, to remain. When God hears our praise and thanks, He moves right in and lives there. He tabernacles with us. Literally, God “pitches His tent” with us!
I’ve done my share of camping in tents as a Girl Scout, but one thing I’ve never done—or want to do—is to sleep in a tent alone. Creepy! As you experience the trials and tribulations of life, it is good to have God in your tent. The Apostle Paul knew how to do that. He enjoyed the Presence of the Lord in the most unimaginable adversities because he learned the secret of continually giving thanks.
Shipwrecked? Praise God, because He could protect the men and spare their lives! As their boat was violently tossed about in the sea, Paul said this, "Take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, 'Don't be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What's more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.' So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as He said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island," (Acts 27:22-26 NLT).
Lost at sea? Praise God because He’s everywhere, and there was nowhere Paul (or you and I) could go that would be hidden from the Lord. If I go up to the heavens, You are there. If I make my bed in the depths, You are there, Psalm 139:8.
Beaten with wooden rods and imprisoned again? Praise Him, for God does impossible things! Acts 16:23-28 records that Paul and Silas were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn't escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, "Stop! Don't kill yourself! We are all here!"
What about us? Are you scared? Sick? Threatened? Lonely? Directionless? Broke? Thank God for His Presence, right there in your tent!
We thank Him for who He is--all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere present. Remember, He is above our circumstances, whether good or bad. In all of His power and glory, He listens for the sweet sound of our thanks, and He comes to live with us. Will He pitch His tent with you today? In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Thanks-Living—it’s so much more than turkey and pie and football.
© 2021, Chris Werre