In All Things
Tuesday January 28, 2020
BEFORE ALL THINGS. ABOVE ALL THINGS. FOR ALL THINGS. Since the beginning of this new year we have been reflecting on these three phrases. Today, I would like to conclude this ALL THINGS series.
BEFORE ALL THINGS = “The primary thing (before all things) is wisdom: acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7) Dear friend: have you done so? BEFORE ALL THINGS, have you sought and received the wisdom of God for this new year?
ABOVE ALL THINGS = “Above all else (above all things), guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) Are you doing so? ABOVE ALL THINGS, are you guarding and caring for your heart so that life and not death flows from it?
FOR ALL THINGS = "... discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7b-8) How are you doing with exercise these days - more than anything, your discipline in godliness that is profitable FOR ALL THINGS?
Perhaps this last ALL THINGS - IN ALL THINGS - will help us accomplish the other ALL THINGS that often are so very difficult to do…
“In everything (in all things) give thanks;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
For many years I struggled with this Bible verse. I didn’t like it. I rebelled against it. What do you mean: give thanks in all things? How could this commandment be God’s will for my life? There were many things in my life, and in the world, for which I simply couldn’t, and simply did not want to, and simply thought I shouldn’t even, give thanks. Give thanks for the illness or the death of a loved one? Give thanks for broken relationships? Give thanks for pain and suffering? Give thanks for war, and natural disasters, world drought and famine? Give thanks for the evil in the heart of man that has caused and continues to cause so much destruction on earth?
But there was my mistake. I had read the text wrong. I had changed a small, seemingly insignificant, word from the verse. I this careless change confused me and even left me angry for many years. Because one day I discovered that the Apostle Paul did not write, and did not want to write, “Give thanks FOR all things” - but had written and had wanted to write “Give thanks IN all things”. That tiny change of words from FOR to IN made a world of difference.
Because I was right in what I had always thought and felt: how could one “give thanks FOR all” the evil in our lives and in our world? Impossible! But to “give thanks IN all things”: that is something completely different. Because the word “for” sees the circumstances as they are, and sees only the circumstances: the pain, the sickness, the scarcity, death - and who would ever think of giving thanks FOR those things? But the word “in” does not ignore or negate all the evil in our lives and on the earth - but it does make us look beyond it, to a God who is above everything and everyone. A sovereign and almighty God, who is in complete control of all creation. An omniscient God who knows all things, and whose thoughts and ways are higher and deeper than ours. A good God, whose heart of holy and perfect love, and Who loves us with an eternal love.
Focusing not on the difficult circumstances, nor on the evil and unjust and sad situations all around us, but on the God who lives and acts above them all - if we do this, then we can “give thanks IN all things”. Because we have a God who, if we love Him, can turn all the evil meant against us into good (Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28). Because we have a God who has thoughts and plans of welfare and good towards us, in order to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
We are not asked to “give thanks FOR all” that happens in our lives or in the world. But we are commanded to “give thanks IN all things”: give thanks iN the loss and IN the sadness, because God is with us and His rod and His staff are here to comfort us and protect us and give us courage (Psalm 23:4); give thanks IN the scarcity, in the hunger and the thirst, because God knows what we need and has promised to take care of us always (Matthew 6:25-33); give thanks IN so many difficult and painful situations that come into our lives, because God is shaping our character and His image in us, and is forging in us a genuine and fire-tested faith that is more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Dear friend: BEFORE ALL THINGS, seek and acquire wisdom - ABOVE ALL THINGS, guard your heart - FOR ALL THINGS, discipline yourself unto godliness - and IN ALL THINGS, give thanks to God. If you obey these ALL THINGS you will without a doubt be blessed and content, and ALL you do will prosper. And who does not want ALL THOSE THINGS - blessing and contentment and prosperity - for their life?
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