“Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory.” 2 Corinthians 4:15
Grace, relationships and thanksgiving. 2 Corinthians 4:15 is a beautiful verse when read by itself. But just before this, Paul talks about being confused but not in despair; being broken but not completely destroyed. Then he closes this part of his letter by saying even when our outer person is destroyed, that internally we refuse to give up.
Leave it to a man who was beaten with rods a few times, stoned, and shipwrecked more than once to tell us to find thanksgiving in the midst of life crumbling around us. After all, this is the same man who also said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Over the last 21 days, you had the opportunity to fast. Regardless of what you chose to fast from, I am sure some moments were challenging– an unexpected and sugary gift left on your desk at work, a night of watching playoff football with the boys. We do this fast every single year with my wife’s birthday falling on January 19th, so I understand that the challenge can be very real. After all, how can you truly celebrate and honor someone’s life when you are trying to prop a candle up in the middle of a bowl of rice and beans?
And while the idea of giving up sugar for 21 days feels very simple on day 1 and quite challenging on day 17, it is important to remember that everything is for our benefit. Especially the hard things––like standing in the company breakroom while your coworkers sing “Happy Birthday” and you try to avoid explaining to everyone why you aren’t having any cake.
So as this fast ends, take time to do two very important things. First, celebrate! Whether you spent 21 days as a vegetarian or went water-only for the last 3 weeks (only do that if God is clearly telling you to do so) spend time in thanksgiving today. Know that this process grew your faith and increased your relationship with Christ. Maybe pull out an old journal and write down everything God revealed to you during this fast. Or set down this devotional and go for a 15-minute walk and just allow God to tell you how proud He is of you.
Second, spend some time thinking over some past shipwrecks. Dig deep. Go to the back of the closet. What are some of those moments in your life that really knocked you down? Those moments that made you feel crushed, persecuted and confused? And now remind yourself that you are still here. You are still standing. And then give thanks again. Because as Paul says, your trials have a way of bringing about thanksgiving to increase God’s glory when those moments are shared with other people.
We are all in this together! And now let us sit in expectation at what God can do in our own city because a number of us chose to unite together, fast, and worship the one true King!
Pray with me: "Father, thank you for this fast. Thank you for this time to be reminded of my need for you. I ask that you would sustain in me a greater awareness of your presence at all times going forward. Thank you that you dwell in me by your Spirit and promise to never leave. Lead me into all truth. Help me to walk in communion with you as I abide in your love by obeying your word. Thank you for loving me. All praise to you! Amen."