I know that Thanksgiving is already past, but I want to give you my Thanksgiving message. We know that everything we have is from the Lord, and every day should be a day of giving thanks. Last week we took a couple of days off because of Thanksgiving and I wanted to share with you some of my Thanksgiving thoughts today.
There are some things that have been on my heart that I guess come from the following verse:
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:20)
This doesn’t say we are only to give thanks for what we consider the good things. It says to give thanks for all things. This includes the hard things, the difficult things, and the tragedies in our lives. In Philippians, Paul said:
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
How can we be thankful and find joy in tragedies? We need to realize that sometime the Lord uses tragedies, or what we think are tragedies, to put us in a position to receive a blessing He has in store for us.
Let’s look at the tragedies in Joseph’s life. He was turned on by his brothers simply because he shared his vision from God. His brothers threw him in a pit, and then sold him as a slave. He ended up in Egypt as a slave in Potiphar’s house. Things started looking up when he rose to being the head of the household.
When things were looking really good, he was falsely accused of something he didn’t do. He was accused of a sexual crime and was thrown into prison. He rose again to a position of high responsibility in prison. He interpreted the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s servants and one of them promises to remember him to Pharaoh, but he was forgotten and left in prison.
When Pharaoh had a dream that no one can interpret, the servant remembered. Joseph was brought out and gave the interpretation of the dream. As a result, he was made the second in command in all of Egypt. Because of the famine in the land, God used Joseph to save his own brethren and his father.
When Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he told them:
And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (Genesis 50:19-20)
He told them that if they had not done what they did, he would not have been in a position to save many people’s lives. The tragedies had not come, he would never have been the second in command in Egypt, and in a position to save his family.
We must remember Romans 8:28:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
It is not just some things, but all things work together for good to those who love God and who are the called according to His purpose. God has a way of allowing tragedies in our lives to bring about some good things. Let me give you some examples:
A couple of weeks ago I talked about how Islam had grown through bloody conquests in the 1400s. As they grew in the Middle East, it cut off the trade routes to the Far East. All of the goods the Europeans brought in from China and India were no longer available to them. This forced the Europeans to look for another route. This led to the journey of Columbus, and to the discovery of the “new world.” Had the trade routes not been cut off by the Muslims, Columbus would never have been granted the commission to sail west. His idea that we actually live on a ball, and we can get to the east by sailing west, was considered a harebrained idea. America would not exist were it not for the Muslims cutting off the trade routes.
Another tragedy of the 1400s that involved the Muslims was the sacking of Constantinople, which today is Istanbul, in Turkey. This resulted in the Greek scholars and the existing Greek manuscripts of the New Testament moving west into Europe. These manuscripts ended up in England. Erasmus, in Cambridge, was able to collate them into the first Greek New Testament. It is from this collation that we get our English New Testament. Without the Muslims sacking Constantinople, we would not have our English New Testament.
Another example of God using tragedy for good is the Inquisition by the Catholics against the Protestants and Baptists. It forced groups, like the Pilgrims to seek refuge in the New World. They sought freedom to practice their faith without fear of persecution. The tragic event of the Inquisition resulted in the freedom of conscience we have in America.
Let’s go back even further, to the time of the New Testament. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came.
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
After that, He told them He wanted them to be witnesses unto Him throughout the whole world.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Instead of taking the Gospel to the world, they stayed in Jerusalem. God brought the tragedy of persecution upon them to force them to move out from Jerusalem. The result was that, within 20 years or so, they turned the world upside down.
And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; (Acts 17:6)
I have not had many personal tragedies in my life, but something that seemed like a tragedy happened when I was in Bible College. I went to a very small Bible College in Atlanta, GA. It was a great school with great teachers, and about 300 students. I traveled for the school with the singing group. I literally sang for my supper. We went to churches on the weekends, and traveled during the summer representing our school.
The School had a low budget, and the vans we traveled in were old. They would break down a lot, and so we started to test God. We started praying for God to bring a solution to this. We asked God to supply us new transportation. We didn’t tell anyone, and the next church we sang at, the pastor asked us if the school could use a school bus. He said, We have a pretty new bus that was given to us and we don’t need it any more. We told him that we didn’t know about the School, but that we, as the ensemble, would take it. He gave it to the ensemble.
We started praying for money to paint this yellow school bus. God provided the money to put new seats in it as well. God provided all of this because we prayed for it. All we lacked was an air conditioner. We were going to be if Florida in the summer and we were confident that God would provide this. The school stepped in and said, you are not going to represent the college in a school bus. We were brokenhearted.
We didn’t know what was happening at the school. A man had donated two brand new minivans to the school for us. We thought this was a tragedy after all the work we had done, but God had something better for us.
Another lesson from my college days was when that school closed just before my senior year. I was very upset and disappointed. It was a great school, with great teachers. I was growing and learning, and now I was going to have to leave my friends and find another school to finish my education. I went to the college that my parents had gone to, Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO. It is there that I met my future wife. I thought the school closing was a tragedy, but God had a blessing in it for me.
The whole point is, what is it that you think, right now, is a tragedy? Maybe things aren’t going well for you right now. Remember, the Bible says we are to give thanks for all things. You may ask, how can I give thanks for these things?
I know that my personal tragedies aren’t really big tragedies, but they seemed big to me at the time. At the time we are going through them, all tragedies seem big. I want you to remember that God is bigger than your problems. God does not leave us alone, He has given us the Comforter to help guide us through life’s problems. You may not be able to trace God’s hand in it all right now, but we can trust His heart and His promises.