This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 372 – August 14, 2004.  

 This weeks  was written by AWR's  English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

Give thanks in everything?

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The policeman waved our car to a halt at the side of the road.  “There’s no way you can go on beyond here.  The woodland up ahead is on fire.”  And sure enough, it was.  We could see a plume of smoke rising up into the otherwise blue Portuguese sky.  Not a massive pall of smoke as in other parts of the country – and thankfully, within an hour or so it had been put out.  Down in the south a forest fire had been raging for a week, fire-fighters with helicopters and tankers working hard to try and save peoples homes.   

It was the main news story every night.  A full ten minutes coverage of fires blazing across various parts of an overheated country, stirred up by strong southerly winds from the Sahara .  Fires, some of which were deliberately started – one by a 65 year old man who said he just “enjoyed seeing all the blue flashing lights of the emergency vehicles and the sounds of their sirens”.  I doubt he’ll get so much of that inside a prison cell.  

It’s always interesting to see news from somebody else’s perspective – and although my Portuguese is not very good, I watched the news and skimmed through the newspaper.  There was much in my first week there on the great successes of Lance Armstrong in the “Tour de France”.  Each night on the news I would see him in the yellow leaders’ shirt.  My legs would ache in sympathy as he rode up those mountain passes.  What an achievement to win six times in a row!  Of course, that was probably a story seen on most news channels around the world.  What would not be seen was the following weeks “Tour de Portugal” doing a similar bike ride with great enthusiasm in the heat of the Portuguese summer.  That is, maybe, alright on the costal sections.  But once you are inland it is HOT.  Cycling up the Sierra de Estrella mountains the temperature was in the mid 40’s – yet all over Portugal I discovered that road biking is becoming very popular – and on the weekends groups are out cycling in the kind of heat that makes me head for a beach, some shade, and some cool ocean.  

Yet while fire and heat were obsessing the Portuguese Press I changed to the international news channels and found that the obsession with the weather is far more than a British eccentricity.  I found the stories world-wide.  Drought in Africa .  Flooding in Bangladesh .  Tales of woe.   

We have to talk about weather  in England because it changes so often – sometimes four different seasons just in one day – so the British press were making comparisons with the hottest day on record – recorded this time last year – with the torrential downpours last week that closed London ’s Heathrow airport and caused flooding in West London .  Watching that on the news I feared for the state of my back garden when I got home.  

And that is one of the things that the news does for you – at least, if you are not careful.  It makes you fearful.  My local mid-week newspaper pointed out that crime is down where I live – but that people are nevertheless more fearful to go out on the streets by themselves.  Airline travel is safer then ever before but we feel more nervous.  And the government and media between them seem to do a good job in building our fear and consciousness of terrorism, and then assuring us that they are doing their best to protect us.   

Which makes me wonder how I should react to all this.  The apostle Paul wrote “give thanks in everything” (1 Thess 5:18) -- which is a bit of a challenge – especially considering he wrote those words in prison.  How do I do that?  

I came across the answer in the morning devotional booklet I was reading the other day.  It quoted the famous Biblical Scholar Matthew Henry.  He’s most famous for his Bible commentary – but more than 250 years ago he was robbed of all the money he had in the world.  And what did he write in his diary?  

First, let me be thankful because I was never robbed before. Second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life.  Third, that although they took my all, it was not much.  Forth, because it was I who was robbed, not I that did the robbing”  

That is an attitude of thankfulness.  Not living in fear, but living in hope – and for Paul, he really could give thanks because in the same passage he could write about the God of peace who keeps us safe in his care until the end (vs 23).  Something indeed I can give thanks for.

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