If you are like me you have been fighting a battle lately. The fight that I am having is to not become absorbed with talk about the Coronavirus. There is seemingly endless information out there with seemingly endless interpretations and opinions. How do I know what is true? How can I know this source or that model is trustworthy? How many confirmed cases today? What is the total worldwide deaths now? How many of those are in Montgomery/Greene county (or plug in your location)? And on…and on…and on. This is not a call to shun all information. Information is helpful at a time like this and simply burying our heads in the sand will not make this pandemic go away. But, what I have noticed in my own heart is that it is leaning toward being absorbed by talk about the Coronavirus. This absorption (at least in me) doesn’t lead to more comfort, but rather more uncertainty.
When I feel this tug I need to be reminded of Paul’s words to the Philippian church, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). My mind and heart are naturally wandering away from these things right now and I need to reorient my thinking. When I am not thinking on these things, I am left to think about the non-stop flow of information surrounding the Coronavirus. And when I do that, anxiety replaces peace and grumbling, and fear replaces gratitude.
So, what is one way that we can stand firm right now? By spending our time (for some of us our newly acquired extra time) focusing on Christ. For, Christ is true, Christ is honorable, Christ is just, Christ is pure, Christ is lovely, Christ is commendable, Christ is excellent, Christ is worthy of praise! Only the gospel can turn our minds from the cares of this world toward God. When we look to Christ and remember the gospel our hearts will begin to overflow in thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for what God has done in Christ through the cross on behalf of his people for his glory and praise can be ours in every season. Plenty or want. Health or Illness. Freedom to go wherever we want or sheltering in place for weeks or months. In his book A Gospel Primer for Christians, Milton Vincent notes the connection between focusing on the gospel and thankfulness in every season. He says, “The more absorbed I am in the gospel, the more grateful I become in the midst of my circumstances, whatever they may be.” Why does this produce a grateful heart? He continues:
“The gospel reminds me first that what I actually deserve from God is a full cup churning with the torments of His wrath. This is the cup that would be mine to drink if I were given what I deserve each day. With this understanding in mind, I see that to be handed a completely empty cup from God would be cause enough for infinite gratitude. If there were merely the tiniest drop of blessing contained in that otherwise empty cup, I should be blown away by the unbelievable kindness of God toward me. That God, in fact, has given me a cup that is full of ‘every spiritual blessing in Christ,’ and this without the slightest admixture of wrath, leaves me truly dumbfounded with inexpressible joy. As for my specific earthly circumstances of plenty or want, I can see them always as infinite improvements on the hell I deserve.”
Remember the Gospel
Focusing on the gospel reminds us that we deserve the just wrath and anger of God. But he has given us mercy! No circumstance can change this, for it is sealed by God’s word and his Spirit! With David we can exclaim, “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1). God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). In times like these, we should spend some time recounting all his wonderful deeds. In Ephesians 1 and 2 the apostle Paul recounts some of these deeds for us. God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. How thankful we should be that he knows us personally. As his people, he set his sights on us before anything was created. He predestined us for adoption in love. Far from being arbitrary, his preordained love was directed toward us specifically as his children. When we think of this type of love in relation to Paul’s description on mankind in Romans 3 “none is righteous, no, not one … no one seeks for God … all have turned aside … they have become worthless … no one does good, not even one … there is no fear of God before their eyes” our hearts should overflow with thankfulness. No circumstance, no virus, no pandemic can alter God’s fixed, unchanging, unfailing love for his people. We were his enemies, but he has adopted us in love. Give thanks!
The apostle Paul is just getting started. He delivers to the Ephesian church (and to us) a list of blessings that will surely fill our hearts with thankfulness and overshadow the distractions. In Christ:
- We have redemption through his blood (1:7)
- There is forgiveness of our trespasses (1:7)
- The riches of his grace are lavished upon us (1:7-8)
- All things in heaven and earth are united in him (1:10)
- We have obtained an inheritance (1:11) (one that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us, 1 Peter 1:4)
- We believed and have been sealed by the Holy Spirit (1:13)
- We were made alive (2:5)
- We were saved by grace through faith (2:5,8)
- We have been brought near by his blood (2:13)
- We have peace (2:14)
- We have been reconciled (2:16)
- We have access to the Father through the Spirit (2:18)
- We are now fellow citizens with the saints, members of the household of God (2:19)
- We are a dwelling place for the Spirit (2:22)
And that is just a quick, incomplete list from two short chapters. We have so much more to give thanks for as we scan all the pages of Scripture. Truths that will always stand and never change. Truths for every season of life. Give thanks Christian, for our God is a good and gracious God. He is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. We are not alone. In every season give thanks!
Ways to Give Thanks
Here are a few practical ways that we can purposefully give thanks to God in every season:
1) Meditating on God’s Word – In times like these when it is very easy to naturally think on the things in the news, we must be purposeful in feasting on and thinking deeply about God’s Word. Richard Baxter noted the importance of meditation “when thou art cast into perplexing troubles of mind, through sufferings, or fear, or care, or temptations.”
2) Prayer – This is an obvious one, but how weak we can be in this area. We have access to the King of the universe and yet we stay distant in prayer. “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!” Our meditation on Scripture should naturally flow into prayer. Stephen Charnock has said, “a gracious heart must first delight in precepts and promises before it can turn them into prayers; for prayer is nothing else but presenting God with His own promises.”
3) Listening to/singing the truths of Scripture – Good music that is saturated with the truths from Scripture is a grace from God that tunes our hearts to sing his grace. Here are a few songs that I have found encouraging and that are filled with reasons to give thanks in every season:
- Good and Gracious King, CityAlight
- Ancient of Days, CityAlight
- Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor, Matt Boswell & Matt Papa
- Come Thou Fount (Above All Else), Shane & Shane
- Psalm 63 (Better Than Life), Shane & Shane
4) Think about death. This one may sound strange, but I am often reminded of one of Jonathan Edwards resolutions. He stated, “resolved, when I feel pain , to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.” When our minds begin to focus on the pandemic facing us, we should be purposeful to redirect our thoughts to the pain of hell that we actually deserve. A pain that as God’s children Christ has taken for us. Give thanks that this pain will not touch you as God’s beloved child! This is, however, a pain that awaits everyone who doesn’t know Christ. The world around us is in panic and chaos right now. A cure for the Coronavirus will not cure their ultimate disease, a rebellious heart toward their Creator, and its punishment – the just wrath of God. For this is the disease they will all succumb to if they do not trust Christ to stand in their place. Let us be resolved in this time to remember the spiritual condition of this world and be quick to speak of the Cure that they need to be rescued from spiritual death and hell.
This blog was originally posted at Slice of Grace, view the original post here.