What to Do When the News is Bad

What to Do When the News is Bad

There has been a lot of bad news in the media recently. The tendency for us is to feel anxiety, stress, anger, and fear.  Thanksgiving is certainly not on our natural mind. That is one reason why we need this holiday. It doesn’t commemorate a battle or anyone’s birthday or anniversary. It is simply a day set aside to express our thanks to God. It is also a day that God reminds us of His will for us. We are to live every day, regardless of the news, like Thanksgiving Day.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

Notice that it doesn’t say, "Give thanks FOR all circumstances," but rather, "give thanks IN all circumstances." No matter how terrible some of the circumstances of life may be, it is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus to be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks to God. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, we can do it and that will glorify Jesus Christ.

A thankful spirit in “all” circumstances is one of the key distinguishing marks of a Christian. It sets us apart from the world. It makes us different. The world takes notice of our difference, our thankfulness, and peace, and that attitude glorifies Jesus Christ in a world of bad news.

We need the Holy Spirit at all times, because even when the news is not bad, our flesh has difficulty being thankful. We live in an entitlement culture. We have so much wealth as a society that we tend to take for granted things like food, clothing, shelter, and health care. We believe these things are not just something good or desirable, but something we deserve. The majority today believes these things are something our government should provide and not something God provides through work that He gives us to do. Their excuse, for failing to work and fulfilling God’s purpose for their life, is to claim an underprivileged status.

But has it ever occurred to you that no Americans were more underprivileged than that small handful of Pilgrims from the Mayflower who started the custom of setting aside a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God 400 years ago? Fifty-three of the 102 that landed died the first year from pneumonia. They had no homes and no government agency to help them build homes. They had no means of transportation but their legs. Their only food came from the sea and the forest, and they had to get it for themselves. They had no money and no place to spend it if they’d had any. They had no amusements except what they made for themselves, no means of communication with their relatives in England, no food stamps, no social security, nor Medicare. They were just thankful to God to be alive.

However, they did have four characteristics that we find lacking in many people today: initiative, courage, a willingness to work, and a boundless faith in God. Today, there are powerful forces acting to strip us of every reminder that our nation was founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the desire to worship and live for Him.

Most people today consider a color television and a cell phone to be necessities rather than luxuries. What we consider to be ‘poverty’ today is far above the quality of life that most people enjoyed fifty years ago. From a material point of view, we’re better off now than we’ve ever been, and this inevitably affects our attitudes. We don’t see all these things as blessings, as gifts to us from a loving and gracious heavenly Father. Even though most people in the world see us as incredibly wealthy, we tend to view all of this abundance and prosperity as simply our birthright. And if, for some reason, we are temporarily deprived of the standard of living we expect, we feel we are being denied what is rightfully ours.

The danger of living in prosperity, especially for those who are seeking to follow Christ, is that prosperity dulls our sense of gratitude and thankfulness toward God. Because paradoxically, the more we have, the less we seem to appreciate it. This attitude of a “spoiled child” is one of the evils of our society.

In the same way, many people come to God today because they want something from Him. Maybe they want money. Maybe they want to be healed of some disease. Maybe they want to be delivered from some addiction. Maybe they need help with depression, anger, or some sin in their life. Maybe they just want to be around a group of loving people, to be a part of a church. There is nothing wrong with coming to God for what we need, but when they get the blessing, they’re satisfied. That’s all they want from God. They get it, and that’s the end of it. They don’t really want Christ. They don’t want Him to be Lord over their lives. They don’t spend time with Him in prayer, worship, or reading His Word. They just want what He can do for them.

Does that describe you? I hope not. But if there’s no gratitude, no thankfulness, no love toward Jesus for all He’s done for you, if there’s no desire to know Christ, then you need to examine your heart. Because the whole purpose for God’s blessings is to draw us to Himself. If we’re missing Him, we’re missing everything.

Ask yourself these questions and give an honest answer.
* Which do you tend to talk about more – your blessings, or your disappointments?
* Are you a complainer, always grumbling, always finding fault with your circumstances?
* Are you content with what you have, or are you always dissatisfied and wanting more?
* Do you express thanks to others when they help you, or do you just take it as your due?
* Would others say that you are a thankful person?

A Christian does not pretend that everything’s “fine”, but what we focus upon matters. Our focus should be on God’s goodness toward us in Christ, not on the bad news of the day.

Col 3:15-17 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Thankfulness should be a constant attitude of the heart. No matter what we are doing, no matter what’s going on in our life, no matter what our circumstances, no matter how bad the news gets, we should be thankful. If we are honest, we will admit it is not the way we always act. When things are going well, we’re thankful. When things are going badly, we worry, we complain, we grumble, and we moan about how badly life is treating us. When we do those things, we are not in God’s will. We need to repent. Therefore,

* Whether we are eating dinner at a nice restaurant or cleaning the toilet, give thanks.
* Whether we get a promotion and a raise, or a pink slip and shown the door, be thankful.
* Whether we are strong and healthy and full of life, or sick and diseased, be grateful.
* Whether our marriage is satisfying, or whether it’s a painful struggle, give thanks.

In every situation, regardless of bad news, we are to have an attitude of thankfulness toward God. How can we do it? First, recognize that although not everything is good in itself, God can and will use everything in our lives for our ultimate blessing. Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

God has a good, wise, and loving purpose for everything He allows into our lives, even pain and suffering. We can give thanks in the knowledge that He loves us and will never permit us any pain unless the ultimate benefit is worth the cost. That doesn’t mean we always understand His ways. We may have no idea how anything could be worth the pain we are suffering. But God’s Word tells us that it will be worth it. And when Christ returns, we’ll see and understand that even our greatest suffering was worth it, because it brought us closer to God.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Secondly, we can be thankful in all circumstances if we are full of the Holy Spirit. Then thanksgiving and praise will be our natural response, for one of the evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is we become people who exhibit thankfulness for the gifts and blessings we’ve received. This attitude of gratitude has a powerful effect on others around us.

Thankfulness is more than just a sermon, a prayer, or even a feeling—it’s a way of life! Psalm 9 points out three ways that a life of thanksgiving expresses itself every day. First, thanksgiving is a powerful way of witnessing about God’s goodness.

Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

When we are under pressure, facing problems, persecuted, and still thanking God, we are a powerful witness to God’s grace and Spirit in our lives. Never has a grumbling, complaining “Christian” ever lead anyone to Christ. No, but the persecuted, praising, thankful first century Church turned the world upside down!

If we are truly grateful, then we will want to tell of all His wonderful deeds. That’s where evangelism finds its beginning. Someone once said, “I’m just a nobody, telling everybody, about Somebody, who can save anybody”. That’s a powerful attitude of gratitude.

It is powerful because gratitude seems to be a lost virtue in our society today. Grateful people are astonishing, attractive, and refreshing in this selfish world. They stand out amid a crooked and depraved society.

Phil 2:14-15 Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.

Secondly, when we give the credit and thanksgiving to God, we direct others to the source of our blessings and gratitude—the Most High God!

Psalm 9:2, “I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High”

David, the author of this psalm, not only expressed his thankfulness by telling others about the wonderful things God had done, he also spoke to God about them—singing and praising His name. David worshiped God out of thankfulness. This should be our lifestyle, too.

Ephesians 5:19-20 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting in a pew, or behind the wheel of your car, or around the family table, having a tune of worship in your head and song on your lips is a wonderful way to live. Worship will result in God’s peace and joy. That affects others around you.

The third way that Psalm 9 describes a thankful lifestyle is waiting—waiting patiently every day—to be more specific. We wait patiently on the Lord when we are thankful and trust Him.

Psalm 9:9-10The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you”.

Whenever we become anxious, troubled, or stressed about life, it demonstrates a lack of trust and thankfulness toward God. It’s like we forget about everything God has done for us in the past, because we can’t see beyond the bad news here and now. We worry. We complain. We forget how God provided for us the last time we got bad news. We forget He is present with us as the Holy Spirit. We also forget this “desert” we live in is not our Promised Land. We forget Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. We forget that although we die, yet shall we live forever with the Lord.

We must remind each other of our blessings and to be thankful. That is why we celebrate Communion each week, to remind us of how much God loves us and that He saved us through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We are reminded that we have covenant with Almighty God. He abides with us! We are the temple of His Holy Spirit! We are the Bride of Christ! We are God’s children and co-heirs with Jesus Christ! Since we have much to be thankful for, we should remind one another to express our gratitude with our words and our life!

Have you counted your blessings lately? Is eternal life, the forgiveness of our sins, and deliverance from an awful place, called Hell, among them? The blood that Jesus shed, the Holy Spirit, and the eternal life He gives, are the greatest gifts ever given. God has offered them to you. Have you accepted them? If so, be thankful. Let us say together, "Thank you, Lord!"