Wednesday, July 6, 2011


For those of us in Minot, the challenges keep mounting as Alan Walter, city public works director, recently spoke with our city council about the monumental task of restoring our water and sewer systems. In the valley where houses like mine are still under water, restoration of utilities could take months. With winter just months away, that leaves many question marks about long-term housing, etc.

I am not an engineer, and I don't have answers to the practical questions which loom before us. I am a pastor, and the Bible has many answers for the state of our hearts in the midst of uncertainty. This morning I was reading Colossians 3:12-17, which constitutes God's assignment for our hearts ever day as believers in Christ:
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
There are many heart-prescriptions for us in this passage. Paul wants us to live every day proactively putting off our pre-conversion attitudes and actions and clothing ourselves with Christian grace. He also wants us to give close attention to our relationships. The character qualities in vv. 12-13 "kindness, humility, meekness and patience...bearing with one another and forgiving each other" are all relationally oriented examples of holiness. Peace ruling in our hearts is a third prescription from v. 15, and joyful song in v. 16 sets a Christian apart from an unbeliever according to Paul. All these should shape how we respond to life when it's not going our way.
In my opinion, though, all of the above prescriptions for holiness are secondary to the major theme in this passage which is thankfulness. Paul brings it up three times. Look at the end of verse 15, "...and be thankful." Again, in the end of v. 16, "...singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." And then in v. 17, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." I've read this passage many times before, but I've never before noticed this theme of thankfulness. Sometimes we notice biblical truths when we need them the most.
I'm currently in Sparta, Wisconsin spending time with my family and my parents. Here life is easy. I've been struck by the beauty of the tree covered hills. The creek behind my parent's house is well within its banks. This morning I took a long bike ride and couldn't help think, as I drove by house after house, "Those houses aren't under water. Those families aren't in crisis. This city isn't in chaos." As one whose basement is full of water, whose family is homeless and whose city is in chaos, I could contemplate the placid setting of others with bitterness or jealousy. Instead, God invites (more, commands) my heart into a posture of thankfulness - knowing that in doing so, He is helping my heart stay free from the unseen prison of sin.
Thankfulness in troubled times calls us to trust God and acknowledge - whether we can easily see it or not - that He is good and what He gives and withholds from us is perfect. It was providential that during my morning bike ride I began to spontaneously sing,
Praise to the Lord
Who o'er all things so wonderfully reigneth
Shelters thee under His wings
Yea, so gladly sustaineth
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e'er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth.

There's the key to thankfulness when life gets complex and losses mount: a confidence that our desires - our true and lasting desires - are always granted in what God ordains. Yes, even in a city without water, in a neighborhood without a sewer system, in a house that's still under water.

No comments: