Jesus said, “They (my followers) are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

John 17: 16

Here is a fundamental truth regarding the way that a relationship with Christ changes people. We are born into this world, and our identity is formed, framed, and established by the values and the priorities of the world. We are inevitably driven by the forces that are generated from the core of this sin-infused and fatally flawed environment. We are all born as children of wrath and iniquity, and our parents and everyone else who seeks to influence us have no ability to change this. They can share their faith with us; however, we, alone, can choose to enter into transformative change. We are granted the opportunity to accept a new identity and a renewed orientation through accepting the offer of redemptive grace that God has provided in Christ.

When we have done this, Jesus claims us as one of His own followers, and His Spirit comes to live within us; so that we are changed from the center of our beings. We no longer find our identity, our values, and our perspective on life in the old places. We now possess God’s heavenly, righteous, and eternal view of what it means to live in this world. We are now empowered and equipped to become people who bring about change in our world, for we gain the ability to see the people, institutions, and organization of this world from God’s perspective, and we have the capacity to embrace His heart of loving grace and His desire to see the fallen restored.

This is a highly challenging thought; for, my life is still filled with thoughts and actions that look more like those worldly ones that I was born with than they do like the ones that Jesus expresses. Yet, Christ has said that He has taken me out of the world and into His realm; so, the parts of my life that are still oriented to that old, worldly form of thought are the result of my stubborn refusal to let go of them. So, I pray, “Lord, take these unloving, self-centered, and defeated attitudes from my life, and fill me with the newness of your Spirit; so that, I can walk through my life as a person who brings the redemptive power of the love of Christ to the world where I live.”   

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5: 18

 

It seems that if God really wanted people to be thankful, He would rearrange the way that this world works. There are just too many times when the evidence that is left behind in the wake of the storm that is life points toward chaos and disaster as ruling principles and away from God as the creator of order and peace. Yet, that is exactly what God is; so, there is something else wrong with the world where we live. For there is no question that everyone encounters the hard, the painful, the disappointing, and the tragic as we negotiate the twists and the turns of traveling our days. Then, we run straight into the truly challenging events and situations so that our faith and our trust in God are tested and our capacity to make sense of it all can be overwhelmed.

 

Now, the Apostle Paul was no fool, He was not naïve, and he was certainly not someone who only saw the good in life. He lived in the very real world of death, oppression, and antagonism. He also seems like a man who took his own council to heart. He sought with all of his being to live in the way that he told others that they should live. So, when he says that we should give thanks in all circumstances, I tend to believe that he actually meant it. In fact, he says that our attitude of thanksgiving begins before rescue, relief, or resolution of our situation. Paul believed that it was possible to have a thankful heart and mind while living in the middle of the struggle. That seems absurd, irrational, and even dangerous as this approach would seem to take our focus off of solving the problem as we contemplate God.

 

However, that may be the point. The tendency of most people, myself included, when there is struggle and stress is to look long and hard at our own resources for the answer to it all. We also start to divert all of our energy and strength to use in confronting the opponent that we are facing. All of this effort is very inwardly focused, and it often leads us away from others and deep into ourselves. God sees rescue and resolution of trials differently. The situations and circumstances that will bring about stress in our lives are inherent in our broken, fallen world. We will encounter them, and we will need to engage in the battle with them regularly. So God; from the center of His heart of grace, mercy, and love; provided an answer to those circumstances. He gave us Himself in the person of Christ. God desires for each of us to recognize and to rest in the reality of this only true means of salvation. Living in the thankful awareness of Christ and of His personal full and absolute engagement with our life leads our minds out of focusing on ourselves, brings us into the strength of Christ’s living body, and provides the wisdom of eternity for understanding the crisis at hand.