All posts by Matthew J. Cochran

Matt Cochran's passion is seeing people's lives transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ. Having served in the Marine Corps in locations all over the world, Matt easily connects with people. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Studies and a Master's Degree in Discipleship Ministries. Above all else, Matt loves being a dad to Colin, Hank and Amelie.

When to give thanks

MOBURF-00012383-001

1 Thessalonians 5:18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

There’s never a bad time to give thanks to God.  In America we set aside a specific day to celebrate what God has done, calling it Thanksgiving, but if it’s the only day of the year that we’re grateful to our Lord, then we’re suffering from a lack of humility.

Whether we’re in good times of prosperity or bad times of suffering and need, we can be thankful because God is good.  If we’re lacking something right now it’s not because God is unaware of our need; it’s rather because He has a purpose and we get to be a part of it.  He will provide as only He can and we should thank Him everyday for doing so.

The difference between thanksgiving and praise is the purpose behind it.  Thanks is given for what God has done, but praise is given for who He is, even when we don’t feel He’s done anything lately.  Praise isn’t a response to God’s provision, but a celebration of all that He is and all that we know He can do.  Thanksgiving and praise go hand-in-hand and they ought to be on our lips constantly, whether we’re currently receiving blessings or not.

 

How to give thanks

lightstock_68414_medium_user_3963721Ephesians 5:20  giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

How should we give thanks to a God that gives us far more than we can imagine to ask for?  How can we ever give Him thanks for all He’s done and all He is?  Well, we never can.  But the point isn’t to make things up to God with our gratitude.  The point is that we should be grateful for everything and at all times.

We give thanks by praising Him.  Just telling Him, literally, thank you for what you’ve given me, for what you’ve done, and for who you are.  Express in words your thankfulness.

We give thanks by responding.  God has done so much for us all, we can show Him we’re thankful by carrying out what He’s called us to do.  We can show Him we’re grateful for what we have by sharing it with others, by taking care of what we’ve been given, and by being content.

We give thanks by trusting.  When we’re in hard times and it seems as though God has forgotten about us, we can be thankful to Him for what He’s done in the past by trusting Him with the present.  Sometimes just praying, knowing that God has provided in the past, and believing that He can do it again, is a great way to thank Him.

Why to give thanks…II

Thanksgiving

1 Chronicles 29:12-13  Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

Not only should we give thanks to God for who He is, but we should be ever so grateful for all that He’s done.  He’s able to do far more than we can even imagine, and He even sometimes responds to prayer better than we thought He would.  Not only is He good, but He provides.

All of the good we have in our lives is from the Lord.  We owe Him our thanks because nothing we have here is our own.  It’s all His and He allows us to be temporary caregivers to His things.  He provides our physical needs, but think of all the other wonderful blessings He gives that have nothing to do with “things” at all.  The intangible blessings are usually the most satisfying.

Imagine, the Lord of all things created, in heaven and on earth, giving up His Son for the sake of mankind, that we might be reconciled to Him.  Even if He never gave us another single thing in this life, that’s a sufficient reason to give praise and thanks for the rest of eternity.  We give thanks because of who His is, and because of what He’s done.

Why give thanks

lightstock_114252_medium_user_3963721

Psalm 107:1  Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

 

Why give thanks?  The fact is that every single day God is providing blessings for us that we may not even know about.  He answers prayers that we lift up to Him, but there are so many things we are unaware of that He’s taken care of.

Even in our trials there are reasons to give thanks.  We may not realize it at the time, but even the seemingly bad things that happen in our lives can be God’s way of making something happen that’s much bigger than ourselves.  When we are in those down times, we have to trust that He has the best possible outcome in mind.  And the only way we can trust that is if we know that God is good.

God is good.  If we start with that belief and hold onto it, we can’t help but be in a constant state of gratitude.  No matter what comes our way, we know that our Lord is sovereign over all things and that He’s good.  That is cause for thanksgiving in itself, even without specific blessings to name.  Give thanks to Him because He’s good!

Worshipping false idols

Habakkuk 2:18  What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols!

As we look through the Old Testament of the Bible and see many examples of idol worship, it’s easy to arrogantly think that we’ve come so far from that way of life.  It seems so silly that someone would fashion an idol out of wood or bronze and then worship something that they had just created.  We know in our minds that God is the one worthy of worship as the Creator, but still we do worship the created.

Don’t think that this is true today?  How about extreme environmentalism where man worships the earth, which God created?  Or how about trusting in money to get you everything you want from position to health to security?  Some of us even worship our own children, building our entire lives around their little needs and wants.  We do worship idols that aren’t worthy of our full devotion.  There’s nothing wrong with taking care of the earth, earning money, or loving your children.  All of those are good things.  But when they are the main focus of our lives, they are our gods.

Habakkuk rightly points out the absurdity of putting our trust in and directing our worship towards idols we’ve created and expecting them to better our lives somehow.  Only God Himself is worthy to be praised and He deserves our full attention and devotion.

True love

1 Corinthians 13:4-8  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

It’s clear in God’s Word that love is of the utmost importance.  What’s less clear in today’s hyper-sexual, idolatrous society, is just what true love really is.  We know we should love each other, but what does that look like?

The answer to this question lies in a scripture that is very often quoted in wedding ceremonies and very seldom remembered in marriages.  The apostle Paul, again emphasizing just how essential love really is, points out a few key characteristics of love.  Take the time to get familiar with these verses and begin to apply them in your relationships.

It’s worth noting that one thing Paul never says about love is that it’s an emotion or a feeling.  There’s never any focus on how you feel about the other person, just how you treat them.  Keep that in mind as you think about the nature of love and think about it more deeply.

———-  Which of the characteristics of love seems to make the least sense to you based on what you have always thought about love?

He hears us

1 John 5:14-15  And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Joshua prayed with confidence because he knew that God would hear his prayers.  God had told him earlier that He was on Joshua’s side.  The apostle John also knew the value of approaching God in prayer with confidence.

If we know that He hears us, we know He’ll grant us all that we ask accordingly with His will.  To pray according to His will though, we must be daily in His Word, seeking Him.  When we’re in close communion with our heavenly Father, we’ll know what we can ask for and expect to be heard.  With that, we can ask with confidence.

Knowing that our Father loves us and cares for us makes a world of difference as we approach Him.  Thankful hearts, knowing that He hears us, make it all the more likely that we’ll ask according to His will.

———-  What are you asking God for right now?

 

Find Strength

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

No matter where you find yourself, you’re not too far away for God to find you.  No matter what your circumstances, He can walk you through.  He is good, and you can trust Him in good times and bad times.

As followers of Christ, we would benefit from following the example of Paul, learning how to be content in all situations.  A heart that’s truly fixed on God will not let events determine faith.  Focus on the nature of God and know that no matter what, no matter how good or how bad, you can trust Him.

You can do all things through Him who strengthens you.  Pray in all things and rely on Him to provide.  He is more than able to be your everything.

———-  Where are you trying to find your strength?  Is it in God or in the things of this world that don’t live up to their promises?

Don’t worry, pray

Philippians 4:6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Central to Paul’s thoughts on prayer given to the Philippians is the aspect of thanksgiving and praise.  Want to be free from your burdens?  Rejoice in the Lord!  Are you bringing your requests to God?  Do it while giving thanks for what He’s already done!

Pray knowing that God hears the cries of His people.  Bring all things to Him, cast them all before Him.  Know that God is faithful and just.  Trust, knowing what He has already been faithful in, that He will continue to provide your every need and hear the desires of your heart.  Give Him thanks!

Echo the thoughts of Paul:  Rejoice in the Lord always!  This attitude in prayer will lead to peace, no matter what burdens you carry.  The Lord is good and He will lighten your load.

———-  What’s your biggest worry?  Cast it before God and have the faith to let it go.

His completed work

Philippians 1:6  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

The foundation for our spiritual growth is our recognition that our Creator, who began a good work in us through salvation, will bring that work to completion through sanctification.  We need to look back at what He’s already done so that we can remember how good He’s been and keep in mind that He’s faithful and will remain active in our lives.  We can have confidence that God will never let us go.

Sometimes we need to act on what we know to be true instead of what feels true at any given moment.  Feelings are a big part of who we are since we’re spiritual beings, but they can often be misleading.  When it feels like God isn’t living up to His promises, but we know that He’s faithful and won’t let us go, we need to rely less on feeling and more on what we know to be true.

One way we know that we can rely on God is though His Word.  Story after story is documented of His faithfulness to His people.  This, along with the evidence in our own stories, gives us hope that He will indeed complete the work that He began.

———-  Reflect on where you were spiritually 5 years ago, 2 years ago, one year ago.  Think about how much God has done to develop you into the person He created you to be.