The Christmas Season: A Time to Give Thanks! :: By Sean Gooding

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I pray that all is well with you at this time. We are in unprecedented times here in North America. We are hit daily with the kind of news that shakes us to the core. From the COVID situation and the serious damage done to our economy done by our government and the continuing attack on churches and other gatherings, we can see that we are in uncharted territories. Each and every day, I see and hear stories of the unprecedented toll that has been taken on many, many people. Many businesses have been lost, not just ‘mom and pop’ businesses, but large companies have collapsed with thousands and thousands out of work.

There are countless collateral deaths from furloughed surgeries and medical procedures. There has been a marked rise in alcohol abuse according to many interviews I have seen with counseling professionals; the rate of divorce is going up; suicides are going up, and on and on we go. The cure, as they say, will cause more deaths than the disease.

I was just watching a street journalist asking people how many deaths they think occurred in the US from COVID? Some thought as high as 30-40%; that would be 90-120 million persons with COVID. But the reality is that some 2,000,000 have gotten the virus, or less than 1% of the US population. Even more eye-opening, of the 20-25 persons interviewed, only 2 had known a person or of a person that had the virus. COVID is real, the deaths are real, but the way that it has been used to attack and destroy the economies of the free world is astonishing.

We have all been told that it is for the greater good; if we just comply now, soon, very soon, things will go back to normal. A first it was a few weeks, then a month, then a few months; now it has been 9 months. Today I saw an interview with Bill Gates, and he thinks it will be summer 2021 before we can have any semblance of normalcy. But remember, it is all our fault. If we had just obeyed, all would be well. They, the powers that be, are never wrong; we are. You must comply to be free; this is an oxymoron.

Then we in Canada have just found out that our fearless leader Prime Minister Trudeau has been allowing the CCP of China to train their troops here in Canada. Not just in Ontario, but in many other provinces. We recently saw emails documenting some 17 interactions where they came to us and our soldiers went to China to train. Why are we letting this enemy onto our soil? Why let them on our military bases? Why bring the only other real superpower in the world to the border of the US? Because no one wants to believe that they are evil, hellbent on the rule of the world and taking away our freedoms.

Wow, Sean, you say, I just checked the title and it talks about giving thanks. Maybe you got the wrong title or simply got off-topic. Stay with me; I promise I am not off the point. Rather, this is my point: it is easy to be thankful when all is well in the world around us. But can you and I be thankful when it seems that we are seeing the demise of all that we know right before our eyes? For the past few weeks and months really, I feel like I have been living in a Psalm 73 moment. The Psalmist was in awe of the prosperity of the wicked, it shook him to the core.

“Truly God is good to Israel,

To such as are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;

My steps had nearly slipped.

3 For I was envious of the boastful,

When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 For there are no pangs in their death,

But their strength is firm.

5 They are not in trouble as other men,

Nor are they plagued like other men.

6 Therefore pride serves as their necklace;

Violence covers them like a garment.

7 Their eyes bulge with abundance;

They have more than heart could wish.

8 They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression;

They speak loftily.

9 They set their mouth against the heavens,

And their tongue walks through the earth.”

He could not seem to get over how the evil people seemed to prosper, and they never get caught; or if they do, they never get punished. In verse 4, they even seem to die happy – “there are no pangs in their death.” But in verse 17, Asaph, the Psalmist, went into the house of God, and he understood their end.

“Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.”

I am thankful that even if evil men seem to get away with evil here and prosper here, they will not escape the judgment of God. He sees it all, and they will not be able to have high-priced lawyers and friends in higher places to get them a lenient sentence with God. I am thankful that I have a Bible, a Holy Book, written by God, and in it I have the truth that settles me and steadies me in the storms of life. This Book, the Word of God that gives me hope in the hopelessness of life, gives me light in the dark world and gives me solace in the midst of great pain. I am thankful that I have a God who loves me and made a way for me in Jesus, His Son, so that I can be His child (1 John 3:1).

I am thankful for the peace that I have, both in this life and in the life to come; it is all because of Jesus and His love for me. His Holy Spirit in me helps me to have peace in the storms of life, even the storms I create. In the midst of the chaos, Jesus gives me peace; in the midst of the COVID, we have been able to pay bills and do well. In the midst of the church shutdowns, we have revived mid-week meetings via Zoom that we had abandoned for some time. I am thankful that the government cannot thwart the local church; even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.

I am thankful that I have a great wife, a good family, and a wonderful church family. In the midst of the shutdowns, we have essentially rekindled fellowship with one of our sister churches that had dwindled to just one meeting a year or so. I am thankful for the commitment of our people, some of whom have to drive more than an hour, often in bad weather to get to church, but they are faithful. I am thankful that our church offerings have been steady, that we have been able to help a few people in need, and that God has lowered our expenses at the same time.

I rejoice and am thankful that I get to share the Gospel with people at work. Get to tell them what Jesus did for me. People ask me to pray for them, and I/we do. I am thankful that every day I get to go to a job I enjoy and where I am respected and appreciated. I am thankful that the Lord is my sanctuary, He is my safe place, and that I can trust Him when I do not understand. I can have absolute confidence that He is in control, and whether things get resolved as I think they should be, these people and circumstances are not hindering God’s plan even for a second; rather, it is simply a part of His plan to bring in everlasting righteousness. I thank God for the men and women who are willing to stand and say ‘this far and no further’ and mean it.

What about you? What do you have to be thankful for?

I thank God that He loved me and sent His Son to die for my sins. I thank God that there was a first Christmas, a deliberate place where the Saviour was born, and I am thankful there was a place where He died for me; I am thankful there is an empty tomb. Rejoice and give thanks; God loves you. God knows you by name, and He has a plan to bless us, if not here, in the next life for sure. But I am sure that if we took careful stock, God has blessed us beyond all we could truly think of.

So, I challenge you to take a day each week, maybe a day each month, and simply make it a day of thanksgiving – no asking – just thanking Jesus. From the time your feet hit the floor in the morning until you lay your head down, just thank God for all He has and is doing. Let me clarify; don’t ask anything for yourself; if someone needs prayer for help and healing, pray for them. But on that day, simply give thanks with regard to yourself. I wonder how that will change you and me? How will it change our perspective and demeanor? What would it do to our attitude, and what will it do for our relationship with the Lord and each other? It is God’s will for you to rejoice and be thankful ALWAYS!!

1 Thessalonian 5:16 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Merry Christmas

P.S. Our next lesson published will be in January 2021. We will be looking at the book of Esther.

God bless you,

Dr. Sean Gooding

Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church

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