Give Thanks to Conquer the Devil
I give God thanks that Jesus introduced Himself to us one day. Then we learned of the incredible miracle He can perform in a person’s life. At first, maybe for some of us, we could not imagine ourselves any different than we were. But as we continued to understand more and more about Jesus and His abilities, a spark of hope rose up from within us. So instead of denying the possibility, we began to ask questions like: Do you think it would work for me? Would Jesus save me? Can I really be changed? Could I really have true happiness, joy, peace, and contentment in my life?
Then thank God one day, we see Him for what He is – who He is. The almighty Prince of Peace, who makes all things possible, and because we want so badly to be different, to think different, to know we are loved, to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves, to behave in a way that inspires others we make a decision to follow Him. In an instance, Jesus changes our hearts, and suddenly we live another way. It’s different than before. Now we are living a life of joy and walking in holiness. We’re doing acts of kindness, helping others, fulfilling God’s purpose for us. But most importantly, we do this not out of obligation; we enjoy every bit because it comes from within our hearts.
Soon we discover we are also in a battle, and we learn that we have an enemy waring against our souls. Some call this enemy the devil, but he has other names. He is also called the Father of Lies – Satan. He is an enemy we can’t see, but we know he is there. Not because we see him. Satan doesn’t walk around on two legs and feet like we do. He is a spirit, and he attacks the minds of good people who want to serve God. He’ll take away joy. He’ll make us unkind. He’ll cause us to turn away when someone needs help. He overwhelms us with temptations. He will cause us to feel bad feelings, like fear, failure, and hopelessness. He may cause us to fall into despair, and if we don’t stop him, we will retreat into ourselves or go back to our old ways.
So how do we fight the enemy and stop him from robbing us of our joy, peace, and contentment? We need to know the answer because we want to keep those precious ways of being that God gave us.
So, let’s think together for a moment. When we hear the word fight, what comes to our mind? If you’re like me, you might imagine people clenching their fists and hitting each other with their hands.
Although we use the word fight, we must understand in this battle, to win against the enemy we can’t see, we need to do the exact opposite of what “fight” means. To win a spiritual battle, we must put our fists and sharp tongues away and learn to access the power of the Prince of Peace. Then God will fight the battle for us. And God winning for us doesn’t mean that you will win the argument or eventually get your way in something or that someone will finally get what they deserve. It means that the strife within you will disappear. The feeling of sorrow for ourselves turns to joy. The envy the enemy tries to trap you with becomes contentment, and our hearts will make room for love. Upsetting feelings at times can overwhelm us because the enemy produces thoughts in our minds that create them. Before we continue, allow me to say here that sometimes we do experience sorrow for good reasons – this is true. So we need to grieve, but God can help us heal, so we don’t have to live there, and our grief doesn’t need to become despair.
“To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
The scripture teaches that God promises us the oil of joy going through difficult things. There are many different ways to defeat the enemy, but I will share one today. We will learn more in future lessons. First, let’s see how Jesus felt about us fighting with our hands. This account took place when those who opposed Jesus came to take Christ away, and Peter decided to pull his sword.
“52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
As we read, we can understand that Jesus was not in favor of fistfighting or sword fighting. He told Peter to put away his sword. Jesus is not in favor of us fighting with each other or anyone else either.
“12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
The Apostle Paul said the same thing a little differently. He tells us that as God’s people, we don’t do the flesh and blood kind of fight. The enemy of our soul is waring against us in the heavenly places of our hearts. We aren’t fighting each other; we are wrestling with spirits. Remember, the Father of Lies is a spirit, and he attacks our soul through our minds. So when we find ourselves in conflict with someone, the enemy lies and says your fight is with that person. That is just not true! The devil is a liar, and he works on us all. He is under the surface stirring up bad thoughts and feelings, so we each think we are enemies with one another – see how tricky the devil is? So how do we access Jesus the Prince of Peace when we feel terrible about ourselves or someone else? How do we find Jesus when we feel upset about how our life is going? I’ll tell you a secret that you already know. The secret is to practice joy! And we can achieve joy by being thankful.
“18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
So you see, young people, the scripture teaches us that it is God’s will for us to be thankful. But how does being thankful help us defeat the enemy? Let’s think for a moment. A thankful and joyful heart is not an angry, sad, or mean heart. A thankful heart is grateful and doesn’t feel like it wants to hurt anyone. In fact, a thankful heart will manifest the characteristics of God. The Bible calls these characteristics the fruit of the spirit.
22 But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
And when we produce the fruits of the spirit from our heart, we know we are walking in the spirit of God.
Some people think they don’t have anything to be thankful for, but I say to you everyone can be thankful for something. I know some people have suffered terrible things in life. But young people, the truth is most people have or someday will. So when the thoughts in your mind tell you no one has my situation or no one cares. That’s the enemy’s voice, and the enemy’s voice will make you feel hurt on the inside.
But the truth is God intends for you to be the best version of yourself that you can be. He wants you to reach your full potential so you can help others someday. Without the bad, how can we inspire or encourage others? Without suffering, what hope do we offer someone suffering in sadness if we can not share the hardships we encountered and feel thankful in our hearts? And I do not mean to make less of your suffering, but instead, I want to help you understand how every piece of your life story is important. We can work through and overcome the bad feelings of sad times by being thankful.
Exercise – Practicing Thankfulness to Create Joy.
Have students sit in a circle, and each take turns sharing something they are thankful for. You can also have students create a list of what they feel grateful about. Soon participants will begin to feel joy because they spoke of those things that make them thankful. Continue to the remainder of the lesson below.
Let’s practice being thankful to create Joy. I want you to think of something you are grateful for that makes your heart happy or peaceful. It could be anything. I’ll go first; I am thankful for my blanket. Sister Janet, what are you thankful for? I am thankful for my cow! Now let’s choose a young person to share something they are thankful for. My daughter said she is thankful for her drawings! We could talk to everyone listening today, and I know everyone would be eager to share something that makes them feel thankful. When you feel bad and upset about your situation, or sad inside, did you know if you continue giving thanks like saying, I am thankful for the blue sky, I am grateful for last night’s dinner, I am thankful for the trees in my village, at some point, you will feel joy in your heart? Peace will follow, and in that moment, you can say from your soul — thank you, God, for giving me life here in this world. Thank you for people to love and hope for the future. This transition in our feelings happens because giving thanks produces a joyful heart, and joy is one of the characteristics of God. Did you know that the Bible teaches us that being thankful is part of our holiness?
“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,”
Are you struggling with disobedience and hard to get along with? Practicing joy by being thankful will help you.
In closing, if you need salvation, now is a good time to give your heart to God, and you can begin a joyful life of thanksgiving. If the enemy is causing trouble in your spirit and this trouble is affecting your joy, you might need a fresh start, and that’s ok. Find a place to pray or ask someone to pray with you. It is never, ever too late to begin giving thanks.