Thanks for Nothing!

Boy, was I mad on Sunday! I happened to catch the last part of a sermon on TV. The preacher was a well-known televangelist. The sermon had been on dealing with tough economic times. I was in shock and utter disbelief as he butchered scripture and took verses out of context as he said, in a nutshell, that if we are right with God he will bless up financially, beyond what we could imagine. He also alluded that if we did not take the right steps in our faith, we were potentially destined for poverty and hardship.

Following the close of the sermon, the camera switched to an intimate wrap-up moment with the pastor in his well appointed, cozy study. He recapped a few points of the sermon and then…wait for it…compassionately offered his $40 DVD series on how to attain wealth through faith in God. He made a plea to those who were struggling financially, having to live paycheck to paycheck, in danger of losing their home. He urged them to spend the $40 for his DVD set and fear no more. Rather, with just this small investment, though it may seem like a lot at the time, they can learn the truths of Scripture and soon begin rejoicing in their new faith and new wealth.

At this point I was actually yelling insults at the man. I was incredulous. This minister was targeting those who were already strapped for cash and urging them to send him $40 for a quick fix. What an outrage! I can only wonder how many thousands of $40 checks came pouring in from needy families. How many spent their last pennies on his attractive promise of hope and wealth?

I don’t think that’s how God operates. I think that rather than bail us out every time we seem uncomfortable, God often uses tough times to help us grow in character, faith, and even in our relationships with others. Sometimes God simply wants us to be able to be thankful in the hard times as well as the easy times. There are times in everyone’s life when we simply have to say thanks…for nothing. No quick fix. No astonishing miracle. Simply thankful for the fact that God is God, and that he is in control. Thank you that God cares enough to give us opportunities to grow in faith, love and character. Thank you that He considers us worthy and capable of handling trials in our life.

As I look back over my own life, I have been through the fire in many areas. In several situations in my life I have cried out to God in pain, in confusion, in helplessness.  Never was there an immediate flash of light and a miraculous solution to my problems. Always, there has been growth through the pain as I simply trusted and pressed on. I can honestly say that the trials in my life have made me a better man, better father, better husband, better friend. I am more humble, more compassionate, more sensitive to others, stronger in my faith, wiser, and love life more fully because of the trials I’ve faced. 

Relationships with friends have become deeper as we shared pain together. My relationship with my wife has reached a new level of intimacy each time we have pushed through seemingly insurmountable hardships together. Ultimately, my relationship with God is stronger each time I come through the other side of the firestorm.

God allows hardship because he loves us. God knows the value in facing giants and standing our ground. So, we can foolishly send our $40 to the slimy man in the fancy suit sitting by his fake fireplace in an effort to medicate the pain. OR, we can thank God for caring about us enough, and desiring a deeper relationship with us enough, to bless us with nothing from time to time.

Saying thanks for nothing. It’s a powerful thing.