Friday, January 7, 2011

Do Not Be Overcome! The Power of Thanksgiving

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)
"...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (words of Jesus, John 16:33)
Greetings, Earthlings.

I am longing for my heavenly home. I am an alien here. But as long as I'm down here, I want to learn as much as I can how to live the way God intended me to live. I'm excited about this third weapon we have for overcoming the evil things of this world: Thanksgiving. This is a fun one. It's a favorite of mine because it's so simple. It's quick, easy, and effective. Use it in a jam, a pinch, a bind, a pickle, or a gigantic fish.

You heard me right. We can be thankful anywhere! If Jonah can be thankful inside a whale-like creature, then we can be thankful whether we are cleaning up puke or sitting in traffic or getting really bad news on the phone. 

I've heard or read the story of Jonah dozens of times. I've known it since I was a wee tot on my mum's knee. This makes it seem so common and matter-of-fact. But when I read the book of Jonah without a children's Sunday School story mindset, it is rather mind-boggling. Jonah's story is anything but common. It's crazy, man! 

Imagine God has asked you to do something you don't want to do, and in an attempt to run away from Him, you take the next ship to anywhere opposite of where He wants you to be. Now imagine the storm. God is trying to get you to turn around! Imagine the wind, the waves, the thunder, the lightning, and the terror. And now, imagine confessing to everyone else aboard ship that you are the guilty party. You are the one who caused this terrible storm, and the only way to save the lives of these people is to sacrifice your own. 

And so, in desperation, they throw you into the sea. The cold, dark, swirling water engulfs you, sucking you down into the deep. The storm stops. The ship sails on it's way in peace and safety once again.

But you are alone. Alone in a body of water so big, you are just a speck of dust. There is nothing to grasp. No solid thing to hang on to. Nothing but water surrounding you, threatening to pull you down forever. You have seaweed wrapped around your head. And you are alone. Or are you?

Imagine seeing this guy swim toward you, black and massive. He opens his mighty, titanic mouth and swallows you in one gulp like a little raisin. Now what? Anybody ever been through this before? What's it like in there? Dark... wet... suffocating? Would your skin be burned by stomach acid? And would you be able to pull your wits about you enough to pray? Would you be thankful? Jonah did. And he was. 

The great thing about Jonah was that even though he was in a terrible spot, he was able to recognize it as his salvation. Running away from God is running toward destruction. God could have let him go destroy himself. But, in His wonderful mercy, He rescued Jonah. His methods of rescue weren't rainbows and sunshine. They were terrifying. A storm on the open sea and a gigantic fish. Just the thought of it makes my pulse pick up. 

But Jonah recognized these things for what they were. And instead of despairing, he managed to be positive and thankful! Check out what Jonah prayed in chapter 2 of the book of Jonah:

 " From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.  He said:

'In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
 You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
 The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
 When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
 Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’

 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land."

Isn't that a beautiful prayer? How many times have I gone through a storm in my life or been in a dark place only to be overwhelmed by fear or complain at the injustice of it? How many times have I failed to recognize that perhaps I was being rescued from something far worse, had I continued on my course? 

When Jonah recognized God as His salvation and gave thanks, I believe his faith released more of God's power and grace into his life, and the next step was fulfilled. After three days and nights, he was puked up onto dry land.
 He may not have smelled very good. But in a manner of speaking, he was born again! He was given another chance to fulfill his God-given destiny, and he did it this time. He still had more lessons to learn along the way, but God is a patient teacher, and Jonah eventually got it!

Have you ever wondered what God's will is for your life? We all do, don't we? There are so many books written on the subject of discovering His will for your life. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is one of my all time favorite verses: "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." There it is! There's God's will for us, plain as day. Give thanks. I know what you're thinking. This verse doesn't say who you should marry, or what job you should take, but I firmly believe that being thankful in everything is a fabulous start! Begin by being thankful, and the rest will follow. Be thankful right in the middle of your storm. Give thanks to the Lord right in the middle of your own stinky whale innards. Then you'll get puked up onto dry ground, and God will show you what to do next!
I don't know about you, but I'm excited about this. For me, giving thanks became like breathing when I went through my illness. It kept me from sinking into despair and giving up. And I am determined to give thanks to God today! Yesterday was one of those days that a mom hopes her children will never remember. I was a really mean mommy. But last night, as I laid my head on the pillow dreading what today would bring, the Holy Spirit prompted me, and I just said, "Thank you, Lord. Thank you for these kids." And this morning when I woke up I said, "Thank you, Lord, that you have given me everything I need to be the mother of these children." Just those simple little thank yous have encouraged my spirit and given me hope for a better day today!

So, are you with me? Whatever you are facing today, I want to encourage you to be thankful. We can do it!

We are overcoming!

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.~2 Corinthians 2:14

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Rachelle! What a wonderful lesson. I think there is great and mighty power in being thankful in every situation. Thanks for the great reminder!



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