I’ve long been inspired by the vibrant faith of believers in China’s underground church. No one is sure, but some think there may be over 60 million believers in these secret house churches. Astounding when you consider all the forces over the years that have tried to stamp out the Gospel in China!
Chinese believers are known for their steadfast and joyful faith in the face of intense persecution. A man who had just returned from visiting members of an underground church was asked how the believers were able to cope with the continued trials.
“These brothers and sisters know this is not the end of the story,” he explained. “They EXPECT God’s glory to come at the end of their trial. They believe the trial will end. And they expect to be victorious.”
Are you wrestling with a tough problem? Maybe it feels like your trial will never end. Perhaps we don’t suffer the same kind of intense persecution as Chinese believers, but we fight the same devil. James urges us to “resist the devil and he will flee” (James 4:7).
Peter also challenges us to join the “resistance:” Resist him [the devil], standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8).
We can draw strength from the example of Chinese believers. They remind us that our trial “is not the end of the story.” They inspire us to “expect God’s glory.”
We strengthen our own faith when we encourage each other to stand “firm in the faith.” Joy in our journey comes as we team up with other believers.
The Christian life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured. So daily, let’s ask the Lord to help us find joy while we endure!
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 ESV).
After completing the 30 Days of Thankful, I found myself drifting back into a attitude of discontent. So I renewed my resolve to give thanks in everything. To make a thankful heart a permanent habit. I’m curious. Do you experience God in a fresh way when you practice gratitude?
I think we’d agree that giving thanks to God is something we should do every day. In that respect, it’s different from the spiritual discipline of fasting. When a person comes off a fast, they gradually start eating food again.
But after an exercise like the 30 Days of Thankful, should we gradually allow ourselves become grumpy again? Of course not. The Bible teaches us that giving thanks is to be a continuous mindset—much like prayer. So it makes sense that right after the Bible teaches us “to pray without ceasing,” it reminds us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
I’m intentional about making gratitude a permanent fixture in my mind. But to form any habit, I must first become fully persuaded of its value. And to be convinced that it pleases God.
Here are five reasons why I believe that giving thanks is worth my best effort. These are not the only reasons, but they’re a start. I’m still reflecting on what I learned while practicing gratitude:
- Giving thanks to God is a good way to counter-attack discontent. It’s easier to replace grumbling or complaining with thanksgiving than to simply try to “not gripe.”
- Gratitude feeds my faith. I discovered that thanksgiving can stand up under a fiery trial. Giving thanks seemed to use less energy than praying for a specific end—a good thing when you’re going through a hard place.
- Giving thanks is an effective way to roll my burdens into God’s hands, which, in turn, calms my anxious heart.
- Having a thankful heart makes me more aware of my surroundings and more in tune with God’s blessings. So I find myself more expectant—watching for Him to show up.
- For some reason, giving thanks made me more sensitive to the needs of others—opening the door to holy conversations—a blessing in themselves.
I don’t have to understand all the reasons why giving thanks is a good thing in order to experience its benefits. Forming a habit of giving thanks changes my attitude and my actions. I discovered that giving thanks is a form of worship. It connects me to the Lord and places my focus on Him. And when I focus on Jesus, it changes everything.