Once upon a time there were two very well to do Christian ladies. They lived next door to each other and both went to the same church. They were both nice ladies, more because of their cultured life than their religious devotion. Sadikah was truly born-again but Nichole went to church for three ulterior motives: she had friends there, her husband did business with many church members and the childrens’ programs were exceptional.
At church on Sunday the families sat next to each other. The sermon was very entertaining. It was a carefully crafted worship service where you always felt like you got a lot out of it. The pastor read, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:18, NIV) Nichole turned to Sadikah and said, “Oh, I so needed to hear that! The drama team did such a good job today.” Sadikah hadn’t really thought the service was very helpful spiritually but she knew she needed more of what the Apostle had commanded in the Scripture. “Yes! I really need to practice my gratitude this week.”
On Thursday that week, Sadikah and her husband were entertaining visiting dignitaries with very fine dining and an evening at the opera. Everything was going very well. Sadikah wore a beautiful evening gown. The evening was near perfection until an accident in the restaurant resulted in a small but noticeable stain on her dress. Sadikah was understandably upset at the embarrassed wait-staff. But she restrained herself admirably. With great effort Sadikah smiled and said it was a little stain, and that the wait-staff should not feel bad for anyone can have an accident. The evening was not ruined for the others but she felt embarrassed and bothered. On the way to the opera she remembered the Word of God, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:18, NAS) And she tried to pray and give thanks, even for that stain. It was very difficult. The evening had been going so well. She tried in silent prayer to find things to be grateful for: “Thank you Lord I did not wear the light colored gown this evening. Thank you that the spill was not worse. Thank you that my husband and his guests were so gracious and supportive.” But she did not feel very grateful. Her mind kept returning to how well the evening had been going and how this accident had embarrassed her. If she hadn’t been a real Christian, she would have had to go home even though it would have ruined the evening for the others. She tried her best to have a good attitude and she kept repeating the Bible verse to herself and trying to practice it the best she could. But her night had been ruined. Yet between her cultured upbringing and her faith, only her husband could tell how troubled she really was.
After the evening was over and Sadikah was alone in the car with her husband, she spoke honestly about how hard it was to do what she had been reminded of in church. He complimented her efforts and said how much he appreciated how well she had done. The evening had been a success thanks to her self-control. She felt appreciated and proud of her sincere efforts to be grateful in the midst of something so troubling.
As they drew near to their house, they saw many emergency vehicles and the smoldering remains of Nichole’s house. Sadikah ran to her friend and embraced her asking what had happened. Nichole told her of a gas explosion in the utility room and how scary it had been and what it took for the whole family to get safely out of the house. “I am just so thankful none of us were hurt. We can get the house replaced and the things don’t matter much, do they? What really matters is we are all safe!” Sadikah joined her friend in true heart-felt gratitude. It didn’t take any effort or piety. It was how they really felt and it was how they sincerely prayed.
Sometimes the efforts to obey God’s word are more indicative of where you stand than the difficulty of the command.
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