“…give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Let’s face it; it’s easier to give thanks in certain circumstances than others. But God’s Word says we are to give thanks in all of them. What Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 has a tendency to strike us the same way as when James writes, “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). The call to obey is clear, but obedience to that call is much easier said than done. In fact, without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible. Last week, as part of our thanksgiving service at church, I had the opportunity to hear several people share testimonies of their thankfulness for God’s work in their lives. The first testimony was very easy to listen to; the last two, not so much so as they were from families dealing with difficult and uncertain circumstances related to illness. But in spite of that, they testified that although they may not know what today holds, they are certain as to what the future does. They testified to the faithfulness of God. I left the service realizing the problems that I do have aren’t really problems at all. I also left encouraged that it’s God who authors our circumstances and whether those circumstances have us on a mountaintop or in the valley, He is always there.
“…give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) When we encounter passages such as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and James 1:2, it’s tempting to apply our own meanings or to put boundaries around the passage. Paul’s teaching to those in the church at Thessalonica was not that they were to give thanks for everything that happens, but to be thankful that God is working to bring good out of whatever does (Romans 8:28). It’s the same with us. As a child of God, this life is about preparation for the next, living with an eye on eternity, being made more like Christ, realizing that whatever happens here cannot compare to the promise of heaven, “the glory that is to be revealed” (Romans 8:18). I believe those who suffer realize this more fully. I believe this was the testimony of these families. And I know that it’s all made possible because of God. God doesn’t put boundaries around these passages because they have to be understood in light of who He is. Understanding that will help us to give thanks in all circumstances, even the difficult ones. When you give thanks during this thanksgiving season, remember how much you have to be thankful for: your health, your family, your friends, your church, your job and much more. But more than anything be thankful for what God has done for you in Christ, and for the glorious promise of what is yet to come.
Lord, your Word tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, not just the good ones. It also tells us to rejoice always and to pray continually. Lord this is difficult when we suffer, so we ask for your Holy Spirit to help us. God, all your purposes are good and we know that this world is not our home. Let our knowing what awaits us be an encouragement for today. But until that time, in good times and bad, help us to be thankful in all things, knowing that you are making us more like your Son and enabling us to live for your glory. Amen!