commentary: A Time For Thanksgiving (2009)
Bad Times But Good Thoughts
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 26-Sep-09; 12 minutes
As time moves toward Christ's return, the reporting of news events grows evermore discouraging. In one sense, this should be somewhat more encouraging, because Christ's return with the solutions to mankind's problems is that much nearer. But it is not encouraging because we have to live with the effects and have to endure through all that is being reported. At the same time, we have to continue to watch the degeneration of our nation that we love so much despite all of its imperfections.
This is an especially heavy burden for those of us in the church to bear, because we know that the United States is part of the Israel of the Bible. Because of God's promises to Abraham, we have enjoyed so much good and yet we continue to frivolously waste it away.
Adding to these problems is the fact that the economy is depressed worldwide and virtually every one of us has been negatively affected to some degree. Some of us are finding income hard to come by. Attendance at this year's Feast of Tabernacles was considerably affected by this. What I am getting at here is that we can be very much depressed and maybe angry about all that is going on.
But now let's wait for just a moment, because Paul says in I Corinthians 15:34, just before he begins expounding on the first resurrection, that we are to "awake to righteousness." in Romans 13:11, he calls us to ". . . awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed." In Philippians 4:4, he calls upon us to "rejoice in the Lord always," meaning, "in every kind of circumstance." In I Thessalonians 5:16, he commands us to "rejoice evermore" (King James Version).
I do not believe for a moment that the Apostle Paul was a hypocrite, telling us to do what he had not done. In other words, he did these things. This man experienced so much suffering that he found a way, a right balance, in whatever circumstance he found himself because he says in Philippians 4,
Philippians 4:12-13 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
The first thing I want us to notice here is that he said he was able to do it "through Christ who strengthened me." In other words, it was his relationship with Christ that enabled him because Christ gave him the strength to overcome bad thoughts about his circumstances. But always remember this: This did not happen magically to Paul, because Paul had to pay the price in order to elicit the right response from Christ. In other words, he had to work at training his mind to think upon the right and true thoughts. Have we done that, brethren? Why do we get discouraged about all the bad news that we are hearing? Paul heard bad news, and I'm sure that it affected him to some degree, but, boy, it was just momentary and he was right back up again in just a moment.
Here is what Paul had to do. In Philippians 4:6, he says,
Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing. . .
Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God
Two verses later, Paul writes,
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Are you beginning to get the picture? Paul meditated on these things in order to prepare his mind for the bad things he had to go through.
Brethren, this instruction is clear. Here's the instruction: We must purposely embark on a program of counterbalancing all of this bad news with information, knowledge and understanding of things that are true noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous and praiseworthy. This is the wisdom from Almighty God, given to us through Paul. This is what Paul did.
We cannot let all of this discouraging news from the world go into our minds unchallenged and unbalanced. It must be deliberately counterbalanced. This is going to take some discipline to do this, but somewhere along the line, we have to begin. Our mind has to be helped to compare what we've been given and what we've been charged with doing with what is going on elsewhere in the world. Our world—the Christian world—despite its hardships, is actually being blessed with what we are.
What triggered this commentary is Evelyn and I heard the eight o'clock news this morning on WBT. I think it can show us what we can do with an ordinary hour news broadcast if we just think the right things and meditate, and then thank God. On this news broadcast, they had two people who were interviewed appealing for money. The organization that they represented, in the one case, was helping children in the Charlotte area who were in some way defective. The man who was being interviewed told of a twelve year old Charlotte girl born with neither a nose or eyes. It was just recently, through the efforts of this organization, that she experienced her first true fragrance ever in her life. It was fried chicken. Shortly, she would be having a nose surgically placed on her face.
Now process this. Have you ever been afflicted with anything near to this? You can be thankful to God that you have not been. There is plenty of prayer meat right there. You're thinking on something good to counterbalance the evil, the sin that caused this girl to be born like that.
The second person that they interviewed covered something much wider in scope. In fact, it was worldwide. But this organization helps water-poor nations find water, and the report focused on Afghanistan. Do you know that the average Afghani dies at the age forty two? And probably the major cause is poor sanitation because they have almost no water. You've seen pictures of that country. It's awful. Are you aware that Canada and the United States share between them forty five percent of the entire world's fresh water supply? Tho nations have forty five percent of the entire world's water supply. Next to air itself, water is the greatest necessity of life.
These other countries, they do not have the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River. They do not have the Potomac River, the Susquehanna River or the Hudson River or the Ohio River, the Mississippi River or the Missouri River, the Colorado River for the Columbia River. Or the Colorado River. What a blessing to have that. This is from God. It's worth thanking Him for. It is good. It is beautiful, but even better, asking Him to share with the rest of the world.
It's information like this that we meditate upon and take it to God with thanksgiving. It is this practice that encourages Jesus Christ because we are putting God at the forefront of our mind to respond in kind by giving us a rejoicing attitude, enabling us to persevere.
We have been so blessed.