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DEVOTIONS FOR MEN
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
As a new Christian becoming just familiar with the teaching in the Bible, there was a lot that I knew would be challenging. But when I first came across the above Scripture, I couldn’t understand why or how this would be expected. Some circumstances are tragic! Though I began to follow it as best I could in blind faith, it was several years later before I began to understand the purpose and the wisdom of this instruction. Here’s some of what I have learned as I have matured in my faith.
First, it’s faith in God’s sovereignty. He has promised that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We don’t always readily see how god could work for good in some things, but we walk by faith, not by sight. He is glorified by our faith, and we grow by exercising our faith.
Second, and by no means the last benefit, having a thankful mind-set helps us to keep our minds on the Spirit’s leadership seeking understanding or what God wants to accomplish. Grumbling is caused when we only look at things from our perspective and how circumstances make life difficult for us. It is dishonoring to God, and it is dishonoring to ourselves. That’s why we need to follow the directive in Philippians 2:14: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’”
There are three attributes that keep us connected to God during troubled times—trust (faith), waiting, and hoping. Trust is initiates the other two. Without trust (faith), there would be no waiting, no hoping. So trust is what our Father desires most.
Waiting and hoping are evidence of our trust. They also keep us connected to God. Waiting for God to work keeps our eyes on him and keep our trust alive. Hoping will strengthen our ability to wait and enhance our trust.
If we only say we trust without any real ability or desire to wait, our trust is false, and our hope is eclipsed by doubt. Hope looks to the future in which God will glorify himself proving himself to be faithful and true. It also keeps us focused on our reward for faithfulness and our inheritance in Heaven. So hope even has benefits for the present.
Because we are God’s children, we don’t just pass time in our waiting. We wait expectantly, trusting while we wait that our hope will prove to be more than just empty hope. It will become reality.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see . . . And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:1, 6).
Though many things in life feel random and wrong, remember that God is sovereign over everything. He can do as he promised to make all things work together for good, but only to the extent that we trust him. Every problem can teach us something and transform us little by little into the image of Christ. Problems can be a stumbling block or a stepping stone. It will depend on whether we react with trust and faith, or not. The choice is up to us, and we will have to choose many times each day how we will react.
The best way to have problems become a blessing is to thank God for them. This opens our minds to understand how God could use them for good and for growth. God will not necessarily remove our problems, but his wisdom is sufficient to bring good out of every one of them.
Problems become bigger problems when we resent them, fail to see how God may want to use them, and we try to handle them ourselves. And feeling helpless and overwhelmed by a problem and choose to go it alone. But this is when we need to involve God and walk with him in dependence. As we face the problems of life, this choice will be continually before us.
The problems we face are really trials. James 1:2-4 tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”. These trials/problems are gifts from God to grow us and remind us to rely on him alone.
Many voices vie for control of our minds. We can often find ourselves running around in circles trying to obey the various voices trying to direct our lives. This results in fragmented, frustrated patterns of living. We must learn to discern what is God’s voice, and what is not.
The Holy Spirit is always trying to guide our thoughts, but so is Satan. What makes it so confusing is that Satan disguises himself so we are often unaware that what seems innocent and unconnected to our walk with God is just another diversion to occupy our minds and take our focus off of the Spirit’s lead. Satan’s most effective disguise is SELF. He likes to keep us focused on what is appealing to our selfish desires and interests. We must not fall into this trap. Instead, we need to keep our focus on the Spirit’s leading and walk closely with him, listening for his directives, and enjoying his companionship.
Refuse to let the other voices draw you off track and make you ineffective and unfruitful. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice and follow me wherever I lead (John 10:4).