Rev. Donnie G. MacDonald - Portree and Bracadale Free Church (Moderator Designate)
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-20, NIV)
I’m not one to complain but…
Wouldn’t life be considerably easier if we could remove ‘everything’ from the Bible. The Apostle tells us that we are to “do everything without grumbling” (Phil 2:14, NIV) Clearly he doesn’t have a clue what our lives are like, obviously he never had a proper job, never had to get the kids to school or do the shopping, never attended church committee meetings, never lived through Brexit and never experienced the Scottish weather. Everything? Really? Surely ‘something’ would have sufficed? “Do something without grumbling” sounds much better, more manageable.
And if that were not enough, we are then told, “in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess 5:13, NIV). There it is again, that ‘everything’ word. It needs a bit of a reality check. Yes, there are lots of things to give thanks for, we are blessed with food, clothes, a roof over our heads, loved ones, and so on. Of course it is God’s will that we give thanks for his good gifts. But give thanks for my rubbish day at work? Thanks for my ailing health? Thanks for my family worries? Thanks for my financial concerns? Thanks for a strained relationship? Thanks for that thorn in the flesh? Thanks for it all going wrong, again. I don’t think so.
If we are to take this seriously, we are not only prohibited from ever having a good grumble, we are expected to always give thanks, no matter what is going on in our lives. Impossible. Who would ever be like that? Who could ever live like that? Well, there was one man - Jesus. And in his life, the absence of grumbling, and the continual presence of praise, made him beautiful.
He came with a job to do, it wasn’t the easiest of jobs, but he did it without complaining. He worked in pretty horrendous conditions, with ever increasing demands, surrounded by flawed friends and fierce enemies who would falsely accuse and brutally kill. At times it looked, and felt, like everything was going wrong, falling apart, and yet, “he opened not his mouth”. Extraordinary.
In everything he gave thanks. He gave thanks before eating food (John 6:11). He gave thanks that the Father listened to his prayers (John 11:41). He gave thanks for the changed lives of his friends (Matthew11:25). But most amazingly, he, ‘on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body which is for you”’. (I Cor 11:24, NIV) By taking, and by breaking the bread, he vividly portrayed both the incarnation and the crucifixion. As he snapped that unleavened wafer in two, both sight and sound symbolised the suffering he was about to endure, but still he gave thanks.
But then Jesus knew something; he knew that there was a perfect plan, with a loving purpose. He knew that all things were working together to fulfil that plan and reveal that purpose, even the bad things, even the black things. With such knowledge grumbling would be misplaced and giving thanks becomes the most natural thing in the world.
As the children of God, we too know that our Father in heaven has a perfect plan that is being unfolded with loving purpose. The very testimony of the cross is that out of the blackness our God brings blessing. So even in the difficult days, and there can be quite a few, we don’t need to grumble to him or about him, but we do need to cast all our cares upon him. And in the darkest moments, by faith we remind ourselves that all things are working together for our good and God’s glory, so that in everything we have reason to give thanks to our all-wise, ever-loving, sovereign God. Bless the Lord O my soul.