Lately, a lot has been going on. Wait… when is a lot NOT going on? It always feels like we’ve got to get through the next thing. If I can just get through this trial, I’ll have it made, right? Wrong… Life will always present its challenges and trials, BUT life also offers up unending blessings from God; we just have to be more aware of the blessings than the struggles. Let’s think on Peter as he walked on the water. When his eyes were on Christ, he walked on the water with confidence and ease. When he began to be more aware of his scary and discouraging circumstances instead of the deliverer of those circumstances, he began to sink. How often do we do that? We begin valiantly in a trial thinking that God will bring us through. We then begin to look around us, however, and we get discouraged. Once we’ve looked at our surroundings instead of Christ, we sink! We lose hope. Surely our God will not deliver us from this. He’s moving too slowly! Or so we think… Peter may have thought so too as he grasped his last breath, preparing to sink to his death, feeling the inability of God to help him more deeply than the depths of the ocean. BUT THEN, came Jesus. He lifted him once again and reprimanded him for his loss of faith. I can SO relate to Peter, because I’ve done this to God all too often. The moment I feel like things are going downhill, I drop my faith and pick up desperation. It’s so hard for me to see the good and hang on to my faith when all I can see is what’s around me in the natural. I begin to cling to self-pity and despair.
Psalm 50:14-15 “Offer to God the SACRIFICE of thanksgiving. Pay your vows to the Most High. Call on me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
Now let’s look at this verse. Offer to God WHAT? God, you expect me to THANK you in the midst of some of the greatest pains of life? You expect me to thank you for what? My misery? How is it that God, who knows what we walk through, expects us to offer up thanksgiving, a joyful, trusting heart, when we walk through the sadness, pain, and trials of this life? God asks for our thanksgiving BEFORE the deliverance. If we look at the order of the above verse, thanksgiving comes first, then we call on Him for help, then he delivers us, and lastly, we honor Him with more thanksgiving. We give Him the glory. Many of us would think that the order is a little reversed. He should deliver us, and then we should thank Him, because we’re so thankful that He has saved us from our sufferings. WRONG. We’ve got to praise before we’ll ever see the victory. When God had the Israelites walk around Jericho seven times, the last thing He had them do was offer up a shout of praise and victory. They did this BEFORE the walls came tumbling down. We’ve got to offer up a cry of victory and trust in Him before we’ll ever see our battles won. I don’t want to barely make it through the battles of life with an attitude of defeat. I do not want to merely survive. I want to thrive! And the best part is, we can! To do this, however, I must offer up thanksgiving in advance, knowing my God’s got this, regardless of how the outcome appears in the natural.
Psalm 116:17 “I will SACRIFICE a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.”
Let’s look at one other aspect- the idea of this process being a sacrifice. He doesn’t say it will be easy. That’s why it is continually expressed in the Psalms as an offering or a sacrifice of thanksgiving. It’s often difficult to praise and give thanks when you feel like God is working against you and not for you. His Word assures us, however, that He is for us and not against us. We’ve got to trust in these promises in His Word. If His Word is not our ULTIMATE standard of truth, what is? If we say we believe His Word, we must trust all the promises of God including that one, even when we feel deserted.
Lastly, the hardest part about offering up thanksgiving in our trials is that trials strip us of almost everything- everything but one thing. The one thing we have left is our despair and our right to self-pity over what we have lost or been deprived of. And that’s the one thing God asks of us! The one thing we have left, that the trial didn’t take from us, He requires! How can He take that from us too? It’s our right to complain! Well, we must sacrifice our right to complain if we are to truly see our victory in Him. We must offer up thanksgiving to Him, though we don’t understand why we’re walking through such a mess. Our job is not to wait until He delivers and then say, “Oh God, thank you for what you’ve done!” Far before we see His hand of deliverance, far before we even see Him at work, we must cry, “God, I remember the works of your hands. Thank you for what you’ve already done, and thank you for what you WILL do. I trust you. I trust your ways, no matter the end result.”