1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
One of the great conundrums of our culture is that we are the most privileged and prosperous people on the face of the planet yet we are not content. We may have more of everything except for happiness. In the book “The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse.” Gregg Easterbrook draws upon three decades of wide-ranging research to make the persuasive assertion that almost all aspects of Western life have vastly improved in the past century and yet today, most men and women feel less happy than in previous generations. As a nation we have bought into the belief that more means merrier, but if that is true then why are so many miserable? Consuming doesn’t bring contentment, having doesn’t equate to happiness. Somewhere in the mad dash for more we have missed the simple message of 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” God’s Will for His people involves taking time to be thankful. When it comes to God’s Will many of us want to know where we are to live but God tells us how we are to live. His Will encompasses not just our actions but also our attitudes. Thessalonians teaches us the truth that thankfulness is not tied to our circumstances, we can rejoice regardless of the challenges. So how do we keep from becoming part of the progress paradox and living out a thankless life? What we need is a change of focus from what we don’t have to what we do. We live in a culture built on consuming; commercialization is everywhere and no matter where we go we are constantly confronted with what we don’t have. This call to consume causes us to focus on what we want instead of what we have. In the constant craving for more we miss the joy of where we are and what we already have. We are being constantly reminded of what we don’t have in the hope that we will rush out to get it. The call to consume capitalizes on our lack of content, and works very hard to make sure we are never content, because content people don’t make good consumers. But many of us have lost touch with the Scripture that says: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ Hebrews 13:5. You are either going to focus on God or greed. People who focus on God recognize that when they have Him they have it all, but those who focus on greed will always want more. Greed is the constant groining for more, no matter how much stuff it is never satisfied. In 1 Timothy 6:9-10 Paul warned Timothy, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Greed kills gratitude, destroying our desire for the things of God. Greed is the opposite of contentment, it refuses to be satisfied because it always focuses on what we don’t have rather than the blessings that we do. Second we need to change our focus from getting a blessing, to being a blessing. Are you focused on getting or giving? One of the things crippling the church today is that we have brought our consumer culture into the Christian community. Most Christians have a Me mindset instead of a ministry one, as a result we are making church about me and not the Master. We judge worship based on what we like instead of whether the One we were supposed to be worshipping liked it. Look salvation is all about you but service is not. Belonging to Christ is not about the benefits it’s about being a blessing. We need to move from getting to giving, what are you giving to God? Re you a consumer Christian or a contributing one? Where are you giving of your time talents and treasures? Who are you being a blessing to? Only when you invest your life into the lives of other people do you find fulfillment. We need to move from getting all the blessings we can to being a blessing. There is no fulfillment in self-centered living, a meaningful life is not found in more but in ministry. Jesus said we find life when we learn to give it away, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Matthew 10:39). Are you giving your life to God and living for others, or selfishly serving self? When we live to love others we find life but when we live for self, our lives shrivel away. Jesus also said “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Mark 10:43-45. Jesus as the Son of God could have demanded to be served, but instead chose to serve others. One of the blessings of serving others is that it gets our minds off of us. It’s hard to feeling sorry for yourself when you are focused on serving. Look when you go and visit people in a nursing home or hospital it puts your problems into perspective. It’s not long before you find yourself being grateful for God grace instead of grumbling and groaning. In Mark 5 when Jesus dealt with the demon possessed man by healing him, the man wanted to follow Jesus and be with Him. But Jesus told the man to go back to his village and tell them about what God had done. Jesus reminds us that true healing puts us on a heading to service. Sometimes our healing will only find its completion as we ministered to others. Jesus always tried to get people to change their focus from themselves to the needs around them. Until your life is being used by God in some form of service you will not find lasting satisfaction. Lastly we need to learn to change our focus from earth to eternity. This life can be beautiful but it can also be bitter, there are pitfalls and problems. If this world was all there was then we would have reason to despair, but Paul reminds us: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” 1 Corinthians 15:19. We serve a God who has overcome the world and a Savior who is preparing a place for us in paradise. We not only have a home we have the hope of heaven. Paul who experienced countless beatings and imprisonments reminds us in 2 Corinthians: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. . . Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:8, 16-18. Are you focused on the temporary or the truth, on what is or what will be? Are you living with the hope of eternity in your heart?