20 Sep Quarter Two Lesson Ten
Growing in Thankfulness
Perhaps you are bubbling over with joy and gratitude today, maybe you are full of worship to our great God Who loved you and gave Himself for you. But if not, we hope by the end of this lesson your heart will be filled to overflowing as you consider all of Who God is for you, and all of what He has done for you, and the future you have with Him.
Let’s begin this study with the words Paul wrote to the persecuted church in Thessalonica: “Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Question 1. According to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, what is the will of God for you?
It is God’s will for us to rejoice, pray and give thanks in all things. And these instructions aren’t merely a suggestion for our consideration, but they are commands: rejoice, pray, and give thanks in all things.
It is interesting to note that these words were written by Paul who had himself faced some harsh circumstances. Let us take a moment and consider this description of his life that he shared in his letter to the Corinthians:
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” 2 Corinthians 11:24-28
Question 2. Please write out the various challenges Paul faced in his lifetime that you see in 2 Corinthians 11: 24-28?
Wow, this was a very difficult life! Paul didn’t write these words (to “rejoice, pray and give thanks in all things”) to the persecuted brothers and sisters in Thessalonica as one who had an easy life; no, he was well acquainted with suffering. And I believe that God used all these dreadful experiences to teach Paul the power of rejoicing, praying and giving thanks.
All people are naturally ungrateful by nature. We tend to look at our problems, the people or situations that frustrate us, and the tremendous challenges we face and we struggle to be thankful for anything. But by God’s grace we can grow and mature. We can become “young men” and women in the Lord who, because of Jesus, can truly live in thankfulness and gratitude to God. That is our objective, to grow in thankfulness.
Question 3. If you examined your life right now, would you say that you are generally thankful to God for all things? Please share:
It helps to understand the commands of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 when we consider the object of Paul’s rejoicing. Look at Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Again, we see the command to rejoice always, but this time the instruction is more specific.
Question 4. According to Philippians 4:4, in Whom are we to rejoice always?
Indeed, the whole world can be falling down around us (and sometimes is), but there is always a reason to rejoice in the Lord Jesus.
God isn’t commanding us to click our heels and be happy that we are going through a bad time. He isn’t saying, “I’ve given you what’s good for you and you’d better be grateful for it” like a stern parent making us swallow our cod liver oil and then say, “Thank you.”
No! God loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son Jesus down to us. God Himself entered into our humanity and became subject to all the weaknesses of our own flesh. He now can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15) and identify with our struggles and sufferings.
Then He carried our sorrows and became acquainted with our grief (Isaiah 53: 3-4). As He went to the cross He took on all our sin—indeed He became sin for us—and gave us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5: 21). What a great exchange He made that day at the cross.
And then He rose from the dead to justify us before God. That is, our sin was fully paid for, and the resurrection of Jesus shows that God accepted that payment in full (otherwise Jesus would still be in the grave). Now all who believe are justified from all sin. “Through Him, everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39).
Now, God looks at every believer through the righteousness of Jesus, and He sees you as “holy in His sight, without blemish, and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21). You are seen to be as perfect and holy as Jesus Christ Himself is. You, as a believer, are literally wearing His righteousness as a robe, and therefore are accepted by God as if you were Christ Himself. “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…” (Isaiah 61:10).
Jesus did all this for us because He loves us. He calls us to rejoice in Him, pray to Him and give thanks to Him because He loves us; and He knows this is the only way we can navigate the storms of this life safely.
These commands—rejoice in the Lord, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all things—are actually God calling us to be with Him. God calls to you today, as if He were saying “Come to Me. In Me you will find salvation, a reason for joy and gratitude, a listening ear, a loving heart, a kind and encouraging word, and sustaining power.” He is calling us to grow up and become thankful people, based on all that Jesus achieved for us. So the encouragement from today’s lesson is to live in thankfulness for the cross, having gratitude in our hearts for what God has done for us.
By way of illustration, Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures. His circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey and various other well-known Christians of the day.
At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.
In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.
With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip, at the very point in the journey where his daughters had drowned, that he penned those now famous words, “When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul.”
But why was it well with his soul? He tells us clearly:
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Horatio Spafford was simply thankful for the cross of Jesus Christ, and the knowledge that his sins were forgiven, nailed to the cross, and he bore them no more. He called this thought “bliss” and “a glorious thought.” It made him thankful for the cross.
Question 5. Can you see how living in thankfulness for the cross matures us in Christ? What are your thoughts?
Much as Peter began to sink beneath the waves when he took His eyes off Jesus (Matthew 14: 28-32) so we too begin to lose heart and sink beneath our circumstances when we forget to rejoice in Lord, to talk with Him, and to remember all we have to be thankful for in Him.
So the key to avoiding discouragement, and to being able to rejoice and give thanks always, is to look at Jesus. Look at His suffering in your place. Look at His hands, remembering that they was pierced for your transgressions (Isaiah 53:5). Look at His back which was “furrowed like a farmer’s field” with lashes and stripes that heal you. Look at His eyes full of love for you. Look at His radiant face, remembering the promise for every believer “they will see His face” (Revelation 22:4). Look at His death and resurrection. Look at how He is right now interceding (praying to His Father) for you (Hebrews 7:25). Just fix your eyes squarely on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3), and you will be able to truly rejoice and give thanks.
Now not only are these commands—rejoicing, praying and giving thanks as we contemplate Christ—a way for us to walk above our difficult circumstances without sinking, but they are also powerful tools against the temptations of the evil one (Satan).
Please examine the following passage of Scripture and answer the questions below:
Acts 16:19-25, “But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.”
Question 6. Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned for preaching the gospel and casting a demon out of a young girl. According to Acts 16:25, what were Paul and Silas doing during their imprisonment?
Question 7. According to Acts 16:26, what happened to all the prisoners?
Friend, Paul and Silas had been beaten and locked down for the night; and instead of crying and yelling about the injustice of it all, they were praying and singing hymns to God! In response, God sent an earthquake and set them free.
When we call upon the Almighty God, rejoice in Him and give thanks to Him, we should expect the miraculous. Our God is mighty to save! No situation is so dark and difficult that the Light of our Savior cannot penetrate it.
But wait…there is more! Let us read the rest of the story:
Acts 16:25-34, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”
Question 8. According to Acts 16: 30, how did the jailer respond to everything that had happened?
The jailer became a Christian; in fact, the jailer’s whole household was saved. Stunning, isn’t it? Paul and Silas went from being beaten and in chains to clean, comforted and clothed with a houseful of new converts (people who had believed in Jesus) in a matter of hours.
Rejoicing in God, praying, and giving thanks is evangelistic. When we face trials and difficulties in this life, and we respond with joy in the Lord, hope filled prayers, and a thankful heart, those around us will take notice and you might even have the opportunity to share the gospel and see the person (or people) come to faith in Christ.
How much better is living in this kind of thankfulness for the cross than being stuck in a life of whining and complaining, murmuring and accusing God of not dealing fairly with us.
Question 9. Do you believe that our rejoicing, praying and thankful hearts are reflections upon the gospel of Jesus Christ? Why or Why not?
There is a story that is told about the Christian reformer, Martin Luther. Martin once spent three days in a black depression over something that had gone wrong. On the third day his wife came downstairs dressed in mourning clothes. “Who’s dead?” he asked her. “God,” she replied. Luther rebuked her, saying, “What do you mean, God is dead? God cannot die.” “Well,” she replied, “the way you’ve been acting I was sure He had!”
It is a somewhat funny story, but it makes the point well. Sometimes when we are going through difficult times, we act as if God is dead. We forget all the benefits that we have in Jesus; we forget to call upon His name; and we forget to be thankful.
But we need to grow and mature in our lives and become thankful people. We should not remain murmuring little children, complaining about our lives, but mature into young men and women who are ever looking at Jesus and living in thankfulness and gratitude for the cross.
Dear friend, wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, if you are in Christ, you have a reason to rejoice; you have a Savior Who gave His life for you, a resurrected Lord Who has promised to lead you, a God who hears your prayers; you have every reason to give thanks! I pray that God will enable a thankful and rejoicing heart in us today. You are loved!
Question 10. What have you learned about thankfulness today, and how will you seek to apply it?