Reprinted from Darin’s weekly devotional from November 26, 2013 in honor of his father, who passed away twelve years ago this week.
“Aren’t we having a wonderful time!” My father was often heard declaring this rhetorical question/confessional proclamation during times of stress and frustration. It became a kind of trademark saying for which he was famous, since his life as a missionary in Haïti created many occasions for which the phrase seemed appropriate. For my father, although there was an element of sarcasm in the words, it more importantly served as a self-reminder that God had made the day and was already at work in it. It was a way of putting the stresses of the day into proper perspective, recognizing that, as difficult as it may seem at the moment, things are not as bad as they might seem. And that’s because God is already handling the situation to work all things “for the good of those who love Him” (Rom 8:28 TNIV).
This week marks Thanksgiving, a national holiday in the United States. According to Wikipedia, a few other countries also celebrate Thanksgiving, though on different days. Of course, giving thanks is also practiced in many other contexts as well. Here in the Philippines, many churches celebrate Thanksgiving, often in conjunction with the anniversary of the church’s founding. That was the case this past Sunday at Kamuning Free Methodist Church, where my wife and I attend. The special worship service was filled with thanksgiving for thirty-eight years of God’s faithfulness to the congregation. The first Filipino pastor of the church returned to bring the message, and ten or twenty past members made the event a kind of homecoming. What a wonderful way to thank the Lord for His goodness to us!
In today’s scripture passage [Philippians 4:4-9], we are reminded to present our requests to God with thanksgiving (Phil 4:6). Thanksgiving is a way of recognizing God’s activity in our lives. When we give thanks, we admit that what we have came from His hand. Though we often look at the immediate cause of the good things in our lives (particularly when our own efforts were instrumental in bringing them to fruition), every good thing comes from the Father above (James 1:17). To illustrate the point, consider a craftsman who produces a beautiful, ornamented table. That craftsman could rightly be proud of the accomplishment but should also be thankful to God, who creates the hands to work, who imparts inspiration to create, and who even gives the turkey—I mean food—that provides the energy the craftsman needs to do the work. Nothing we have or do exists apart from the activity of God.
Verse 5 of our passage reminds us that the Lord is near. I have always thought of that statement as referring to the imminence of Jesus’ second coming—that Jesus could come again at any moment. As I reflect on the passage now, I can see that the Lord’s nearness is immanent, not merely imminent. That is to say, the Lord is near to each one of us all the time. He is the one who provides every good thing that we enjoy. He is the one who walks with us through the tough times and enables us to endure. He is the one who brings about the peace that “transcends all understanding” (v. 7 TNIV). When we recognize the Lord’s nearness, even in the mundane activities of everyday life, we put our own accomplishments—as well as our own dependencies—in the right perspective.
When things are going well, we cannot take all the credit for that because we recognize that the Lord has orchestrated so much to make that happen. Conversely, when things seem dark and hopeless, nevertheless, “the Lord is near.” So the next time you’re having a delightful experience, thank the Lord for making that possible. And the next time you’re struggling, why not declare, “Aren’t we having a wonderful time?”