THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ULTIMATELY BEING A MATTER OF GIVING THANKS IN EVERYTHING
Apparently, we cannot find the truth of giving thanks in everything throughout the whole Bible. Actually, the Bible, which is a book of mysteries, contains an untold measure of light beneath the surface. Among the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, only three—1 Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians—mention the matter of giving thanks in everything. All three of these books were written by the apostle Paul, and their contents show a sequence that is mysterious and wonderful.
The first of these books, 1 Thessalonians, speaks of how we can be saved and how we should have a holy life so that our spirit, soul, and body may be wholly sanctified, making us ready to meet the Lord at His coming. This concerns a proper, general Christian life. The second book is Colossians, which concerns Christ and which eventually speaks about experiencing Christ. The life of experiencing Christ is a life of giving thanks in everything. Not only is the proper, general Christian life a life of giving thanks in everything, but also the life of experiencing Christ is ultimately a matter of giving thanks for all things. The third book, Ephesians, which is a sister book to Colossians, concerns the church, and at the end it speaks about the experience of the church. We can have the church life only by living in the spirit. Likewise, such a church life is a matter of giving thanks in all things.
Hence, we can see clearly that whether it is the proper Christian life, the life of experiencing Christ, or the church life, each concludes with giving thanks in all things. Our Christian life is of three stages: the general Christian life; the life of experiencing Christ, abiding in Christ, and living Christ; and the church life, the life of experiencing the Body. Every stage of our Christian life involves the giving of thanks in everything. Our Christian life becomes deformed whenever it is separated from the matter of giving thanks in all things.
The first ten years after I was saved was a life in 1 Thessalonians. As a saved one, I desired to learn to be sanctified in everything and to preserve myself daily from uncleanness that my spirit, soul, and body might be preserved and I could be ready to meet the Lord. This was the initial stage of my Christian life. As I gradually progressed, I began to study the Bible and some of the books concerning the inner life; thus, I gained more knowledge concerning Christ. I began to know Christ as my life. I also began to realize that the life which God wants us to live is not merely a life of holiness that is without uncleanness but a life of being filled with and saturated by Christ. Unless I live a life of being filled with and saturated by Christ, my living is not much different from the living based on the moral teachings of the Chinese philosophers. These philosophers taught people to develop their “bright virtue” and to be blameless and pure, yet they did not have Christ in them. We, however, have Christ in us. Hence, Christ should be our all, and our living must be Christ. This is the second stage of the Christian life.
After experiencing Christ in a deeper way, I began to realize that the life of experiencing Christ is not for me individually but for His church and for the testimony of the church. We have all received Christ by grace, and the result is that we are the church. Hence, eventually we need to live in the church, to have the church life. This is the deepest stage of the Christian life. All these three stages of life conclude with the matter of giving thanks in everything. Without giving thanks in all things, we cannot live the proper Christian life.
PRAYER AND THANKSGIVING BEING A CHRISTIAN’S SPIRITUAL FEET
Prayer and thanksgiving are like our two feet; one foot cannot walk without the other. Prayer without thanksgiving will not work; thanksgiving without prayer also will not work. Hence, we must not only pray but also give thanks, and we must give thanks with prayer. We must do both simultaneously. It does not matter which comes first. As long as you have both, you can conveniently walk on the pathway of your Christian life. Likewise, when we take care of and nourish the new ones, we should teach them not only to pray but also to give thanks.
As you walk on the spiritual pathway, do not ask whether you should start with your right foot or with your left. Actually, to this day I still do not know which foot goes first when I walk. If you pay your attention to trying to decide which foot should go first, you will probably have difficulty in walking. Therefore, in our Christian life we should pray and give thanks, and we should give thanks and pray; we should always walk this way. Perhaps before you go to bed, you pray first and then give thanks, but in the morning when you get up, you give thanks first and then pray. Prayer and thanksgiving are the Christians’ spiritual feet. If one foot is missing, walking becomes extremely difficult; if both feet are missing, walking becomes impossible. If Christians do not pray and give thanks, they cannot have a proper Christian life.
(Abiding in the Lord to Enjoy His Life, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)