“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
We seem to live in two different realms, one where God’s will is clearly being accomplished, and one where it seems God’s will is very far away. At certain times we are sure that God has brought about an outcome that simply would not have resulted were it not for some sort of intervention of his will. We call that providence or grace or blessing, where we are convinced God is present and bringing about his purpose. Other times we just know that something has occurred which is not what God would have happen. Tragedy reveals not that God is punishing us but that the world is amiss. God does not will abuse or murder or oppression, yet they happen.
Paul urges us to give thanks in all circumstances, to rejoice and pray constantly. When he says this is God’s will for us, does he mean it is God’s will that we give thanks in all things as we pray or does he mean the circumstances we face are God’s will for us? Probably the former but even if you read that our circumstances are where God wants us to be, the Christian gospel applies. This particular circumstance may not be precisely according to God’s will but no matter how terrible the circumstance may be, it is God’s will that we be brought through it to reveal our own redemption and the redemption of all the world offered through Christ. By going through our circumstances we come to see God’s will being worked out. He transforms the things which we think will destroy us and turns them into places where we come to know his saving grace.
Paul encourages us to be hopeful even when the signs in our lives are not hopeful. The worst circumstance you face will eventually be a place where you will come to know God’s love for you. He will teach you, shape you, change your perspective, help you see that nothing destroys God’s hand at work in the world. The real and dangerous threats we face turn out not to be not so threatening as we learn to endure faithfully. Faith gets its legs through hardship, so don’t be so quick to give up when life isn’t going the way you wish it would.
I saw a post on Facebook the other night that caught my eye: “In the end it will be okay; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” The writer seems to be saying what Paul was saying. As we hang in there, we will see things getting worked out. Things that look impossible right now may change tomorrow or the next day. Ultimately, we know deep in our hearts, that all things will be worked out. The promise of things being worked out eventually helps us see that, when things are the worst, God hasn’t finished working. When things are not okay, it doesn’t mean they never will be; it means they will be okay later on. God doesn’t stop until all things are made well. That’s the Christian Gospel.
A non-church friend of mine has an expression he likes to use: “Statistically things have a way of working themselves out for the best.” Even though my friend can’t quite buy into the church expression of God, this sure sounds like a faith statement to me. It reveals a force at work in the world. If we hang in there, we will see things turn out better than we first imagine they could ever turn out.
As we wrap up the year and begin another one, we also celebrate the in-breaking of God’s kingdom. The world still isn’t what God first intended. The world still isn’t what God will one day make it to be. But the world is the place where God dwells, where God works, where God transforms and redeems and heals. Our circumstances are where we will meet God. That is the message of the Incarnation. God meets us where we are rather than waiting to see who can make it to his abode.
In the end, it will be okay. All things will be okay because God is at work in this world and cannot be defeated by anything or anyone. God’s grace and power are revealed to us in Christ Jesus. Give thanks for that. Give thanks for your place in God’s world. Look for your circumstances to be transformed into places which reveal God’s presence in your life. Greet with joy the birth of our Lord and Savior.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Vestry Elections – Annual Meeting on January 27
The following fourteen persons have been nominated to stand for election to the Vestry. Each is very well qualified and seven will be elected by the congregation at the Annual Meeting on January 27 at 11:15. Please prayerfully consider this slate as you cast your ballot: Rich Anderson; Nancy Buzard; Melissa Carter; Suzi Edwards; Austin Huffaker; Elizabeth Lawlor; David Little; Ken Mahan; Mary-Nelms Parsons; Radney Ramsey; Fairlie Rinehart; Brad Turner; Fred Tyson; Debbie Wakefield. A photo brochure with biographical sketches will arrive in your mail soon.
Absentee Ballots are available for those unable to attend the Annual Meeting
Childcare will be Provided for the Annual Meeting