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Thanksgiving in the Midst of Suffering

December 6, 2010

In Acts 16:16-26, Paul & Silas are imprisoned as a result of exercising a demon from a fortune-teller girl making a living for her masters. Those disgruntled masters had them arrested, beaten & thrown in the inner most jail.
I can only imagine – after having their robes ripped off and after having been beaten with rods, given “many blows” how messed up they were. Deeeeeep bruising, eyes possibly swollen shut, bones possibly fractured or broken…

The temptation to focus on self must have been so great! But, instead they “pray & sing hymns of praise to God.” How much time elapsed between betting locked in the stocks to the prayer & praise? Were they feeling sorry for themselves first? Wondering what in the world they were doing – and possibly questioning God for allowing this to happy to them? “Why us, Lord?!?” Or, were they just out of it, and then when they came to, round about midnight we are told, they decided that it was the best idea and the best time to pray and to praise God? If so, they were no doubt clearly focused on Christ alone…
• Knowing their purpose/calling;
• Knowing their God & His character;
• Knowing (historically as well as personal experience) what He was capable of and His desire for them to spread the Good News about him and His Son;
• Not focused on self/self-preservation at all. Not worried about the consequences – but going very boldly & proclaiming Christ courageously;

While comparing my life to Paul’s ain’t exactly apples to apples (to say the least), it does make me wonder:

  • What am I afraid of in being this bold (Paul-bold) in proclaiming my faith in Christ?
  • How do I proclaim my faith in Christ now, and how can I do it going forward?
  • What is stopping me (at least initially) from giving thanks in the midst of my painful circumstances?

My persecution here in Texas is nothing compared to what brothers & sisters in Christ face in other parts of the world – what do I have to be afraid of? After all, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?” (Psalm 27:1). Right?

It comes down to focus – specifically a focus on Jesus and not on self, which I have written about before (Chase Oaks Vertical Devo), but what I quickly forget…especially in the heat of things.  This is why (re)training our brains (Romans 12:2) is so important, no?

Hannah Whitall Smith has written in her book God of All Comfort:

If brought face to face with the actual wording of the command (“In everything, give thanks…” ), such Christians will say, “Oh, but it is an impossible command. If everything came direct from God, one might do it perhaps, but most things come through human sources, and often are the result of sin, and it would not be possible to give thanks for these.” To this I answer that it is true we cannot always give thanks for the things themselves, but we can always give thanks for God’s love and care in the things. He may not have ordered them, but He is in them somewhere, and He is in them to compel, even the most grievous, to work together for our good.

The “second causes” of the wrong may be full of malice and wickedness, but faith never sees second causes. It sees only the hand of God behind the second causes. They are all under His control, and not one of them can touch us except with His knowledge and permission. The thing itself that happens cannot perhaps be said to be the will of God, but by the time its effects reach us they have become God’s will for us, and must be accepted as from His hands.  Check out the rest of the chapter here.

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