Updated: Nov 25, 2021
Dr. Stephen Phinney
Let's face it. Few are thankful for all things, and fewer are thankful for having to wait on God as He unfolds the purpose of suffering. So what do we do? Realistically, most use the adage of, Fix the fix that God has fixed on you. Attempting to fix the circumstances allowed by God's sovereignty blocks the intimacy He offers through the difficulties.
Refusing to face God's sovereignty usually involves fear. As most of us know, the antidote to fear is courage. The congruent opposite of fear is faith. The Biblical way to manifest faith is by releasing Christ's faith from within while knowing mustered-up faith insults the Life of Christ who hopefully indwells you. Most importantly, fear and thanksgiving never work well together.
The word fear is found in the New Testament 299 times. While fear has two sides to its coin, fear of God & fear of man, the role of fear seems to play a significant part in our faith – or lack of it.
Fear of man.
Fear of man & evil is the greatest enemy to our faith, and the fear of man usually propagates people-pleasing or a rebellious attitude, and both get us in trouble with God. If we choose sides, we should embrace that the fear of God, which breeds honor, respect, and obedience. One of my favorite passages is written in 1 John.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)
Since love and thanksgiving are perfect partners, fear finds no room in the inn when we understand perfect love in Christ. It flees. Furthermore, when we find ourselves punishing ourselves and others, it confesses that the fear of man is dominating our lives.
Not only is Christ our example in love, but He is also love (1 John 4:16). Therefore, to truly love is to have the indwelling Life of Jesus. All other forms of love fall under the Greek's view of eros love, which is natural affections for people, places & things. To be free from punishing ourselves and others, our bottom line is that we must have the Life of Jesus dwelling within our mortal souls. If we don't? We cannot live, and function in God is love. The litmus test - if we dwell in fear yet claim to be practicing God's love, we are duped. As our passage states, there is NO fear in love.
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. (1 John 3:14)
If fear has paralyzed your heart, it's because God's love is not perfected in you. You're not completely assured that God loves you, and you’re not certain as to the meaning of perfect love. Nor are you in the flow of God's love from within. It does confess that your fear is directed at the wrong god.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
All of us make this nasty mistake. However, if God's love were perfected, if you really knew God loved you, so completely loved you, that whatever and anything that may come upon you can only occur because God allows it to happen by way of His sovereign love, then you would know He is love. We don’t know what God needs to correct, admonish, or exalt us. He does. By releasing God to be God with our choices, we release the Life of Christ. Once we do this, thanksgiving in all things will manifest through our weak & frail souls.
The mystery of thanksgiving.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)
The golden key to thanksgiving is first to put off the works of the flesh, the left-overs from the old life, and release Jesus Christ to live through you. How do we know if the old life's behaviors show their ugly head? When we look into our present behavior and see punishment of any form, the confession becomes obvious. The peace of Christ cannot rule in our hearts under these conditions.
Now, the BIG question. How do we release the Life of Christ? We start with replacing punishment with Grace. Since Grace is the unmerited favor/acceptance of Jesus, we instead extend Grace to ourselves and others under ALL conditions when tempted to punish. Secondly, stop and listen to that whisper within your soul. If that whisper reveals the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.), you are assured the Life of Christ will shine through.
The Lord calls us to thanksgiving; we’re called to the peace of God. This only comes with the rich understanding that thanksgiving will not arrive until we are at peace with God, and it is this peace that activates thanksgiving.
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:1)6)
Once thanksgiving surfaces in your soul, wisdom will begin to pour forth from your mind. Warning, you might be in an instant mood to correct others – not with punishment, but rather with Grace-filled psalms, hymns, and Christ-as-Life spiritual songs. And when that happens, thankfulness will bubble over into your life as well as the lives around you. And whatsoever you do from that time forward, do in His Word and Deeds, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, who lives within you, giving thanks to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and fellow believers who have encouraged you.
Anxiety is a killer of faith.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
The release of thanksgiving is done in prayer. First, we must decide to be anxious for nothing. This scripture is presented as a mandate. If for some reason, we are anxious for many things, thanksgiving will not arrive until we address our issues with anxiety. This is our starting place. Cast all our cares upon the Lord. Ask for the peace of Christ to manifest. And when it arrives, we must take all our circumstances to Him while we have a thankful heart.
Folks, our answer for worry & fear is prayer. Talk to Jesus about those things that concern you, those things that are determined to cause you to worry and slip into fear. Don’t forget, when you lay those before the indwelling Jesus – trust Him to take care of them in HIS timing. Not yours. When they go from your hands to His, they are in His hands, and authentic trust believes He will work them out for His glory. Now, realistically, it may not be for your pleasure; it may not be what your flesh wants, but default to thanking Jesus for His sovereign control. Christianity 101 is intuitively knowing God is in control of all circumstances that surround you. If you need a reminder to let go, reflect on what caused your worry and fears. It should remind you that self-life is destructive and ends in anxiety.
Again, let’s face it, many times, there are hardships, persecution, distresses, and there are difficulties. There are a plethora of things that we don’t understand. Remember that authentic faith MUST be tested. When we pass this test, our faith develops into trusting in Jesus even when we don’t get our way. When life doesn’t go the way we prefer it to go, He has a better plan. Throughout the Scriptures, this plan usually involves pain & suffering.
I will be the first to admit that I am not thankful for all things. After I am done with having a pity-party, I get up and announce my wrong thinking before the Lord. Then the Lord reminds me to pray without ceasing and to continue this kind of attitude all day, every day. In this, I have found a life of courage!
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