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November 21, 2018          Thanks for Nothing            1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

“Thanks;…thanks for nothing!” That’s an expression, *isn’t it? People use the phrase when they’re upset with what a person did wrong, or something they neglected or failed to do. “Thanks for nothing!”   *Would that be an unusual expression for a message during our time of national thanksgiving?

*Could we actually, ever, thank God for …nothing? Maybe; sometimes the absence of certain things is good. In our 2nd reading, St.Paul might be including ‘nothing’ when he says: “Be thankful in -ALL- circumstances.” So, not just during good times, but also in bad times; and even when there is apparently nothing at all for which to give thanks. But, giving thanks for nothing will likely involve ~ ‘faith’.

It’s not difficult to be thankful in rewarding-times or pleasant situations: / being warm & well-fed; / when someone is generous or kind to you; / when weather doesn’t prevent our activities; / being with family; / reuniting with old friends; / falling in love, getting married,  the birth of a child.  These are all happy times, times for being glad & content; times for giving thanks

BUT, we don’t think about ‘giving thanks’ in the same way when we get the flu; / or have an accident; /we don’t give thanks when we have a disease, or surgery; / or when we’re scared; /or face our death or someone else’s death.   AND, I don’t think God expects us to be thankful in the same way for times of misery, or even for dull & boring times. To thank God FOR the difficult times in one’s life can imply that God is somehow responsible for those  dark times. God is never the source of troubles, & not responsible for our problems.

There ARE consequences attached to sins; certain actions have reactions = physical, emotional, spiritual, or legal.  We often bring problems on ourselves; or it may even be that our good action-of-faith is the reason someone ridicules, persecutes, or harms us. That’s the fault of satan, evil people, or just a fallen world that affect us.  But, God is not the author

of evil, and He will never seek to harm us.

No matter our troubles, this truth is still the same = we can give thanks in all circumstances. *How can we be thankful at ALL times, especially during hard times?

For the answer, we can use the illustration of a light.

As the light shines on me, notice my shadow. That shadow can symbolize those dark times in life when we go thru a crisis, when we suffer the problems we create for ourselves, or troubles that others -or the world- makes for us. The shadow represents /worries,/ heartaches,/ sorrow, /pain; /even the valley of the shadow of death. The shadow symbolizes the darkness of sin against which we all struggle.

The Gospel of John is filled with words & phrases that identify sin as ‘darkness.’

For example, John says that ‘light came into the world, but men loved darkness & not light, because their deeds were evil.’   He also says that Jesus Christ is the ‘light of the world’;

the light no darkness can overcome.

All this Scriptural darkness is not pleasant. In those unpleasant, painful, & dark circumstances of our life, there is only one way we can be content and thankful to God == namely: to realize that whenever there is a shadow, there is also a light. This helps us understand the shadow. For God’s people, there can never be dark & gloomy times without the presence of God’s reassuring light in Christ. In fact, God’s light is able to expose the darkness for our good.

Notice where my shadow is == Behind me. And the light is in front of me. If I turn and face the shadow, now the light is behind me. This is a pretty elementary principle of visible light & shadow. In creation, the sun never stops shining—right? We have nighttime because we’re no longer facing the sun. It’s the same principle when we’re talking about spiritual things.

The illustration here is that we find it hard to give thanks during troubled times   because we turn away from the light of Christ, and we focus on the shadow. When all we see is the darkness of our problems, of course we are going to be overwhelmed, and feel like God has abandoned us, and so we’re not thankful.

It is not helpful or wise to focus only on the shadowy darkness in our life; we must also remember that the light of Christ is right behind us to support us in the work of overcoming sin, and rising above other darkness in our lives.

The Light of Christ is always there with us.

When we are aware of The Light, which is the real presence & promise of Christ,

then we are receiving His warmth & His strength, we understand His heavenly view,

and then we can give thanks at ALL times.

Between our good times & bad times, He doesn’t change; we are still His, and we are blessed.   So, we don’t give thanks for pain or suffering itself. Someday we might look back and see some benefit.   But at the time we’re facing our shadow = we are giving thanks for the Light of Christ; we are grateful for His constant & comforting presence, for His assuring peace & hope. We’re thankful for His Word of truths, and for His Church & people that help us remember His promises. Whatever the trouble, He loves us & we are His; with forgiveness & a future.

All of us will someday walk thru ‘the valley of the shadow of death.’ And at that time, all of us can ‘fear no evil’, ‘for Thou art with me.’   Our Savior Jesus, our Light, is able to put that fear behind us; for in Christ is no darkness at all.   All darkness is like ‘nothing’ to Him.

So,… ‘thanks for nothing, Lord.’

In all circumstances, good or bad, compared to all his blessing & hope & strength HE becomes everything. And for that, we give thanks, always.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endures forever.”

Amen