Well, do you want everything that God has for you? The Lord has made great promises about what He has planned for our lives. He has told us that these plans are beyond what we have see or heard or that we can even comprehend (1 Cor 2:9). Of course, we want everything that God has planned for us. The problem is the path to His plan. The Lord has given us these very great promises as a way to entice us to follow Him. These plans are not what the Lord gives away like a grandpa giving away candy at Christmas. There is a pathway to His plan for our life. I discuss this in depth in my book: Prepare For Greater Things.
The pathway of the righteous is an ever-increasing path like the sun rising from early morning to its highest point (Proverb 4:18). But this is the pathway of the righteous. We are righteous by faith as believers, but we are also called by God to begin to live in His righteousness and to become like Him in our lifestyle. When we do this, our life sees increase. There is no path without struggle. The Lord Jesus promised in this life and on this journey, there would be great hardship (John 16:33). But this path, with its struggles, is a path of increase. But what is increase to the Lord?
Any increase that does not include our soul being filled with things eternal is not God’s increase. His plan does not lead us to increase in one area of our life to the detriment of other areas. God’s increase is shalom, balanced increase throughout our life. In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6, Christ teaches us that God is not only concerned about the things of Heaven, but He concerns Himself with providing us with temporal needs. We are also reminded that He is a good Father who wants to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). He also desires to give us those things that we want the most (Psalm 37:4). We get into trouble when we begin to look for any of these things separate from the rest. God’s plan includes my righteousness, spiritual transformation, Heavenly treasures, temporal needs, and Earthly dreams. This spiritual journey has many counterfeits that contain one one of these or a couple of them, but not all of them. To receive all that God has for us, we must know the right path to take.
Spiritual health is the key to everything and a stagnant state of the soul is quite unhealthy. Continual growth and spiritual refinement is the essential element to remain on the path of God’s plan for our life. And that brings us back to thanksgiving.
We know the process of spiritual growth includes having our fruit plucked while receiving nothing in return. We know this process includes being pruned, cut back. Pruning makes us healthier and better prepared for future growth. These are unpleasant analogies the Lord has given us to help us understand spiritual growth. Pain, suffering, hardship, unpleasantness, frustrating moments are all part of the plan. These keep us on the path of increase. However, it is not simply going through the fire that refines us. If the act of being burned refined us, then the whole world would be growing closer to the Lord every day because the whole world is going through these things. Suffering is not the path. Suffering with thanksgiving is the path.
I must accept these hardships as part of the process of growing spiritually preparing me for greater things. Thanksgiving is the methodology for moving my mind and my spirit to accepting these as instruments to move me the right direction. Without thanksgiving, I reject these hard times and I close my mind to learning and growing. To stay true to our analogy of a path, I step off the path to God’s plan for my life when I am not thankful in the most brutal times. It is not that I am thankful for what I am going through, but I am thankful because what I am going through will allow me to learn something, grow spiritually, push away from fear. Giving God praise and being thankful not only for the good moments, but the horrible ones as well keeps us on the path that we might receive all that God has for us.
Let us give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for our life (1 Thess 5:18).
1 Thessalonians 5:1-24
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (NIV)
Lord, I desire shalom. I desire spiritual increase. I desire to be an example of Your grace and kindness seen through a life blessed in every way. Let me not despise the journey which is filled with difficulties and pain. But in these times, Lord, help me to turn in to the Holy Spirit and be filled with thanksgiving for the trouble. Let me accept the lessons. Help me to see what in me that needs to be changed as a result of the suffering I endure. Do I need more faith? Do I need to rid myself of sin? Do I need to check my thoughts? Do I need to learn to forgive me? Whatever it is Lord, I know that You use hardship to illuminate these areas in me and a spirit of thanksgiving helps me see the next step and bitterness blinds me to the path and I walk aimlessly. Help me give thanks in all circumstances realizing this is Your will for my life. -Amen.