Lately I have been experiencing a new discipline that I would like to share with you if you have a few minutes to read and to think.
Paul said, “…we have received grace and apostleship, for the obedience of faith among all nations for his name:” (Romans 1:5) Notice the phrase ‘for the obedience of faith.’ Have you ever heard such a thing? That phrase is repeated again in 16:26. Sometimes I have thought of that phrase as the bookends that describe everything that lies between. Another place Paul speaks of Jesus and says, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8)
Discipleship is the process of becoming like the one whose disciple you are. I am learning to be Jesus’ disciple and therefore I need to learn to be obedient just as he did. In Hebrews 5:8, again speaking of Jesus it says, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;” Now this is getting a little uncomfortable.
I have often wondered what that obedience meant. I went to Bible college to learn to be a minister or something. I went to church and said my prayers. Those were things men, good men with good intentions, told me to do. Some time ago I began reading God’s Word to see if He would tell me what I should do. I have mentioned before that the Beatitudes have been especially helpful to me. I have also gained significant direction and instruction from memorizing and meditating with other verses of God’s Word. In 2012 I published a little story on this blog entitled, “Tree of Life”. Since that time I have said several times, “Thanksgiving is a tree of life in the garden of your heart.”
Giving thanks to God is an act of obedience and we should learn much more faithfulness in this area. Of course we could give thanks for a good and tasty meal or a new pair of shoes. But could we, would we be just as thankful for stale bread and worn out shoes? In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” And in Ephesians 5:20 it says, “giving thanks always for all things to him who is God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Please notice the universal nature of the things we are to give thanks for; “All things”.
My sister suggested a little exercise to me a few months ago and for the last month I have been working at it. I would like to suggest it for you and would look forward to hearing how your life has been affected.
This is the exercise. Every morning write down at least 3 things that you are thankful for. Someone asked if you could write the same 3 things each day. I suppose you could but I don’t think you would keep the exercise up for more than a few days. This is an exercise. You will be stretching a muscle you haven’t used to its fullest potential.
As I have practiced this for the last month and a little, I have experienced some truly beneficial results. This exercise sets my focus on my Heavenly Father first thing. As I look for things to be thankful for, I think of little things I have taken for granted for a long time; electricity, running water, a roof over my head. As I work at being thankful for all things other scriptures come to life. With 3 flat tires on the trip from Arizona to Oregon, Romans 8:28 begins to have greater meaning. When someone sends me a message cursing me, my family and my faith, Matthew 5:11-12 becomes a comfort and encouragement. But only because I am learning to Give thanks in all things. In all things and for all things, giving thanks is an exercise in the obedience of faith, and sometimes it is difficult.
I don’t try really hard to think up new things to be thankful for. I notice things I hadn’t thought of before. And then there are the things that get in my face and the Word of God tells me this is something I should write down and sincerely give thanks.
This exercise can be a little frightening when I realize that God is building and stretching my faith by telling me to be thankful for all things. But the purpose is not to build a comfortable pleasant life for myself. The purpose is to become like Jesus as I learn to be obedient just as he did. ALWAYS remember, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful who will not suffer (allow) you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
There are so many scriptures I could refer here but I will only say that since I have begun this exercise, in the midst of the difficulties I have experienced a growth in my peace and confidence in my Fathers great love and mercy. Therefore, I recommend it to you as we are learning to be Jesus’ disciples.