The Importance of Gratitude

What difference does it make to give thanks? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I always had a problem with this when I was growing up. My grandmother was one of those people big into manners. Whenever I got a gift, she would tell me to say thank you in a voice I look back on as patronizing. Being the kind of kid I was, it left me instead wanting to not say that to people.

That has “thankfully” changed.

Last night, I was doing some reading in a book called Time and Despondency. It’s a book on dealing with what we would call depression from an Eastern Orthodox perspective, but if you’re Protestant or Catholic, you’ll still get a lot out of it. The author talked about hearing a message from a Catholic who struggled all his life with major depression. He was asked once what a sign is that he would be entering depression again. His response was surprising.

Lack of gratitude.

The author then goes on to talk about how the Bible doesn’t really say to be thankful as much as it does to give thanks. It tells us to do the action. “But I don’t feel thankful right now.” So what? If you act only when you feel like it, that doesn’t merit you anything. The reality is you have to act contrary to your feelings.

I can attest to this in my own personal life. When I am depressed over something, I am not really grateful for anything. I look out the window and see the sky and the trees and the birds and people going about their lives and cats and dogs in our apartment complex and think “Who cares?” When something happens that changes my attitude, I look at those items differently. Has anything in the world itself changed? No. I have changed. That is the difference.

Many of you know that my wife Allie is in a facility now receiving in-depth therapy and medical treatment for BPD. It is my hopes she comes out of this a whole new woman. If you want to contribute to her ongoing fundraising to cover this, please do so here.

Today, she posted a picture of herself on Facebook with something she wrote about how she really is beautiful just as she is. I commented telling her I have been telling her that for years. I hope now she is starting to believe it. She replied with a personal thanks and a little smiling emoji.

You might think that’s cute.

I can tell you that that has easily been the highlight of my week if not my month so far.

With that comment, a cloud that had been hanging over my head really just vanished. Once again, nothing in the external world really changed. What changed was my attitude. It was easier to be pleasant around people and I was less bothered about things and I was genuinely happy about my life. Thus far, that hasn’t gone away.

By the way ladies, unless your husband is being needlessly crude, if he compliments you on your appearance, always say thank you at least. If a husband compliments his wife on her beauty and she argues against him, that cuts deeper than you know. The message you give him when you do that is “You’re a liar” or “You’re deluded.” Either way, you are insulting him. Just tell him thank you and that will make his day. If you want to make it more past that, that’s up to you, but thank you goes a long way.

It’s also interesting that the more you get thankful for someone in your life, the more you will really care about that person and genuinely love them. If you tell yourself that someone is a pain, well lo and behold, you will have a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may not be able to change other people directly, but you can sure change how you treat them.

Ultimately, this comes back to God. Did I give thanks to Him when I saw this message? Yep. Sure did. I intend to keep doing that. Hopefully, I will also learn to give thanks even when things aren’t going good in my life. It’s a command. God doesn’t say “Give thanks except when you don’t feel like it.” He says to give thanks regardless.

I encourage you then if you need encouragement, give thanks. If you don’t need it now, maybe that person you’re giving thanks to does need it. You don’t even have to know them. It could be the random person just doing their job. Give them gratitude and if you can, a little bit more. Not only will it make their day possibly, but you could get better service. (I remember working near a pizzeria once and I would go there on my lunch break. I noticed I had no problem getting service after I left a $5 tip one time.)

Remember, something could be little to you, but it could be huge for someone else. You could lift someone out of depression or even stop someone who is pondering suicide just by an act of kindness. Show love to that person, regardless of your mood. Everyone will be better for it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

The Importance Of Gratitude

Does it make a difference if you’re appreciative? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my pastor preached a sermon on faithfulness and thankfulness from Colossians. The pastor isn’t one of those guys who gives these lightweight sermons that’s all pure application. Nope. It all comes out of a deep theology and I greatly respect that.

My wife also struggles with depression due to Borderline Personality Disorder and when we meet with people to talk about this topic, one of the things that most often comes up is the importance of gratitude. Try to go to bed with gratitude at the end of every day. If anything, just give thanks that the day is finally over.

Thankfulness is extremely important. In Romans 1, we are even told that one of the reasons that the wrath of God comes on man is that they did not acknowledge God nor give thanks to Him. The danger with thankfulness not being present is it makes us take things for granted. That includes even the greatest blessings of our lives.

Last night as I was going to sleep, I started thinking about this whole idea again. I have plenty of friends I know who are single and it is not because they want to be. I understand the pain very well. Until Allie came into my life, I had the same situation. You go to bed every night and you want someone to be next to you. As a guy, part of that is naturally wanting to be able to have sex, but also just being able to share your life with a woman you love and who loves you.

If I cease to give thanks for her and the life we share together, am I not on the path of taking her for granted? I treat her as if she’s just obviously there, but she isn’t. God doesn’t owe me another minute with her. Should I not celebrate what I do have?

Of course, every marriage will have problems and struggles in it. That’s just going to happen when you have two sinful people living together and sharing their lives intimately, but all of those are worth it to get to spend the time with the love of my life. If I take her for granted, I will also be prone to mistreat her and let the relationship deteriorate.

Also, next month, my wife and I will be celebrating nine years together. This is something incredible to me. Allie has been in my life for about a quarter of it. For her, I have been in her life for about a third of it. (I am nearly ten years older than she is.) How can I not give thanks?

Sometimes skeptics raise the question about why God takes lives in the Old Testament. I always start this by asking the same question. What does God owe us? If we could say He owes us anything, it’s justice. Here we receive mercy, which is something we don’t deserve, and we complain about it instead.

Many of you know that my wife and I don’t have a lot of money now. Donations don’t come easy when you’re not officially a 501c3 on your own and even then, it’s still hard. It doesn’t mean I don’t give thanks. Everyday is an adventure in its own way. We have had super generous friends who have donated so much to us and we are extremely thankful.

Two cases come to mind. At men’s group at our church last year, we talked about coveting and I expressed how Allie had really wanted a Nintendo Switch but her folks said it was too expensive. I said it was hard when I knew my wife really wanted something and couldn’t provide it.

A couple of weeks later someone from the group spoke to my wife about that conversation. He ended up buying us a Switch.

My wife and I also like the Pokemon games. I made a post about a month ago about how I would be saving up Amazon credit so I could get them both of us. A friend told us not to worry. When they came out, he would buy them for us.

These are two blessings that come to mind. People don’t have to be generous, but they are, and I have told Allie that if we ever get to the point of prosperity on our own, I plan to be generous. One of the greatest kindnesses you can do is go to your neighbor and help give them something they need or want. I can easily say I have not forgotten these blessings and they give me hope whenever I think about them that our situation can change.

And you know what? When I find myself giving thanks like this, I find my mood does improve. I really do appreciate things and see so much more what blessings I have in my life. It leaves me in greater appreciation to the God who gives so much to me.

Strange thing, isn’t it? Paul is right. Giving thanks to God is extremely important. Perhaps we could all be improved by giving thanks.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Evil And Entitlement

Is the problem of evil a more Western problem? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my wife and I were with our church small group discussing the book Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. The thesis is that it’s often simple to know to obey God and even to do it, but to trust Him is something else. Of course, if we don’t trust Him, we’re not really obeying Him.

Something that keeps us from trusting often is the problem of evil. I did recently interview Clay Jones on this and he did back something that I have heard, that evil is often more of a problem being talked about in the West than it is in the places where the real evil is going on. I can think of the fundamentalist atheist teenager talking in a chat room years ago who would go on and on about how much evil there was in the world and then say he’d brb, someone was calling his cell phone.

I suspect that part of the reason is because we often have an entitlement mindset over here. I have heard some people saying, and I understand it, that they don’t like the concept of us having rights. Perhaps we should think of them as more responsibilities we have toward our fellow man. We often think that we are owed something.

When it comes to evil in our lives then, we look at it and think that God is not doing His job. After all, He’s supposed to be making sure we’re happy, and normally we have in mind a very American view of happiness. Even with our therapy today, we often focus on dealing with our emotions instead of dealing with our behavior. We do need to deal with our emotions to be sure, but our behavior is by far more important.

If we look biblically, this idea of God holding out on us and not doing His part is what led to the fall in the Garden. Why take the fruit? Because God is holding out on you. God is not looking out entirely for you. He’s looking out more for Himself. The strange thing is we keep acting the same way.

In our society, we think more about what God is to do for us than on what we are to do for Him. Many of us will rightfully condemn the word of faith people who treat God like a servant and say if you have enough faith, then you will get all the miracles and wealth you want, but we act the same way on a lower scale. If we are doing everything right in our lives, everything should work out for us. If we do the right thing, we should have good happen in our lives.

It’s interesting that this is the very thinking in the book of Job. Job is thought to be the oldest book in the Bible by many scholars. In this book, God Himself challenges this way of thinking and says it is wrong. What do we do? We still hold to this exact way of thinking. (Also, it’s worth pointing out the book of Job is not about the problem of evil. It’s asking the question of if you will still serve God even if things don’t work out for you. If you gained nothing, would you still serve?)

I suspect a large part of this is that we are not thankful enough. Consider Romans 1. This passage is all about how God is judging the world and the wrath of God. What does verse 1 say about it?

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Imagine giving a presentation somewhere and you get reviews back from the audience. There are twenty of them. Nineteen of them are positive. One is negative. It is our tendency to focus on that one negative. The same thing is what we do here.

God has given us all so much and we don’t appreciate it. In other countries where good things are not taken for granted, they are seen as gifts. We sleep in warm beds, have refrigerators with food, drive where we want to go, watch what we want on TV, access what we want on the internet, can worship in freedom, and yet we still say that there isn’t enough good in this life to be thankful for.

Years ago, someone gave me a tip that I try to do at times. If you have one night where it’s hard to get to sleep, go through the alphabet. Think of things that you’re thankful for that start with each letter. If you can’t think of something, then you do indeed have a problem. You are not thankful enough.

Keep in mind, this is no light matter. This is something that is included in the wrath of God. If you are not thanking God, you are likely taking Him for granted. Sure, God gives you food to eat and a place to sleep, but He’s supposed to do that isn’t He?

No. He has no obligation to you beyond what He promised you. You were never promised a pain-free life. You were never promised a rose garden this side of eternity. That means then that everything that you have is a gift. If you have something good come into your life, rejoice. If you lose something, God never owed it to you and you have to trust Him.

My wife and I have been reading James 1 at night the past couple of days and James really has a lot to say about this. Just look at the first chapter.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faithproduces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The early church was facing trials of many kinds. Sometimes it was physical persecution. Sometimes it was ostracism from society. They would be outcasts and suffer economic hardship as well. Never mind that they didn’t have all the blessings that we have today.

Despite this, they were to have joy. They had far less than we have and quite likely far more suffering, and they were told to have joy. Not only this, this joy came with a promise. We will then be mature and complete and not lacking anything. Does that sound like a good deal to you?

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

So James is telling us that persevering under trial is a sign of your love for God. It demonstrates to the world you love God and God promises a crown of life to you. Earlier, I said God owes nothing to you beyond what He promises you. If you treat Scripture as His promises, then this is His promise. If you persevere, He will give you a crown of life.

My wife is part of Celebrate Recovery. Tonight, she’s excited because she gets a chip to show that she’s gone two months without cutting. If she is excited to get a little chip, how much more excited should I be that I will get a crown of life? Unless, of course, I don’t think it’s that big a deal or I don’t think God will keep His word.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

And James tells us that God does give us good gifts. God does not change. His gifts are because of His gracious nature. Often, we have a deserving mentality. If we do good, we deserve to get good things and if we do bad, we deserve to get evil things. If we get a gift, we need to deserve it. Not at all. Paul even said this to the pagans in Lystra in Acts 14.

17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

Plenty of food? These people had to work for their food much more than we do. I can just drive down to a supermarket and find plenty of food that I can get. Water would also be a valuable commodity for them, and yet I can go to a water fountain and get all that I want for free. God gave these gifts to people that Romans says did not honor Him or give thanks to Him.

When we treat God in a way that He doesn’t give us good things in our minds and isn’t looking out for us, what kind of Father are we saying that He is? Could we not be like the prodigal son and saying that we wish He was dead and we could go on with our lives? The elder son didn’t fare much better. He saw his dad as someone stingy he was slaving for and he never got a thing for it.

By the way, I’m saying all of this to myself. I also have a problem with a lack of thankfulness. Many times when you do a blog like this, you write not only for your audience but for yourself. Lately, I have been having to learn about this a great deal.

So what are we going to do? Be more thankful. Realize you are not owed anything. Everything that you have is a gift. If God takes something away, He’s not being cruel to you. He’s looking out for you in a way you don’t understand. Trust Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Importance of Thanks

Does it matter if we’re thankful or not? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife had a sleep test done. It was to take place in the middle of the day with periodic naps. We had to be there at 6:30 in the morning. That meant that for all the time to get ready, we got up at 5 in the morning. I don’t like that. You see, if I know I have to get up early, it can make it harder to go to sleep because I start thinking “What if I don’t get enough sleep?” Then all these disaster situations play, especially since Allie can’t drive and if she can’t drive she can’t get there, etc. etc. etc.

So I went to bed that night trying to think about what to do about it and remembered what Paul said. “Be anxious about nothing.” Yeah. Good idea Paul. Too bad you didn’t tell us how to do that exactly.

Or did he…..

In fact, I think he did. I remembered immediately it was said afterward, but in everything give thanks. So what did I do? I just started thinking about all the things I was thankful for. My mood began to change as I started to ponder on all the good things I have in my life.

I woke up a few times during the night, but I always got back to sleep. I slept enough to get Allie to her appointment in time, and there was a lesson learned. Give thanks. It sounds simple, but it’s something that needs to be done.

How serious a matter is this? It’s serious enough to earn the wrath of God. Think I’m making it up? Look at Romans 1.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Because people did not give thanks to God for what He had done, the wrath of God was coming on them. A lack of thankfulness is something that leads us to think that we owe nothing to God. We owe no honor to Him whatsoever. We can do everything on our own. We can’t.

Not only do we need to thank God, we need to thank one another. We need to thank those that are closest to us. Today, I was shown that one of my Facebook friends who has greatly helped Allie is depressed about how people don’t seem to interact with her. It happens. I know from my perspective that people often come for questions, but they don’t come for much else.

This can also happen between husbands and wives and ironically, it works in opposite ways. Many a wife wants to be appreciated for the things she does around the house and taking care of the kids and usually thinks she just gets appreciated for sex. The man meanwhile wants to be appreciated for being the breadwinner often, but he would love to be appreciated for sex.

Go out in public and when someone does something good for you even if it’s just their job. Many people throughout the day could have their whole attitude changed if someone just thanked them for what they do instead of having it be a thankless job. As one who worked in retail for several years, I know I was used to it.

And why would this help with anxiety? Because it’s hard to be anxious when your mind is focused on all the good things, which is also what Paul tells us to do in Philippians 4:8. Those are the things to think about. Giving thanks gives honor to God, builds up those who we are close to, helps our fellow man, and relieves us of our anxiety.

Give thanks.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thanks To The Fallen

Are we taking the time to remember today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I could have done a book plunge today, but I will hold off for tomorrow. Today is Memorial Day after all, and I want to write something to honor those who are no longer here. It’s sad as I think about it that the people I want to honor the most with this post are the ones who cannot read it. Hopefully, those who can read it will live their lives in honor of the ones who can’t.

As I write this, I sit in my apartment without fear of death from opposing forces. I will drive to my in-laws with my wife today and I won’t be worried about driving through enemy territory and having to dodge bullets and such. I will have regular meals today and I will be able to get a hot shower this morning and sleep in a warm bed tonight. I will do all of this with my wife of nearly seven years by my side.

The fallen don’t have that.

They died in fact not sleeping in the beds that I do and woke up every day knowing they could be walking into enemy territory. They didn’t enjoy the meals that I am able to enjoy at home. Some of the men overseas might have had girlfriends that they were writing to back home. They will never get to marry those girlfriends. They will never be husbands or fathers or eventually grandfathers.

Those families will always have an empty chair at Thanksgiving. Christmas will always be a reminder of what was lost. Mother’s Day could be a day of sadness for some Moms as Father’s Day could be for some Dads. Children are supposed to weep at the graves of their parents. It’s not meant to be the other way around.

Why is this? Because there are some wicked people in this world. Because war sadly happens at times. No. I am not a pacifist. At the same time, war is not anything we should celebrate. It is a tragedy that it happens. It is a tragedy that the innocent die because of the sins of the wicked.

My wife has been working lately on being more thankful. On this day, should I not be thankful? Should I not realize that all that I have is a gift. Whenever I kiss my wife, I am doing something that some man will never get a chance to because of his early death. I get to enjoy a meal that they won’t and I get to sleep in a warm bed while they are in the sleep of death.

So if this is what is going on, then why are we celebrating? Why are we having barbecues today and not sitting around in mourning? Why? Because I think the fallen would want us to celebrate. They died so we could be free. They want us to celebrate and appreciate that freedom. Don’t think I say this for some benefit of my own. I don’t really care for food. I don’t eat burgers or hot dogs or any of that stuff. I’m just not a food person.

Still, the best way to honor a gift you have been given many times is to live enjoying it. Here we have been given the gift of freedom. That freedom has come at a price. Just visit a place like Arlington Cemetery and you can see the price of freedom. We should celebrate it, but not take it for granted. Every day we have is a gift. Every moment with our loved ones is a gift. Every blessing we have over here is a gift.

To the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and everyone else who has lost someone, my great sympathies for your loss, but also thank you. Thank you for helping produce someone of such a caliber in virtue that they were willing to die for people they would never even know. You have suffered a great loss. Nothing I say here could ever truly make up for your loss. Until eternity, there will always be a hole in your hearts missing that loved one, as it should be. They should never be forgotten.

And to those fighting right now and being in the service, today we honor the fallen, but let it never be that we forget your current sacrifice. I always try to thank a policeman or someone with military experience when I see them. I have the greatest respect for people who have lived their lives willing to take bullets, so the rest of us don’t have to live with that fear. When you in the military go out to fight our battles, remember the fallen and honor them with your service.

Happy Memorial Day everyone. God bless you and God bless our troops and may God honor the fallen.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thankfulness

What does it mean to be thankful? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Thankfulness. What is it? Is it really that big of a deal? We live in an age today where we don’t really take the time to think about all the good things that we have. Our ancestors would be amazed that rather than go out and hunt for a meal or work for hours in a garden, we can just go the store and pick up something. Heck. We even have something called “fast food.” You can go and place an order at a restaurant and you can have a meal within a minute. (Although I do contend that sometimes fast food is a relative term.) Many of us today in our society are not struggling with not having food. Many of our pets even eat better than our ancestors did.

We also live in houses or apartments or some place that has a roof over our head. We sleep in beds and we have pillows. Earlier this year we did have a snowstorm where I live and not once in all of that were we fearing for our lives. Oh sure we were inconvenienced, but that’s about it. I could say I feared for my personal safety going down the steps at our house, but it was never a question of us asking “Are we going to survive this winter?”

If my wife and I decided to have a child together, there would no doubt be pain involved in childbirth, but there would not be great fear on Allie’s part that she would die in child labor. Why? Because you can go and receive constant medical treatment. You can even receive treatment for the pain of childbirth so it can be made as painless as possible. I happen to have a steel rod on my spine. It was painful, but imagine the wonder that we can do an operation like that today and today, I do function quite well for someone with a steel rod. How much medicine has advanced in our culture.

Travel is something else as well. While in Biblical times, Paul would spend months trying to traverse the Roman Empire, we could go through the whole of it in about a week if we really wanted to. If you wanted to just cover the distance, you could fly over it. Paul’s voyage in the Mediterranean years ago would never have happened in our society where boating is much easier. Sure there are still accidents at times, but these make the news because they are so exceptional.

Knowledge is also incredibly abundant for us. We can go to a library easily and get books and most all of us take our ability to read for granted. We ask about the ancient world “Why didn’t anyone write this stuff down?” because we so take it for granted that writing is the best way to get a message across. If we want a quick answer, we pop open our phones or tablets and just google our questions. Unfortunately, this can also lead to great ignorance as we don’t often know how to evaluate the information, but the possibility is there.

What about our personal relationships? Today, many of us in the West marry for love. That’s actually a recent innovation. Most in the past would have been interested in survival. That we can marry and marry for love is something amazing. Many people can make it through life just fine without having to get married. This is again something that we have taken for granted.

We can also interact with our friends so much easier who are far away. Thanks to technology like Facebook, I could instantly connect with and speak with high school friends of mine if I wanted to. I can use a phone and talk to most anyone all over the world. I do a show regularly through the medium of Skype and I can communicate with a known scholar practically immediately. What an age.

And even down to our entertainment, we have far more. We can go and watch a movie on a huge screen. We don’t have to wait on actors to show up in a play, although we can do that. We can watch a television show and we can have it recorded so that we can watch it again and again and again. We even have video games so we can play our games on a screen and have characters move in response to what we do. How amazing is all of this?!

And you know what?

We probably live in one of the least grateful times of all.

This is especially the case for we who are Christians. Right now, we live in a time of great freedom. Yes. We think that time of freedom could be nearing an end, but you know what? We lived with it for so long that we took it for granted. Many of us have not studied our Bibles because we do not consider the wonder that we have one. Go to a civilization where Christians are persecuted and imagine what some of them would do if they had just a page of Scripture. While many people the world over would love to have a Bible, we have many versions and translations all around us and many of them are collecting dust.

As someone with my own ministry that relies on donations, I remember my first thought was to go to the churches and see if they’d be willing to support. I was told not to. Why? Because the churches do not give. They will not support an apologetics ministry. I’ve found this to be the case quite often unfortunately. Churches have no real interest most of the time in an apologetics ministry. For many of us with ministries, we like to reap the harvest that has been planted, but we don’t want to take part in tilling in the garden at all. No doubt, there are many generous people out there, but it looks like many of us are not.

So how serious is thankfulness Biblically? Romans 1 is one of the hardest hitting passages on the wickedness of humanity. What does verse 21 say?

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Part of the darkening was not giving thanks to God.

So what are we to give thanks for?

Every single thing.

Give thanks for the big things and the small things. Sometimes we speak of parking lot theology where God specifically answers a prayer for you to get a parking space close to the door of where you’re shopping. It’s laughable to think God is micromanaging the universe, but if you really need that and you get one, give thanks. If you don’t get one, give thanks that you can walk and build up some exercise. If any good thing comes to you, give thanks for it. But you know what? Scripture goes further.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

Did you hear that? Give thanks for suffering! That does not mean you view the suffering as a good thing in itself. Of course not. But if you’re a Christian, you are to know that God is using that suffering for your good. The question is are you going to resist it or not? Lately for instance, I’m trying to catch myself when I find myself worrying about something. Worry is a sin after all and I try to think “You know what? Worrying about this problem is not making it go away. It is not helping it. All it is doing is changing me for the worse.” Why worry then?

But why give thanks for the suffering? James tells us that God uses it to mature us and make us wise. How about Hebrews 12:7-11?

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Look at the end of verse 10. “In order that we may share in His holiness.” God does this so you can be like Him. That is why you are disciplined. Isn’t that something good to go through in the long run then?

1 Peter 1:6-7.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Why suffering? So your faith may be proven genuine.

Romans 5:3-5.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Our suffering will lead to hope. We will learn to rely on God all the more in suffering. It’s quite sad to think that many of us who live in an affluent society like America and have so much are so depressed, when I am told that poor Christians all over the world who live in poverty often have much more joy than we do and celebrate the goodness of God much more than we do.

That should embarrass us.

Romans 8:28-30.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

This is quite likely one of the greatest ones of them all if not the greatest. If you can believe the first verse, you can live everything in your life differently. God tells you that EVERYTHING will work for your good. Not some things. All things. This does not mean all things are good. Of course not. It does mean that all things come through the hand of God first. Christians aren’t to even mourn the same way as the lost do when their loved ones die. As Paul says, we mourn, but not like those who have no hope. We can even have hope in the face of death that we will be resurrected.

Are we really thankful?

We do not have what we have because we are so special a lot of times. We have it because of the generosity of God. If you can take a look at your life and stop and realize that at least one thing you have is good, that is enough. I have seen this dramatic change in my own life. For instance, my wife and I are cat owners. Meet our little Shiro. (His name is the Japanese word for white.)

Shiropose

Shiro

I remember one night in the sorrows of depression watching little Shiro come into the living room where I was. I was for some reason I don’t remember feeling sorry for myself. I just watched him and saw him start to play with something and thought about how good that is. It just hit me then. There are truly many things that are good and I had just taken them for granted. Shiro didn’t have to be a part of my life, but he is. This thankfulness causes me to appreciate things more than normal. I can even think of the water bottle I have next to me. Thankfulness makes me realize that having such easy access to water is something my ancestors would have celebrated. It really makes me appreciate the taste of my water all the more.

There was a time a couple of years ago when I had a fundraiser held for Deeper Waters with Premier Jewelry. We had advertised it well and were hoping to get a lot of customers come by. You could count the number we had come by on one hand honestly. That part was disappointing, but they still bought some jewelry. We bought enough that I could get basic equipment for my computer. The equipment was enough for me to get the podcast started which I think has been a great part of my ministry. I gave thanks. God didn’t owe me a single penny that night. He is not in any debt to me. I am in great debt to Him. Still, despite Him having the right to demand everything of me, He instead gives me so much.

When we are not thankful, we take things for granted. We act like it all came about through our own power and means. We are not properly honoring God. One of the highest compliments I get from people is when they praise the way I treat my wife. Now I love getting compliments on intellectual ability being an apologist, but many people can do that. Only one person on this world gets to have the privilege of being a husband to my wife. That is one job I never want to fail at. When someone compliments me on that, it is the greatest honor. Yet my devotion I think could also stem from the old joke about the way nerds are with their women. We’re so convinced that we can never get a wife that when we find one, we treasure her all the more because we look at her and say “Well it sure isn’t because of anything really special in me that she’s with me today.” (Seriously. I’m a 120 pound or so weakling and I have no access to huge amounts of money. My wife did not marry me for looks or money definitely.)

My great joy from this blog post would be to see you think about the good things in your own life. Give thanks for them. Celebrate them. They did not have to be there. Every great thing you have is a blessing of God. Treat it that way. Perhaps one reason God does not do things for us we would like Him to do is we have failed to appreciate the good things that He’s already done for us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters