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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




The Spirit of Thanksgiving

By Hardy w. Steinberg
Nov. 23, 2014

From the Nov. 19, 1961, Pentecostal Evangel

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)

One hundred two pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Mass., on Dec. 21, 1620. During the long, hard winter, 51 of them died. Among the dead was the wife of Captain Miles Standish. As soon as spring came, however, the hardy colonists planted their fields and in the fall harvested a bountiful crop. When provisions had been stored away for the winter months, Gov. Bradford called for a day of thanksgiving.

Instead of entertaining a spirit of self-pity and bitterness because of the recent tragedies, these pilgrims must have remembered the words of the apostle Paul: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, KJV). This spirit of thanksgiving became an indication of the spiritual stature of the pilgrims.

Today, all believers can undoubtedly look back and remember tragedies, sorrows and heartaches. The Spirit-filled believer, however, is distinguished from the less effective Christian by his attitude when surrounded with problems. Paul makes it clear that the believer who is filled with the Spirit will have a continual attitude of thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:18,20).


GIVING THANKS ALWAYS

Some people find it difficult to offer thanks to God when all is going well. The history of Israel, recorded in the Book of Judges, might well be the story of some believers today. God blessed the Israelites; they forsook the Lord; so the Lord sent chastisement, and the people repented, so God forgave and sent blessings again. God had anticipated and warned against this tendency. Israel, however, forgot that Moses had said, “And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers ... to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildest not, and houses full of all good things ... then beware lest thou forget the Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:10-12).

Other people forget to thank God in the hour of trouble. They are different from Job who said to his wife, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). Instead they turn away from a loving Heavenly Father like the self-willed King Saul, who visited the witch of Endor in his distress.

The Spirit-filled believer gives thanks always. He says with the Psalmist, “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1). Just as the Israelite brought his sacrifices to the Lord, the devout soul brings his regular offerings of thanksgiving. “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 116:17).


GIVING THANKS FOR ALL THINGS

Some believers have made sharp distinctions between what they consider blessings and misfortunes. They thank the Lord for some things and withhold thanks for others.

The trusting child of God can give thanks for all things including the seemingly great tragedies of life. He knows that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). When the night is dark, when the storms are intense, the Spirit whispers to the heart of the yielded soul, “Give thanks unto the Lord, for all things are working together for good.”

Sometimes the believer’s steps will lead from one disappointment to another. As with Joseph, it seems that each experience makes the fulfillment of the promises of God less likely. But when Joseph was sold as a slave he gave no indication of bitterness or rancor, though his heart must have been broken.

When Joseph was put in prison for maintaining his integrity he seemed to look for opportunities to serve. When forgotten for two years by an ungrateful butler, still he showed no resentment. When the clouds had all cleared away Joseph could see that even the seeming tragedies were occasions for which to thank the Lord (Genesis 50:20).

It is well to thank the Lord for a bountiful Thanksgiving table and the happy experiences of a bountiful year. The child of God, however, can bow his heart in thanks for “all things,” whether in plenty or in want. This truth is not an impractical theory. Paul demonstrated its practicality when he sang praises to God at the midnight hour in the crucible of a Philippian jail.


GIVING THANKS THROUGH CHRIST

When Jesus was still with the disciples during His earthly sojourn He said, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13,14). On the way to the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus again said to His disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16).

It is the believer’s privilege to make requests of the Father in Jesus’ name. But Paul points out that it is the Spirit-filled believer’s habit also to “give thanks” unto God and the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The same provision that makes it possible for the believer to approach God in petition, makes it possible for him to approach God in thanksgiving. There was a time when the great barrier of sin separated the believer from the holy God. Then Jesus came and God “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). By a miracle of God’s grace our sins were transferred to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are no longer afar off. We are made nigh to God through the Blood (Ephesians 2:13).

It is difficult for the human mind to comprehend the new intimacy into which the believer is brought through Christ’s atoning death. God accepts him in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). The believer is in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1). If in Christ, the believer is as near and as dear to the heart of God as Jesus is. And the Father is waiting to hear words of thanksgiving from those who were once the children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), but who now have become the sons of God (1 John 3:1).

Possibly one of the easiest ways to determine whether the believer is filled with the Spirit is to ask if he gives thanks always for all things. All Christendom rejoices that America has a special day of thanksgiving unto God, but for the Spirit-filled believer every day is Thanksgiving Day.


HARDY W. STEINBERG (1918-93) was national director of the Assemblies of God Division of Christian Education and editor of the AG ministers magazine, Pulpit, and of Paraclete, a journal on the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

 

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