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Have you ever met someone who always seemed to be grateful? What about someone who never seems to be grateful? What differences come to mind as you think about both people? As we continue our series, “This is the Life,” John Elmore teaches us about thankfulness.
Leadership: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 1
Have you ever met someone who always seemed to be grateful? What about someone who never seems to be grateful? What differences come to mind as you think about both people? As we continue our series, “This is the Life,” John Elmore teaches us about thankfulness.
Thank God FOR the good.
Thank God IN the bad.
Thank God there’s nothing to add.
Hey, Watermark. Good to be with you all. My name is John Elmore. I serve as the director of re:generation here at the Dallas Campus. Happy Thanksgiving. Everybody have a good Thanksgiving? Anybody have a stressful Thanksgiving? Yes, you did, you liars. This is church. Come on. Y'all, I just had the most stress-free Thanksgiving of my life. I'll remind you, we have a 5-, 4-, and 2-year-old, so the fact that I had a stress-free Thanksgiving is, like, miracles. He still works miracles.
I want to tell you a little bit about it. We went to where we had Thanksgiving, decided what we were going to have. Kids there. They actually obeyed during dinnertime. My wife, good conversation. We thanked God for some things, and then when it was time to go, we just picked up our tray and dumped it and walked out the door. Here's why. This is where we had Thanksgiving. That's right.
There are two reactions of everyone in the audience. You are either having right now extreme judgment or extreme jealousy. Both are entirely justified. We went to Whataburger because it was the only thing open on Thanksgiving, in case you ever find yourself in the same predicament. We were moving this week. We moved on Wednesday. If you're ever thinking when a good day to move is, it's not Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Don't do it. It's an incredible amount of stress, which made Thanksgiving dinner least stressful.
We couldn't find anything. Laura is like, "Where's my hairbrush?" I'm like, "It's in one of 100 boxes. I have no idea. I don't know where anything is, let alone anything to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner." What having dinner at Whataburger did for us that Thanksgiving night around 6:30, while Delores served us spicy ketchup (who also was a believer; it was awesome)… We got to sit there and remember what we're thankful for, and frankly, it's not a perfectly cooked turkey. It's not whose in-laws' stuffing we are going to have.
It wasn't anything else other than, "We're thankful for the Lord. We're thankful that we have someone to sit down with. We're thankful for daily bread." It was a patty melt, in my case, but we were thankful for it. It really clarified what we should be thankful for, and it wasn't the house we're moving to or all of our boxes of stuff or anything else. It was very clarifying, and I needed that. We needed that, because I think that I and we are a forgetful people. We forget to be thankful.
Abraham Lincoln, who instituted Thanksgiving, knew this, so he put a stake in the ground 150 years ago and said, "All right. We're going to stop in the midst of all this chaos of the Civil War. We're going to stop, and we're going to give thanks." He instituted this, and I want to read to you from his presidential address when he first created the first Thanksgiving, because there's something really interesting in it that I think we miss. There are two things, actually. So, from Lincoln's presidential address:
"…to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." He talked a lot prettier than I do. "And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they [the country] do also, with humble penitence…" Which means sorrow, remorse, repentance. "…with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers…"
The original Thanksgiving was meant to be a day of thanksgiving, not just to have a food-induced coma and then Black Friday followed by Cyber Monday, but rather thanksgiving to the Father, right there in a presidential address, and national repentance for national perverseness and disobedience. How crazy is that? In American fashion, "Repentance Day" didn't stick. Thanksgiving Day did, where it's marked by indulgence, and whatnot, and then shopping.
It has become this crazy thing where we've forgotten what it originally came to be. Here's what I know, because we're forgetful: though our past president made this a holiday, in Christ this is a holy way. It's a daily giving of thanks. Not just one day out of the year that we would set apart to give thanks, but rather this is the holy way God has laid forth in his Word, all throughout the Scriptures, to give thanks to him.
It says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." So many times, we're like, "What's the will of God for my life? Who should I marry? Where should I live? What will be my career path in life?" and God is like, "Hey, this is my will for you: that you would give thanks in all circumstances." That is God's will for your life, in part.
As we continue along in the This Is the Life series, which is just markers and indicators of a godly life lived in accordance with Scripture by the Holy Spirit for those who have trusted in Jesus, saying, "This is the full, abundant life; it's not found out there in what the world would say," it is made very clear in the Scriptures one of those things in This Is the Life is thankfulness, gratitude, giving thanks to God.
So as the elders laid forth the preaching calendar for this fall, they said, "One of the This Is the Life characteristics of godliness is thankfulness." God has ordained that that is one of the things. That is his will for our life, so that's what we're going to be talking about today on the heels of Thanksgiving. Though the holiday has ended, the holy way continues.
Here's a little road map of what we're going to be talking about today. First, we thank God for the good. Secondly, we thank God in the bad. Not for the bad but in the bad. Then, thirdly, we thank God that in Jesus there is nothing to add. The cross was sufficient. That's where we're going today.
1 . We thank God for the good. I think sometimes when we hear that it's like, "Okay. That's pretty intuitive. 'Thank God for the good.' Really? That's your point? That's so pedantic. Of course we would do that. What else would we do?" Well, I think what else we would do is what I did for so much of my life and still am tempted to do. I thank myself for the good. You see, America is an achievement culture. We're the land of opportunity, so we tell everybody… We proclaim it. "Work hard; get good. If you work hard, if you're better than others, then you will get good in life."
We think, "Well, if I work hard in school, I'll get a scholarship. I'll get into the right college, and if I get into the right college, I'll get the right job. If I get the right job, I'll get a higher income. If I get a higher income, I'll live in the right neighborhood with the right zip code with the bigger house and the nicer cars and the [whatever] spouse, and then I can get greater wealth in my retirement account so I can retire early and sit and be fat and happy on some beach somewhere and not worry about life, and my kids will have a better life than even I did in the beginning." I really think that's what we believe.
When God says in this first point, "Thank God for the good," I need to remind myself and us… Let me say it this way. It says in Acts 17 that God gives us life, breath, and everything else. "Everything else" includes everything else. It says in Acts 17 that he determined the time and place that you should live. If a baby is born in Venezuela right now versus born in Dallas, Texas, they will have completely different opportunities that have nothing to do with themselves. It's just where God determined that they should be born.
So, by way of reminder, the Scriptures say, "What do you have that you did not receive?" This is 1 Corinthians 4. "And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" It's saying, everything you have has been given to you from God. In John 3, John the Baptist says, "A man can receive nothing except that which he receives from heaven." Again, everything you have is from God.
Here, when we talk about "Thank God for the good," James says, "Do not be deceived, brothers; for every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights." I always read that and was like, "Yeah, of course. Every good gift comes from God." He says, "Do not be deceived" I think because he knows by the Spirit we'll be deceived to think in this culture of achievement, "No, I'm the one who did this. I'm the one who worked hard, studied hard, stayed up late, worked weekends to get this or that."
A. We thank God for the good because ego is an enemy of gratitude. No matter what in your life… You didn't choose the parents you were born into. You didn't choose the school district you were born into. You didn't choose your IQ. You didn't choose your physical looks or your physical abilities. You didn't choose your quick wit. You didn't choose anything you have, like your health or lack thereof. All of this has been given to you from heaven.
If you're like, "Well, hold on. I did work harder than everybody else. I did study harder than everybody else, and I worked nights and weekends so I could have a greater banking account. I did put in some skin in the game. I won the case. I got the summa cum laude," or whatever it is, Deuteronomy 8:18 says, "Do not forget the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth." Your ability to produce wealth comes from God. Everything is from God.
So, thank God for the good, not yourself, because ego (which is the Greek word for I) is an enemy of gratitude. It says in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, "As for the rich in this present age…" If you make $30,000 or more and you own a car, you're in the top 5 percent of the world's wealthiest. "…charge them not to be haughty [proud] , nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy."
We're not Buddhists. We're not trying to eliminate pleasure. He gave you taste buds. He gave you everything richly for you to enjoy, but it doesn't stop there. We're not just to become narcissists who enjoy what he has given us. "They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus…"
The wealthy are known for knowing what to do with money…wealth management, retirement accounts, getting a good return on an investment. Well, listen, wealthy. If you want to have a good return, God says, "Be generous, rich in good works, so that you will store up treasure for yourselves as a good foundation for the future," not the present. "…so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." Love your neighbor as yourself.
So you're to be rich in good deeds and generosity so that your net worth doesn't become a net waste where moth and rust destroy. Now, if you put yourself in the other category and you're like, "Well, I am not rich. You have no idea my circumstances right now. I would put myself in the category of being poor," then the Scripture has an even greater blessing for you than any world's wealth that could be given.
It says in James that God has caused the poor to be rich in faith and that they are heirs of the kingdom, and that is worth more than any amount of dollars in this entire world…to be rich in faith, to walk humbly with your God this side of eternity, and to not put your hopes falsely in the fleetingness of riches.
The rich have the unfortunate problem of believing that money can fix their problems and, thus, sometimes are poor in faith while having great faith in their money, and the poor have a rich faith in God. Ego is an enemy of gratitude, so we thank God for the good. Henry Ward Beecher said, "A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves."
B. We thank God for the good because entitlement is an enemy of gratitude. Entitlement: thinking you deserve something in this life, that you deserve much, much more. As the Proverbs say, "Better is a little with the fear of the Lord …" Better is a little against entitlement."Better is a little with the fear of the **** Lord **** than great treasure and trouble with it."
G.K. Chesterton said, "When it comes to life, the critical thing…" Not one thing, not one of many things. He says, "…the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude." Biblically speaking, God says that two things are enough. Thank God for the good because entitlement is an enemy of gratitude. He says there are two things that are enough. You say, "What is enough? What is enough in this life?" He says food and clothing.
First Timothy 6:6-8: "But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content." It doesn't even say shelter, which is kind of crazy. Food and clothing. With these we shall be content.
I want to show you a children's book you may be familiar with. Raise your hand if you're familiar with The Giving Tree. Do we have any Giving Tree fans in the room? Everybody grew up on this book. Shel Silverstein. You flip it over to the back cover. This is the picture. They're like, "Shel, smile. It's a children's book." He's like, "No. I'll growl." It's so weird.
This book, in case you're not familiar with it, is about a little boy and a tree. I'm going to give you the premise. So, the little boy comes to the tree, and the tree loved the boy, and the boy loved the tree. It was like this arbor amore thing. It was kind of weird. The boy loved to swing from the tree, and it made the tree happy, and then the boy would make a crown of leaves from the tree, and it made the tree happy.
Then one day, the boy leaves and the tree was sad, but the boy comes back, and the boy says, "Tree, I want some money." The tree was like, "I don't have any money, but I have apples. Here. Take my apples and go to the city. You can sell them. You'll have money." The boy goes away. He's happy because he gets money. The tree is happy because the boy is happy. It made the boy happy.
The boy is gone for a long time and comes back. The boy is sad. The tree is happy just to see the boy and says, "Hey, boy, why are you sad? What can I do?" He's like, "Well, I want a house." He's like, "Well, I don't have a house, but you can cut my limbs off and build a house." So, the boy is happy because he gets to build a house. The tree is happy because the boy is happy, though he has no limbs.
The boy goes away. Then he comes back. The tree is happy to see the boy. He's a little older now. The boy says, "I want a boat so I can sail far away." The tree is like, "I don't have a boat, but you can cut off my trunk and make a boat." The boy makes a boat, goes away, leaves the tree. The tree is happy because the boy is happy. I'm starting to see a theme.
He comes back. He's this decrepit old man. The tree is giddy to see the boy, like a little shaking stump. All that's left of the tree is a stump. The boy is like, "You don't have any apples. You don't have any limbs. You don't even have a trunk." The tree is like, "Well, I'm a stump. You could sit and rest on me." So this decrepit old man just sits on this stump, I guess the tree's face at that point in time. He's sitting there, and it says the tree was happy that this taker of a man was now sitting on it.
I think that book alternatively should be called "How to Raise a Taker in Your Household" or "Training Lessons from a Tree on Codependency," because that tree was only happy when the other person was happy, though it was costing itself its own livelihood. How crazy is that? Somebody I went to ministry school with gave me this book when we had our first child, and I was reading it to my son.
I'm like, "The tree, the tree… Wait a second. This is horrible! My son is either going to be an ungrateful taker or he's going to be colossally codependent, trying to make somebody else happy at his own expense." I threw it away. You can go sell your Giving Tree copy, five cents at Half Price Books. Get something back for it. It is a terrible book, and as I'm reading it I'm like, "Oh, shoot! That's how I treat God." That's exactly how I treat God.
I go to God when I need something. "Hey, God, I want something. Give me that." Walk away. "You know what? I need something else. Hey, God, I need this." Go back away. I'm just going to God as I need things. My thankfulness is shamefully much less than my taking-ness and me just wanting things from him, because entitlement is an enemy of gratitude. I'm a lot like that boy in The Giving Tree. Thank God, God is not like the tree. He's not codependent. He's a good Father.
He doesn't always give me what I want but what I need, and sometimes what I need is discipline. I'm like the nine lepers in Luke 17, where they're healed. Jesus heals 10 lepers, and they go away rejoicing, and only one comes back. One comes back and falls at the feet of Christ, praising God that he has been healed. Jesus, in response says, "Were not 10 healed? Where are the other nine? Yet this one outsider, this Samaritan leper, has returned to give glory to God." He says, "Go. Your faith has made you well."
Are we going to give thanks to God for the good because entitlement is an enemy of gratitude? There's another book I want to show you. It's by Rabbi Harold Kushner. You may be familiar with this too, but you probably won't raise your hand, because you know I'm going to throw you under the bus. It's called When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
Are you familiar with it? Everybody is. It has sold four million copies, because there's a felt need of, "Why? Why the pain in this world? I'm a good person. Why is this bad happening to me?" Well, it's wrong. It should have been titled, flipped, "When Good Things Happen to Bad People." That's what's going on in this life.
It says in Romans, appropriately, "There is not one righteous, no, not one. Even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." God, even when we were bad and dead in our sin, children of wrath, lavished grace on us. This book should be titled, "When Good Things Happen to Bad People," but we wrestle with this entitlement, which creates an enemy in us toward gratitude.
C. We thank God for the good because grumbling is an enemy of gratitude. Proverbs 15:15 says, "All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast." No matter what they have, the cheerful of heart has a continual feast. It's the antithesis of grumbling. Macduff said, "Cultivate the thankful spirit. It will be to you a perpetual feast." Thankfulness will equate a feast in life.
So anytime you find yourself grumbling or complaining, which is a huge ditch of mine, by the way. We all have various sin struggles we're prone to. One of mine is a critical spirit and grumbling, to have a lack of gratitude, to think like, "I would have known better. I would have said better. I would have done better. I would have done it quicker. I would have done it right the first time," to have a critical spirit or be grumbling, to lack contentment. When I do, I am following the fall of Satan.
Satan, Lucifer, was the guardian cherub. As far as we know from the Scriptures, there was one guardian cherub. He had this elevated position in the heavenly realm. He was to reflect, we believe, the glory of God. It says he was adorned with every precious jewel. No one could look straight at God, so the glory of God reflected off of Satan, and as people were looking at the reflection of God, it says corruption was found in his heart, pride on account of his beauty.
Rather than ascribing glory to God for the good he was given, he kind of basked in it and was like, "That's right. Worship me." So you go to Isaiah 14, and the five "I wills" of Satan come up. It says Satan said, "I will ascend to the heavens. I will make my throne like God. I will be like the Most High." He said, "No, no, no. It's not enough to be in the presence of God. I want to be god." In that grumbling came the fall. It says in Ezekiel 28 that he was cast down because sin and corruption were found in his heart.
It shouldn't surprise us, because that offense… When I say we are reflecting the fall of Satan when we grumble, it's exactly what he did in the garden in Genesis 3 when he was tempting Adam and Eve. He said, "Wait. Oh, did God tell you that you shouldn't eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Did he tell you that? He told you you'd die? You'll not surely die. He told you that because when you eat of that tree you'll become like him."
Adam and Eve in their state, though they were in the presence of God, began to have an interior discontent or grumbling of like, "Wait. That's it? He's trying to rip us off. We'll be like God. It's not enough to be with him. We'll be like him." In the grumbling and discontent enters in sin to the entire human race. Grumbling is an enemy of gratitude.
We moved this past week, like I told you, and we packed up two trailers. I don't mean a little U-Haul trailer. I mean 18-wheeler trailers of stuff. You want to know the tee shirt I was wearing during our moving day? This tee shirt. It's okay. You can laugh at me. The irony is unmistakably painful. The guy who was working on our house, as we were moving…
The movers were unloading the stuff, and I'm sitting there with that shirt on, and this guy from Watermark goes, "Man! You've got a lot of stuff." I was wearing a shirt that says, "I shall not want." Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich." It's not in accumulation of things; it's with gratitude that life becomes rich regardless of your circumstance.
2 . We thank God in the bad. We don't thank God for the bad; we thank God in the bad, and I'm going to give you a few reasons why.
A. We thank God in the bad because this is not the end. Proverbs 3:25-26 says, "Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes…" Not if it comes…when it comes, because it says in 2 Corinthians 1 that the sufferings of Christ will overflow to us. "…for the Lord will be your confidence…"
John Wesley, as he was sailing from Europe to America… He's there with Englishmen and also with these Moravians. They were from Germany, this group of Moravians who had given their lives to sharing the gospel with the entire world. As they're going across the Atlantic to America, a horrible storm comes upon the ship, and it tears the mainsheet in two. The mast is damaged. Water starts pouring into the hull of the ship.
The Englishmen are panicked, and these German Moravians are praising God. They're standing singing praises to God, and Wesley observes their men weren't afraid, their women weren't afraid, and even their children were not afraid but were standing and praising God in the midst of a storm. They weren't thanking God for the storm; they were thanking God in the storm. We thank God in the bad because this is not the end.
I want to introduce you to a little boy. His name is Myers Kendall. Myers Kendall would have been 2 in just a couple of months. Three months ago, he was diagnosed with myocarditis. Myocarditis is an enlarged heart that doesn't pump the blood right. So his parents were in and out of Children's, Ashley and Clayton Kendall, good friends of ours and neighbors right down the street. For the last three months, they've been walking with their boy through this difficulty.
Their path was medicine, heart transplant, or condition for life, but two Sundays ago, just two weeks ago, because he wasn't breathing right, he was taken into the hospital. Within 12 hours, he was put on life support unexpectedly. They put him on life support, and then 12 hours later, there we are with their Community Group…the Blackwells and Deimunds and 20 other people, their family, the in-laws…
We're gathered in Myers' life support room as Ashley Kendall is holding her boy as they are removing the life support system one at a time…the wires, the leads, the IVs. They are removing them one by one as Ashley holds him and as Clayton leads us all, with worship music playing in the life support room.
Clayton leads us, the daddy leaning over his boy as life support is being removed. Prays in the storm, thanks God in the bad. "God, you are good and you can be trusted, because it's not the end." In Christ it is not the end. Ashley held her little boy in her arms right into the arms of Christ. We thank God in the bad because this is not the end.
Ashley said to her Community Group, Paige and Kelsey… They were sitting there together, sharing a meal, and Ashley, with an uplifted spirit, said, "Y'all, do you realize Myers' life purpose has been fulfilled?" That reverent, godly woman was recognizing in that moment, though he didn't even live to 2, that was the purpose God had given Myers: to be glorified by his suffering, that the gospel would be shared.
As they are testifying in the storm, thanking God in the storm, that the medical community and the watching world would look upon these people and be like, "How can you praise God right now?" That they could testify to the risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
When I texted Clayton and said, "Hey, brother, I think it would be an encouragement and it would embolden the body if I could share about Myers and you and Ashley's journey through this. Would that be okay?" he said, "Brother, Aslan is on the move, and many hearts are changing already. Why would we stop him now? Share freely." They're thanking God in the storm. Why? Because the Lord is their confidence, as the Proverbs say.
B. We thank God in the bad because it changes our hearts. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." There's a doctor here at Watermark. His name is Dr. Grant Beckham. He's my primary physician, so he cares for me both in a physical sense and a spiritual sense. Every time I see him, he's like, "What brings you in?" and then he's like, "How can I pray for you?" and sharing Scripture with me and caring for me both physically and spiritually.
As I'm sitting there, I'm like, "Well, how can I pray for you?" and he says, "Man, this last year, our water pipe broke in our practice, so it has ruined our space, and that has been really difficult, and then at home we've had water damage throughout our entire house. So both at home and work, our lives have just been upended because of water damage and the flooding that has happened."
Then he told me this. He said, "You know, I've been spending time in Philippians 4 where it says, 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and minds in Christ Jesus.'"
He's like, "I was doing that, John. I was presenting my requests before God. I was telling him what we needed, but the peace wasn't coming." He said, "Then I realized why the peace wasn't coming. It's because I was only performing partial obedience. I left out two words of God's command."
Dr. Beckham said, "I left out 'with thanksgiving.' I wasn't thanking God. I was presenting my requests to God not with thanksgiving, and the peace wasn't coming. As soon as I started listing…" He said, "I sat down and listed out everything I could think of that I was thankful for." Unlike the water, peace just flooded into his life…he, Diane, and the kids…peace that surpasses all understanding. We thank God in the bad because it changes our hearts.
C. We thank God in the bad because he is always at work. Corrie and Betsie ten Boom were in Ravensbruck at one of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany for hiding Jews during World War II, and there Corrie is bitten by a flea. She sits up and realizes that her hay straw bed has been infested with fleas. The whole barracks is infested with fleas. As she explains, "There are fleas everywhere," Betsie says, "Show us. Show us. Show us."
Corrie looks over like, "Who are you talking to and what are you talking about?" and realizes that Betsie was praying to God. "Show us. Show us. Show us." She says to Corrie, "Where was it? Where was it that we read this morning?" Because they had smuggled in a Bible. Corrie said, "I think it was in 1 Thessalonians." It's the verse we started with, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, that says, "Give thanks to God in every circumstance, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus."
So Betsie, the older sister, says, "We have to thank God right now." Corrie is dumbfounded by it, but in the midst of Nazi Germany, in Ravensbruck concentration camp, where you are not allowed to have Bibles, not allowed to talk about Jesus, they were leading Bible studies and holding church services in Nazi Germany prison camp. Corrie returns from manual labor one day, forced prison labor, and Betsie is just filled with joy.
She's like, "Why are you so happy?" She says, "I realized why we've had so much freedom in the barrack. It's because of the fleas. I overheard one of the guards say they wouldn't set foot inside here because of the fleas." We thank God in the bad because he is always at work. We thank God in the bad…not for the bad, but we thank him in the bad because he's always at work, even when we can't see it.
Genesis 50:20 says, "What you meant for evil, God meant for good for the saving of many lives." Romans 8:28 says, "For those who love God, God works all things for good." God works all things for good. Take an example from Rachel Crow, my friend who serves alongside of me Monday nights in a ministry for women who have been sexually abused.
Now, her abuse was not good. It was horrific. It was sin committed against her. How could that be good? Well, what God does is he takes the evil, he takes the bad, and he uses it for good, for the saving of many lives. The sexual abuse that happened to Rachel is now being used to share the hope and healing that is only found in Christ with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of women. God works all things for good for those who love him.
You may not see it this side of eternity. Your cancer diagnosis, the papers you were served, the prodigal, what happened to you as a child, whatever horrific thing you may be facing, the suffering you may be facing in this life, you may not see, like, "God, how could you use that for good?" but if you lay it at his feet, as Christ in his greatest moment of agony was sweating blood and said, "God, not my will but your will be done…"
If you would only lay it at his feet, the worst thing you're going through or that has been done to you… Lay it at the feet of Christ and say, "God, use it for good. Redeem it for good. Use it for the saving of lives. Use it for your glory." He will. He will redeem your pain. I've seen it in my life, I've seen it in others, and he will for you. No matter what you're facing, no matter what you've gone through, lay it at the feet of Christ, and he will work it for good.
It says in Ephesians 1:11, "He works all things in accordance of his will." Everything. The most horrific thing, he will redeem it and turn it for good. It says in Proverbs 19:21, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." So whatever somebody did to you that was evil and sinful, that was the plan in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Lay your pain at his feet. We thank God in the bad because he's always at work.
3 . We thank God that there's nothing to add. We thank God for the good, we thank God in the bad, and we thank God that because of the cross there is nothing to add. In every other religion and cult, they will tell you, "Oh, there's something to add. You have to do good works. Your good works are what will get you to heaven" (Islam, Jehovah's Witness, Mormonism).
"Your good works will get you to God or your good works will get you to a greater state of reincarnation until you are absorbed by Brahman or reach nirvana" (Buddhism, Hinduism). Your good works will do that or your good works will just lead to a better life in this life because there's nothing on the other side, but it's all about good works.
The reason there's a theme for every other religion or cult that it's all about good works is because they are all teachings of demons meant to take people captive in this life, to lead them astray from the one true God, that they would be tormented forever with Satan in the next. It is his way to take souls captive by introducing false teachings that there is something to add. "You must add your good works." Only in Christianity does it say there is nothing to add.
You were dead in your sins, and thus, God sent Jesus, his Son, incarnate, God in flesh, to live a sinless life, die on the cross, be buried, and rise again to show that he was not just a man, a good teacher, or a prophet but that he was God in flesh. Every other founder of every other religion… There is a tomb, and it is full, and you can visit it to this day. In Christianity alone the tomb is empty, because Jesus said, "I am the way, truth, and life, and no one comes to the Father except through me."
He said whoever places their faith in him will cross over from death to life, that whoever confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes in their heart that God raised him from the dead will be saved. There is nothing to add. The only thing you can bring God is your sin and say, "Jesus, I am a sinner. Save me." And he will. It is as simple and profound as that. We thank God that there is nothing to add.
My son, the week before Thanksgiving… You can't make this stuff up. I was eating a Clif bar, and we were pulling up to somewhere we were going, so I threw the rest of the Clif bar out the window. (Don't worry, Millennials. They biodegrade. No, thank God for you Millennials. Somebody has to save the earth. Jesus is coming back. He's going to make a new heaven and a new earth. It's going to be fun. It ends well.)
I'm driving. I throw out the Clif bar, and my son goes… I thought he was going to say something about the Clif bar. He goes, "I wish I was a bird." I was like, "That's interesting." He's 5. I was like, "Why?" He's like, "Birds are grateful for everything." I was like, "Okay. Why do you say that?" He's like, "Well, a bird is going to eat that Clif bar." I was like, "Yeah, they probably will." He's like, "Birds will eat anything." I was like, "That's kind of true."
He said, "So I wish I was a bird." I said, "Why?" He said, "Because then I'd be thankful for everything." I'm like, "Teaching moment." I'm like, "Hey, boy. You can be thankful for everything now. You don't have to be a bird. You can just be a 5-year-old and be thankful for everything." The Spirit was echoing those words right back to me, like, "Really? So can you." So can we.
Father, that we would thank you for the good, that we would be thankful in the bad, no matter what we face, that we could give thanks in the storm…not for the storm but in the storm…because you're always at work, and we could give thanks for the good, that we would put away ego and entitlement and grumbling, and that we can thank you, Jesus, that there is nothing to add, not a single thing. There's nothing to add because of the cross. Tetelestai. It is finished. It is finished! Nothing left to add, and that our lives would result in thanksgiving and gratitude. We love you, Lord, amen.