Grateful not for suffering, but in suffering

For people who are healthy and happy it is easy to be grateful. But what if illness and distress are the dominant factors in our lives? We can be grateful even then, Chief Apostle Schneider says.

Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider conducted the Thanksgiving service on 7 October 2018 in Carcavelos-Sassoeiros, a district of Lisbon (Portugal). He based his sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5: 18: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Unrealistic, absurd?

“Can we imagine that God expects a person who has experienced something dramatic to be grateful?” the Chief Apostle posed the rhetorical question at the beginning of the service. “One tends to think: that’s nonsense and impossible.” He went on to say, however, that there is a way one can begin to understand this. “We have to come back to the will of God! God wants our salvation. He wants to save us from the evil one. He wants to lead us into fellowship with Him.” And for this we have to follow Jesus. Only those who follow Jesus, who model their lives on His example, can enter into the kingdom of God.

Jesus lived gratitude

Jesus was thankful, the Chief Apostle said and explained this with some examples. “His friend Lazarus had died. Everyone was crying. Jesus came, went to his grave, and said to His Father: ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.’ Nothing had happened yet, Lazarus was still dead, but Jesus gave thanks (cf. John 11: 41). Then there was the time shortly before Jesus’ death. He knew that He would die, that He would be abandoned, that He would suffer. Despite this he celebrated Holy Communion with His disciples and gave thanks for the bread and wine (Matthew 26: 26–27).

The Holy Spirit grants recognition

The Chief Apostle said that God not only wants man’s salvation, but also his sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4: 3). “Whoever allows himself to be taught by the Holy Spirit can recognise the presence and activity of God. Where man can only see a coincidence, fate, or injustice, the Holy Spirit sees something completely different. He shows us: ‘Look, God is present. He is right here!’” the Chief Apostle said. Those who allow themselves to be imbued by the Holy Spirit are fully focused on God. And because they are fully focused on God in every situation, they can see God’s presence and His activity.

Many reasons for gratitude

  • When we look at the creation we recognise the work of God. We see that despite all the damage caused by man, God protects His creation. He watches over it. He makes sure that human beings can live on earth until the new world is created.
  • Whoever allows himself to be guided by the Holy Spirit recognises that all the good things he possesses come from God. There are so many people who are at least as good or even much better than you, and they do not have what you have. Those who allow the Holy Spirit to guide them, recognise: this is divine grace!
  • The most important thing that has occurred in history so far is the incarnation of the Son of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. A child of God should concentrate on the incarnation and the sacrifice of Christ. It will help us to be grateful in all situations.
  • The Lord Jesus does not only want to deliver us from evil and lead us to a place where we will no longer suffer. His plans go much further. He wants to share His glory with us!
  • God is always present and helps, strengthens, and comforts us. He does not only want to deliver us from the evil one or give us His inheritance, He even helps us to obtain this inheritance.
  • We are grateful to God that we do not have to walk this path on our own, but may be part of a congregation: the fellowship of God’s children. I know, sometimes we have reason to grumble about our brother or sister. But God gives us the strength to live with our differences.
  • We are very grateful to God for His patience with man. We thank Him for giving all human beings the possibility, the chance to enter into His new creation. We would be very unhappy if we had to live with the thought: we have been delivered from the evil one, but all those who did not share our faith are condemned for eternity.

Chief Apostle Schneider pointed out that Paul did not say: “You must be grateful for everything. He said: “You must be grateful in all situations!” He does not expect us to be grateful for suffering, but that we are grateful in suffering. “If in suffering we think of Christ’s sacrifice because we are focused on Him, we can only be grateful: Lord, thank You that You have overcome evil and that we can be delivered. Thank You that You have suffered for me so that I can be redeemed.”

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Oliver Rütten
Portugal, Chief Apostle, Divine service