With Veteran’s Day just behind us and Thanksgiving Day just ahead, we are certainly in a season of gratitude and honor. Even the poorest of us are incredibly rich living in this nation compared to so many around the world in this moment! We have so much to be thankful for and have been so incredibly blessed by God!
It’s very easy to get distracted in life and to allow discontentment and comparison with others to steal away our gratitude. This causes our praise to be replaced with grumbling and joy to be replaced with discouragement. God invites us into a better way of living where joy and peace persist through all circumstances and can never be stolen!
1 Timothy 6:6-12
6 godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Jesus is not concerned about whether or not He will find gratitude or thankfulness when He returns, though! He was concerned about whether His people would be giving thanks not only for what has already been received, but for what is yet to come.
Thanks in advance, or as it is commonly referred to, faith! Faith is thanks in advance, praise in expectation, confidence in what is coming, trust in the God who promised it!
1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
There is a purpose behind Jesus using a judge as a parable for faith. A judge must make judgments in accordance with the text of the law regardless of their personal feelings toward a case or the people involved. The judge in this parable didn’t care at all about people nor about God. Yet the law required him to administer justice and to show favor toward the relentless widow’s case.
Of course, God is compassionate and does care about people. However, He is bound by His own covenant. Jesus came not to abolish or to change the law of God, but to perfectly fulfill the entirety of it on our behalf. That is the new covenant. Not abiding perfectly by the law so that we can stand before the judge and found righteous, but pleading our case through Jesus who did it for us. Jesus, our only righteousness.
Will Jesus find faith on the earth when He returns? Will He find faith; thanks in advance?
Will He hear prayers that plead, “God, give us justice against our adversary!”? Do we even view our needs in this way, as attacks from the devil? Our enemy’s desire is to kill, steal, and destroy and he has done so to us. Give us justice against our adversary! Make him repay! Our adversary has stolen our health, our wealth, our freedom; destroyed our relationships.
Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft.
If anyone gives a neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor’s house, the thief, if caught, must pay back double.
Proverbs 6:30-31 (NLT)
30 Excuses might be found for a thief
who steals because he is starving.
31 But if he is caught, he must pay back seven times what he stole,
even if he has to sell everything in his house.
Jesus said that the purpose behind this parable is to show that we should always pray and never give up. Faith is revealed through persistent prayer. We persistently pray:
Not because God has forgotten us
Not because God is unaware of our need
Not as penance to somehow earn God’s favor
Not as evidence of our own righteousness
Not because God will hear us only because of our many words
We persistently pray:
To build our own faith
As a revelation to God of our trust in Him
AS A REMINDER TO OURSELVES THAT:
God is Faithful and Just!
Not only are we to persistently pray, but right away, Jesus turns to another concern regarding prayer:
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
A humble view of ourselves and an exalted view of God. This is faith, thanks in advance! Faith is being honest and truthful about our circumstances, but exalting God and His promises above them.
Romans 4:13-25 (NLT)
God Keeps His Promise
13 Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. 14 If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. 15 For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)
16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. 17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.
18 Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping – believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” 19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead – and so was Sarah’s womb.
20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.
Faith acknowledges that it’s not about us, it’s all about God! Faith is simultaneously seeing both the reality of how we are helpless to do anything about our own circumstances AND ALSO the truth of our faithful God’s promise AND ALSO the future prophetically when God’s truth trumps our circumstances when the promise is fulfilled.
That’s why we give thanks in advance, because we are able to agree with:
God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;
God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
God who gives life to the dead and who creates something out of nothing.
God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.
God can raise the dead and call into being things that don’t even exist yet.
This is our God! The God who promises and fulfills! The God for whom nothing is too hard for! The God who calls things which do not exist as though they did because to our eternal God, they already do exist!
This is why we can have faith and give Him thanks in advance! This is why we persistently pray, to remind ourselves and to increase our faith that God has promised and it’s fulfillment is certainly on our way! Our adversary who has stolen, killed, and destroyed things in our lives has been caught and Judge Jesus demands that restitution be made, double and even seven times what was taken! Swiper, no swiping!
Abraham and Sarah waited for decades between the time that God first made the promise to them and the time that it was fulfilled. What happens between the time that the promise is made and it’s fulfillment? All sorts of challenges, right!?!? Let’s turn back to that very day and read what happened:
1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”
2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”
9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”
10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
God made a promise.
God credited to him righteousness.
Abram asked how the promise was going to be fulfilled.
Abram was told to prepare a covenant ceremony.
Abram waited all day…
Abram had to fight off the birds of prey trying to devour the sacrifice.
17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land.”
What vultures are devouring God’s promises in your life? It’s time to drive them away! Jesus reveals three birds of prey that can steal away the promises of God through the parable of the sower.
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
Misunderstanding God, His Word, and who we are in Him causes many of God’s promises to be stolen. We must understand that the nature of God’s word is that it comes to us in seed form. Sure, there are some miracles that we receive instantly. However, the bulk of God’s promises are received over time and through process.
There is nothing that we can do to hurry the growth process, but there is plenty that we can do to prolong it. Our role is to believe God’s word by faith and to trust in Him to fulfill it. We can’t keep digging the seed up in doubt. We also must allow God to change us to be the right soil for the seed of God’s word to grow in.
This leads to the next bird of prey:
2. Being Disconnected
20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
We were created for connection with God and others. Others provide support and encouragement that we need to remember God’s promise and to remain in it until it comes to pass. Others help to disciple us to become good soil so that God’s word can grow in us and to remove any opposition within our lives to it.
Especially the next bird of prey:
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
There are two little questions that the enemy loves to ask us to steal away God’s promises. The first one is the one that we saw in the beginning back in Eden. It is, “Did God really say that?” The other little question that he loves to use to steal away from us is, “What if?”
Let’s drive those questions and doubts away so that we can live in peace and confidence not depending on anything or anyone but God. If we are able to drive these three birds of prey away, God’s promise will come to pass in abundance at just the right time; at the harvest!
But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
This Thanksgiving, let’s dare to hope again and let faith arise within us! Let’s thank God in advance for His promises coming to pass. Let’s drive those vultures and birds of prey away until the Lord quickly comes to fulfill what He spoke! Expect great things from our great God!