Grateful: Big Issues, Bigger God
Fear is the mental construct that determines that our Father in heaven is not good enough, committed enough, strong enough, or capable enough to let His kingdom come and His absolutely perfect will be done.

Grateful: Big Issues, Bigger God

by Nayomi Thomas
11/22/16 Christian Living

A news headline several days ago read: “CIA Prepping for Possible Cyber Strike Against Russia”—add that to your already outlandish political news coverage and race-related debacles. While you are at it, sprinkle in a dash of your own personal financial, relational, and emotional drama, and you have the perfect recipe for fear.

Most of us walk in fear and have such close ties to it that we can no longer see its influence. Some of us have disguised it by using words such as “concern,” “annoyance,” “preoccupation,” and even “burden.” Others, by ignoring the pains of life, have simply chosen to live as if none of it is occurring, distracting ourselves with endless activities instead.

All the while, the truth is that we are fearful. Pardon me. I meant to say filled with fear.

Fear is the mental construct that determines that our Father in heaven is not good enough, committed enough, strong enough, or capable enough to let His kingdom come and His absolutely perfect will be done. In short, we believe that He is unable to come through.

We may pray, sing, and say otherwise all day long, but the knot in our stomachs and the tension in our hearts tell us differently. The truth is that no matter how much we toil, we are still not abiding in Him, making it evident that we are living without the knowledge of God. The apostle Paul writes:

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” (Ephesians 1:7–10)

Can we even remotely begin to process, in our flesh, God’s mysterious ways—His past, present, and future actions? Can we comprehend all the pieces He had to move in order to ensure that His Son would grace the earth at exactly the right interval in all of human history? Do we really understand that He has all the kings of the earth right where He wants them and calls them all pawns in His hands?

It is our lack of the knowledge of this God that produces worriers who lean instead on their own limited understanding. Consequently, when we feel the nations are toppling, fear becomes our biggest ally.

As I lay in bed the other morning, I became aware of an apparently not-yet-fully-sanctified portion of my mind. I had barely opened my eyes when my mind drifted into a dark and lustful contemplation. It was only after a couple of minutes that I finally caught myself.

In my horror, my first instinct was to turn my mind in the opposite direction. I ran into the throne room and found myself before God, where I covered my face with my hands and whispered, “Lord, I cannot believe I just did that—I haven’t even gotten out of bed yet!” I was genuinely sorry and appalled by my sin.

Normally, my response would be shame-filled tears, but the strangest thing happened—suddenly, I started to grin. I felt such acceptance and love, and I instantly knew I had come to the place where sins are forgiven, minds are healed, and hearts are mended.

Somewhere between the beginning of my God story and this moment, He had been working in me a confidence in His love I had never fully experienced. I felt so accepted, fully known, and yet still wanted for something. The eyes of my understanding were opened and I finally experienced limitless love. Ok. So forgive a very cheesy analogy from Frozen: Olaf says that an act of true love will thaw a frozen heart. Elsa’s heart is thawed by the sacrificial love of her sister and in that moment, amazement and gratitude fill her. In my moment, I realized that God really wanted to extend His love and healing—not a punishment or a rebuke, not a tongue lashing or a wagging of His finger. My only response could be, “Thank you!”

I was instantly intoxicated with gratitude for the Lord’s beautiful forgiveness—and you know what? I received it, all of it. And in accepting it, in believing it, I was saying thank you. There is nothing (and I mean nothing) the Man Christ Jesus cannot and will not do to fully establish His will and kingdom in our lives. He went so far as to make Himself like you and me. Just for one moment, meditate on the humility of God to make Himself subject to His own creation in order to identify with us to the fullest extent. And by doing so, giving us assurance that He gets us. He gets how hard it is. He gets how painful it is, how tempting it is. He is not partially, but fully, sympathetic to the human condition. He understands the fragility of my soul, the temptations of my mind. So he offered me grace and mercy—divine pity—in that very instant and I would have been a fool not to have received it. My mind is still in awe of Him—He walks in such humility!—what else would you call someone in His position relating to someone in our condition? Being intimately acquainted with this mercy-filled, humble God is what fills me to the brim with gratitude.

One of the main obstacles that prevents us from giving God the praise He deserves is not the overwhelming circumstances we face, but rather a want of the knowledge of God. It is our lack of understanding of God’s character through His Word that causes our hearts to melt like wax at the faintest sign of turmoil. Perhaps we have forgotten these words of Jesus:

“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Yet we have determined that our brand of Christianity will yield us an easy ticket to heaven, a front row seat replete with all the comforts of the American dream. When this doesn’t happen, we grumble, complain, grow faint, and begin to despise God’s brilliant leadership, through which He is continually attempting to make us look Him in the eyes again. Peter reminds us that it is through the knowledge of God that we are given “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Similarly, the psalmist writes:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

This lighted path still shows us how to walk in a world of racial tension, gender disputes, and political drama. The disciples themselves did all they could to grow in the knowledge of God. Once they had found it, like that treasure hidden in the field, they held on to it, unwilling to ever let it go. Their hearts offered sacrificial gratitude in the most trying of circumstances. In most cases, it cost them their lives.

Over the last four years or so, we have had over $40,000 worth of repairs done to our home. Yes, 40! How in God’s earth do you come up with money like that without going into significant debt—all on a missionary salary? Yes, it’s tough, but it’s not life threatening and I wasn’t asked to deny Christ! I am not dismissing that it is a real stress, but I am saying to myself—and to you—that “in everything give thanks” is not a mere suggestion, but rather a command issued to us as the will of God for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

In the process of practicing gratitude, our family gained two things. One was peace of mind and the other some miraculous provision. One is guaranteed as eternal, the other one is not and really is just a cherry on top. However, when the miraculous provision is not received, it doesn’t make Him any less worthy of gratitude, but rather the peace that passes all understanding (otherwise known as stupid peace that makes no sense), which looks nonsensical to all around us, makes the situation so laughable you can’t help but give Him thanks. We have to become convinced by the knowledge of God that He and His ways are our ultimate good. That truly there is nothing that can separate us from His love and His purposes—no matter how painful or difficult the circumstances might be. Gaining that perspective, we cannot help but win, allowing ourselves to accept whatever befalls us, because we know beyond all doubt that in it He, His ways, His plans, His power, His purposes, and His promises are all GOOD. If I could just shout it in our ears to mark out souls eternally: OH, HOLY SPIRIT, CONVINCE US OF THIS ONE THING! Draw us to know you in this way.

The disciples gave their lives to know God and search Him out and the result is not only the heritage we have in the great cloud of witnesses cheering us on, but the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ that we have bound in leather. We hold this book in our possession, which reveals to us the mystery of His will for us, and yet we fail to interact with God through the text by study and prayer, meditation and inquiry. Herein lies the key to our joy, peace, and gratitude. And outside of the Word, we dwell with fear, unrest, and suspicion for God’s character.

I am committed to buying the whole field to promote my soul’s own gladness in God. I dare you to try it.

Experience four days of anointed worship with Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson, Todd White, Misty Edwards, Stuart Greaves, Corey Russell, and many more, at Onething, Dec. 28-31, in Kansas City. Find out more about Onething »

How has God’s Word given you hope in tough times?

The Thankables

Nayomi Thomas

position

  • Speaker and Author

Nayomi Thomas (MS, Organizational Development, Avila University) was raised across three continents, including a small island in the Netherlands Antilles, and now has a broad view of life, which she shares with her eighteen-year-old daughter Mahan, four-year-old-son, Justice, two-year-old daughter Addison, and husband, Jaye. Together, the Thomas family resides in Kansas City, Missouri, and are part of the International House of Prayer.

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