in everything give thanks ~1 Thessalonians 5:18
In closing his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul gives several instructions on how they are to live their lives. One of these is to in everything give thanks. As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, let's examine what these few words communicate to us.
In Greek, the verb, give thanks, is in the imperative mood which indicates that it is a command. This means that giving thanks is not an option for the Christian but mandatory. Paul is not saying that we SHOULD give thanks or that it WOULD BE WISE to give thanks. We MUST give thanks. The giving of thanks to God is required of us. In fact, a Christian should be characterized by their thankfulness to God. In Ephesians 5:4, after Paul gives a list of things that are not fitting for the Christian (immorality or any impurity or greed, filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting), he tells us that what should be expected and practiced is the giving of thanks. Failure to obey this command to give thanks to God serves as a sign of unbelief. The pagan Gentiles who denied and rejected the visible evidence of God are described not to honor God as God or give thanks (Romans 1:21). Christians must give thanks to God.
Give Thanks Continually
This verb also is in the present tense. This communicates the command to be continual. We are to continually give thanks. We must always be expressing our thanks to God. We should take a moment before enjoying our meals to thank God for the food itself as we witnessed Jesus (Matthew 15:36; 26:27; Mark 8:6; 14:23; Luke 22:17, 19; John 6:11, 23) and Paul (Acts 27:35) consistently do. Thanksgiving should be a regular part of our prayers. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6). Every one of our numerous prayers we lift up each day should be given with thanksgiving.
This means that we should have an "attitude of gratitude." We should not just express our thanks to God on the fourth Thursday of November. It should not be for only one month. I am noticing many on Facebook posting something that they are thankful for each day. I wonder how many of those take as much time to reflect on God's many blessings every other month of the year. We must give thanks 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. Actually, with every breath that we inhale and exhale. After all, each breath itself is a gift from God that we do not deserve and thus is something to be thankful for.
Give Thanks In Everything
We are told to give thanks in everything. This everything includes "the good, the bad, and the ugly" that we experience in our lives. Our highest highs and our lowest lows. Our greatest joys and our deepest disappointments. When we are "on the mountaintop" or "down in the valley." We are called to give thanks regardless of the circumstance or situation.
Now it is easy to give thanks when things are going and for those things we deem as good in our lives. We sing loudly the hymn to "count your many blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings, see what God has done" and think fondly of our family, our friends, and the luxuries we enjoy. (The kind of things people have been posting on Facebook the past few weeks.) But I have yet to see someone post that they were thankful for how God intends to use the suffering that they currently are experiencing or the pain that haunts them. Or what God has taught them through such trials. Yet everything would include our suffering and pain. Because God is in control of all things and has a plan in all that He ordains to occur, we can give thanks during even our toughest trials and tribulations. The Psalmist was grateful to God for the afflictions He brought upon him because it helped him learn to be more obedient to God's word. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word (Psalm 119:67). It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes (Psalm 119:71). Paul praised God in the midst of a painful "thorn in the flesh" that it glorified God's strength in His weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). (Keep in mind this was after petitioning God three times to take it away.) In fact, much of Paul's praises and thanksgivings to God were given while in pain, agony, and strife. Just read a partial list of the apostle's burdens in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Many of the thanksgivings he shares in some of his letters came while sitting in prison with much pain. James exhorts us to consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). We should thank God in the midst of our trials and pain that He has a greater purpose in them to strengthen our faith so that we continue in Him unto the end. That He uses the severing of earthly pleasures and conveniences to remind us that Christ is greater and this earth can never be called our ultimate home.
This in everything means that we are to give thanks when the world feels like it is spiraling out of control and crushing us. We are to give thanks when our plans fail, being reminded that God's plan is greater. We are to give thanks when God does not give us what we thought we needed, remembering that God knows better what is best for us. We are to give thanks in the most excruciating pain, knowing that God has a purpose in that pain that we just can't see with our limited vision.
Let us, with the grace that God gives us, in everything give thanks.
Soli Deo Gloria!