“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
As we approach the Fourth of July, the U.S. celebration of Independence Day, Christians in free countries have a lot to be grateful for. We are able to gather, read, study, and pray without fear. That is not true of people everywhere in this world. Even these days, Christians are killed for their beliefs.
In a web exclusive report by Michael Carl, a Christian dies for his or her beliefs every five minutes. 100,000 Christians were killed, with an additional 50,000 who die from other causes while doing mission work. Violence against Christians is on the rise over the last five to ten years.
I give thanks for those Christians who believe enough to witness God’s love for all, even in the midst of violence. We had a nurse missionary in South Texas killed in this past year by those acting for a drug cartel. She had gone repeatedly to Mexico into the mountain villages giving medical care. She did this to show Christ’s love. She was chased as she was leaving the village to return to the States and shot in the head. She was killed because she brought hope. There are those in this world who want to squash hope. I give thanks for the Christians who stand against that evil bringing word that God has not forgotten his people.
Give thanks in all circumstances. This does not mean to be thankful for the circumstance but be grateful for the blessings that you have received. Some blessings may not be immediately obvious, especially if you are being oppressed. Sometimes that which is causing us pain can be a blessing in disguise. Wherever we are, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we can grow spiritually by practicing gratitude. God is always with us.
One example of practicing gratitude is from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom of Corrie’s sister, Betsy. Betsy based her understanding of living a Christian life on the passage from Thessalonians above. She insisted that they give thanks to God for the fleas in their concentration camp barracks. Anyone who has any experience with flea bites will have no trouble understanding that Corrie did not immediately jump to the ‘attitude of gratitude’ about the fleas.
However, because of the fleas, the Nazi prison guards would avoid coming into the barracks, giving those women a gift of privacy. In that privacy, they were able to hide a Bible which they had pulled apart and divided among themselves. And, in that privacy, they were able to read and study and pray. And, in that time, they were strengthened for the day and the days to come. Thank God for the fleas!
As we approach Independence Day, we have much to be grateful for. Freedom means that we can live out our faith, supported in a Christian community. It is easy to take our blessed circumstances for granted, unless we realize just how fortunate we are. We are able to gather, read, study, and pray without fear. I am grateful we do not need fleas to keep away those who would hurt us. I am grateful that we can assemble and worship in safety. This freedom was bought at a cost of people’s lives who believed in freedom.
For a number of years, at Hospice, the staff (nurses, social workers, chaplains, and our support staff) would begin with a reading from The Guidepost. Then, those of us around the table would state one thing for which we were grateful. These were written into the Guidepost. Anxieties were prayed for. Then, the day of serving others began.
Thank God for freedom to assemble and worship. Thank God that being a Christian is not not punishable by law in this country.
How do you begin each day?
Have you heard of Sister Dorothy Stang (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Stang)? Her sister is one of my best friends. She died at the hands of murders in Brazil in 2005. She lived and died a blessing to us all.
I do not know the name but know that nuns, brothers, and priests have been targeted. I looked her up and read about her. What a blessing she was. How sad that oppressors want to put out the light. Father Oscar Romero was assassinated while serving communion in 1980. That still shocks me that people would enter a church and gun down someone in the act of inviting people to the Lord’s table. His blood spilled onto the altar mixing with the wine that he was consecrating. Thank you for introducing me to Dorothy Stang. I know I would have loved her.