"Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." Acts 5:41 ESV
What are you thankful for? From childhood, this time of year is associated with being asked to recount our "list". We do it at church, at home, at school, and on various decorative turkeys. Across the board, the three most popular responses tend to center around what my son calls the "Three F's": Family, Friends, and Food.
You know what "F" doesn't tend to even crack the top 1,000? Floggings. But that's exactly the context of our passage. Acts 5 records a whirlwind of events. The apostles go from boldly proclaiming Jesus and being used by Him to change lives through the power of the gospel to being arrested and commanded to no longer even speak His name. The arrest didn't really stick though because they were soon the recipients of a nice little angelic-jailbreak. Why? So they could tell more people about Jesus!
That's exactly what they did. Of course, this didn't go over well with the powers-that-were, so they were arrested again. This time, the plan was to kill them. Fortunately, the apostles had the support of the masses, so they were released. Not, however, before they were first flogged for good measure! Keep in mind these public floggings were meant to be both humiliating and life-threatening, yet it's in that context we see these faithful followers expressing… thanks.
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The truth presented here calls us to examine our gratitude. Likely, thanksgiving is on all of our minds as we move through this week. What we're truly thankful for tells us a lot about our priorities, so if we long to see Jesus praised above all else, we will be thankful for every opportunity... even when they hurt.
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying family, friends, and food shouldn't be on our lists. There are so many beautiful gifts in this life. I love my family. I'm glad to have friends. I'll eat any potato you want to send my way! We shouldn't take these blessings for granted. I'm also not trying to imply we should seek hardships or rejoice in pain.
Instead, we should have our eyes so fixed on Jesus, we're thankful for any occasion to be part of what He's doing around us. Even the opportunity to minister to that super annoying person in your life. Even the chance to stay up late because your child needs you more than you need sleep. Even being persecuted for being known as a faithful follower of Jesus. What does your gratitude reveal about your heart?
Until next week, live every day like it's Christmas! God bless.
Bobby Upchurch is the pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Bonne Terre where he lives with his wife, Melissa, and their four children. He is also an English teacher at Farmington High School.