Faithlife Sermons

How To Be Thankful in Tough Times

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Notes & Transcripts

Bishop Bryan Strickland

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

Philippians 4:4–8 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

In just a few days we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. How can you be thankful in tough times? When the economy is not good. When things aren't going your way. How do can you and I be thankful in tough times? When it seems our world is crumbling and falling apart around us.

In Philippians 4, Paul says "May you always be joyful in your life in the Lord." Is that possible? Is it always possible to be joyful, no matter what the circumstance? Yes it is.

We need to learn to celebrate the life that God has given us and be thankful for the things that we do have. The bible tells us that God has given us everything that we need to live and enjoy a Godly life.

Rejoicing in the Lord is simply celebrating what God has done for us and in us. Nothing is in shorter supply today than rejoicing. In our world today there seems to be a lot of stress and worry in the hearts and minds of God's people.

Many people are so stressed out when they come to church that they can't enjoy God's presence and power. While they may be at church physically their minds are somewhere else. They are worried about something at home, on the job, or any number of things.

They find it hard to be thankful during tough times. However, I am convinced that we can be thankful regardless of our circumstances. Thankfulness is a state of mind that I choose to have. It is a life style that I choose to live.

The Psalmist said this is the Day the Lord Has Made AND I WILL BE GLAD AND REJOICE IN IT. We can have a thankful mind and live a life of thanksgiving if we will do as God has instructed us to do in His word.

READ Philippians 4:6-7

In this very short passage we have the four keys to surviving stress. They're very simple to say, they're a lot more difficult to apply.

Step One: Worry about nothing

Step Two: Pray about everything

Step Three: Thank God in all things

Step Four: Think about the right things

1. Step One: Stop Worrying

V. 6 "Don't be anxious about anything. Do not fret or have any anxiety.' That's easier said than done. It's no sweat to say it but as soon as you're finished saying it, you start worrying about something. The word worry means to be pulled in different direction; to strangle or choke.

It's interesting to note that when Paul wrote this he was in prison. He was in prison in Rome in a dungeon and he's saying, "Don't worry about anything."

Facts about worry:

40% of your worries never happen. So there's 40% of them that you don't even have to worry about. So out of your list of ten worries, pick out four and throw them out because they don't count.

30% of your worries concern the past. Worry cannot change the past and worry cannot control the future. All worry does is mess up today.

So you can't control the past, and 40% aren't even going to happen so 70% of your worries are worthless.

12% of your worries are needless health concerns. Like the hypochondriac who had written on the tombstone, "I told you I was sick!"

10% of your worries are insignificant and petty issues.

Only 8% of your worries are actual, legitimate concerns.

Worrying doesn't change anything. It's stewing without doing.

The key to reducing stress in your life is live one day at a time. Don't worry about tomorrow. Just focus on today. Focus on today's issues and problems and let God take care of them. Worry about nothing. God is saying I will take care of you one day at a time.

Someone has said, "God has promised you grace for all your tomorrows, but He didn't promise tomorrows Grace for today."

2. STEP TWO: Start Praying

"In everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Some people say, "I don't have time to pray." If they use the time they spend worrying for praying then they would have the time to pray. If you and I prayed as much as we worried, we would have a whole lot less to worry about.

He says "in everything." Is God interested in your car payments? Yes. Is He interested in postnasal drip? Yes. Is God interested in your headache? Yes. He's interested in every detail of your life.

Phillips translation: "When you pray, tell God every detail [circle "every detail"] of your life." God is concerned about the big things and the small things. He knows every detail of your life.

The God who made every thumbprint unique,

who made every voice print unique,

who made every snowflake unique has no problem handing the details of your life.

There is nothing you cannot pray about. If it's worth worrying about, it's worth praying about. There is nothing insignificant to God. You can pray about anything and everything.

Most people pray too vague, they pray in such a general way. Things like, "God, bless me." What is a blessing? Can you define what a blessing is? Sometimes a problem is a blessing. Is that what you're praying? "God, give me a lot of problems."

1 Peter 5:7 says cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Circle "all". We have to learn to unload our problems instead of worrying. You've got to let it go, unload it.

James says, "You do not have because you do not ask God." Just ask God to help you with those worries, those problems, and those stresses.

Here's the insight: No problem is too big or too small to pray about.

Paul says if you want to relieve stress here's what you do: Worry about nothing and pray about everything. Simple, but it's something that you have to learn over and over.

3. THIRD STEP: Be Thankful

He says, "When you pray, pray with thanksgiving." Good News: "Always asking Him with a thankful heart." Whenever you pray, you should always pray with thanksgiving.

Being thankful makes you more resistant to stress and less susceptible to illness. It's the healthiest emotion. The attitude of gratitude is a healthy life style. People who are grateful are happy. But people who are ungrateful are miserable because nothing makes them happy.

They're never satisfied. It's never good enough. So if you cultivate the attitude of gratitude in being thankful in everything, it reduces stress in your life.

There used to be an old song, "Count Your Blessing, Name Them One By One." I think that's a good thing for you to do. Go make a list. I did yesterday. I sat down and made a list of things I was grateful for - my wife, my kids, they all know the Lord.

Be thankful in all things. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Circle the word "in". That's one of the most important words to keep you from misinterpreting this verse. It does not say "Give thanks for every circumstance."

In every circumstance, no matter how bad it is, you can give thanks to God because

1.) I know He has a purpose bigger than the problem and

2.) He will give me the power to overcome the problem, and

3.) I will grow through the experience if I allow it to help me grow.

In every circumstance give Thanks because I know God is greater than the problem. Stop looking at what is lost and start looking at what is left…

This week we're celebrating Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a life style we live, not just a day that we celebrate once a year. I worry about nothing. I pray about everything. I give thanks in all things.

4. STEP FOUR: Think Right

If you want to reduce the level of stress in your life, you must change the way you think.

Verse 8 says Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Whatever you think about is going to come out in your life. The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel determines the way you act, so he says if you want to change your life, you need to change what you're thinking about.

As a Veteran and VFW State Chaplain I see a lot of Veterans with PTSD. It’s real, but at the same time you can take two people; put them in the exact same circumstance? One of them is blown away and they fall apart, and they collapse emotionally. The other person handles it with no problem, unruffled feathers.

The problem is not the circumstance, it’s our response. It's how you're viewing it. It's your perspective on the circumstances. And that in the end is your choice, how you're choosing to look at the problems you're going through right now is the source of your stress. Your problem is not your problem. Your problem is how you have chosen to respond to your problem. You've got to think about it in the right way.

Proverbs 23:7 says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." What do you think about most? What dominates your mind? Whatever you think about the most is what you're becoming.

We always move toward what we're focusing on. If you want to become like Christ, you think about Him. Fill your mind with the Word of God.

What is the result of doing these things? Worry about nothing, pray about everything, thank God in all things, keep your mind on the right things. What's the result?

Verse 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

What a guarantee! He is guaranteeing peace of mind. Have you noticed that is what everybody seems to be looking for?

How do I get that kind of peace of mind that keeps my heart at peace when I'm under pressure? That keeps me calm in the crisis? That gives me strength in the storm? That helps me be thankful in the tough times? How do I get that kind of peace?

The key is the last phrase of that verse. "As you trust in Christ Jesus." It's a relationship.


The Bible teaches us that peace of mind comes through having a relationship with Jesus Christ, through putting your faith and trust in Him. If you haven't done that yet, I would encourage you to do so. Open your heart to Christ and say, "Jesus Christ, come in to my life and give me the peace of mind that comes when I know I'm in the center of Your will."

What is it that has you worried and on edge?

Is it your health?

Is it your finances?

Is it your relationships?

Is it Marriage problems?

Is it your kids?

Is it your career?

If you'll take these steps and let Christ guard your mind and let Him become the center of your life, you will find a peace you could not imagine.

Step One: Worry about nothing

Step Two: Pray about everything

Step Three: Thank God in all things

Step Four: Think about the right things


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