God often directly intervenes in the lives of His people when they begin to praise Him. Remember Paul and Silas in Philippi? We learn in Acts 16 that after casting a demon out of an abused young slave girl in Philippi they were “dragged … into the marketplace to face the authorities” and accused of “advocating customs unlawful for … Romans to accept or practice.” Paul and Silas were “stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison” where they were placed “in the inner cell” and the jailer “fastened their feet in the stocks.”
Imagine their circumstances! Bleeding and bruised from their beating, they sat in the dark, damp prison with its filth-encrusted floor and the rats scampering to and fro and even there in that place they began to give thanks, praying and singing God’s praises as the other prisoners listened. Their circumstances were grim; and yet still they expressed thanksgiving not only in their words but in their deeds! I’ve often wondered how many of those prisoners were hearing about God for the first time that night?
I’m sure God heard Paul and Silas as well, because around midnight there was an earthquake that caused the prison doors to fly open and the chains to fall from their feet. But sensing God was at work, Paul and Silas did not flee as they could have done. The jailer was about to kill himself, for when he saw the open doors he presumed the worst — that all his prisoners had fled — and he knew that the penalty for losing his prisoners would have been death. However, Paul’s voice called out from the darkness: “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” If you know the story, you know that the words and actions of Paul and Silas that night not only brought the Philippian jailer to faith in Christ, but his whole family as well! God had moved in a powerful way because His servants were faithful to lift up His name and give Him the praise He deserves.
Even when it seems God is not working and coming to our rescue as He did for Paul and Silas, we can give thanks. Saint Augustine, who lived in the fourth century, said that in those days whenever believers met each other they would never part without saying, “Deo gratias!” – a Latin phrase meaning “thanks be to God.”
Consider the fact that the discussions of believers in that era would often be about the persecutions which raged against them; and yet they finished their conversation with, “Deo gratias!” At times they had to tell of dear brothers and sisters devoured by the beasts in the amphitheater; but even then, they would conclude: “Thanks be to God!”
Frequently, they lamented the increase in false teaching; but even this did not make them rob the Lord of His praise. They were willing to “Give thanks always for all things” and so should we, for even when we cannot thank God for a situation … we can thank Him for all that He can accomplish through it!
Romans 8:35-37 declares: 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Whatever lies ahead for those of us who have put our faith in Jesus, we know our status as children of the Living God will not be shaken. Nothing can separate us from God’s love and we shall be “more than conquerors through him who loved us” in the end. God is always at work in our lives, whether we see His hand or not. And may we always be found praising and thanking Him as we wait for Him to accomplish His purposes.
May God bless you!