1 Thessalonians 5:16 – In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Last week I was visiting a couple whose daughter is likely to die of cancer before Christmas. They mentioned that their son was coming up from California for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and Christmas are going to be tough for them this year.
Because our congregation has an American Sunday bulletin supplier, normally I make sure that the American Thanksgiving bulletin for November 23 is switched to October 12 for Canadian Thanksgiving. But this year I forgot until after the bulletin was printed. During the visit with my American friends, I remembered that we would be having a Thanksgiving bulletin this week. "How can we be thankful in a time of trouble?" I thought. So that was the title of my sermon, with today's verse as my text.
I told the people that, although it would be callous to be thankful that someone is dying of cancer, we can, indeed, "in every thing give thanks", because "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28). In times of trouble and death, people begin asking questions about God and eternity, and that's good. God has their attention. We begin to understand that God has everything in control, and that this has not caught Him by surprise. We can give thanks for the wisdom of His loving plan for our lives that includes this suffering and trial.
And as for Christmas, it was because people die that Jesus was born in the first place. He came to live a perfect life and offer it on the cross as a sacrifice to pay for our sins. Then He rose in victory over death, on Easter. Death is defeated, and that's why Christmas is filled with joy, and why we can be thankful, no matter what Thanksgiving brings.
It's been several weeks since I received so many compliments on a sermon — and then I realized that the credit all goes to God, who, true to His promise, worked for good even out of my forgetting to switch bulletins!
Prayer: Thanks be to You, O God! For You give us the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). Whatever it is that troubles us right now, it is still one of all those things that You work together for good, and for which we now thank you. Amen.