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Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has come and gone and many are still thinking about all the food and family that comes with the season of Thanksgiving. As my family and I all gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving, I was reminded of how Scripture tells us to give thanks, not only are we to give thanks, but we are to give thanks in all circumstances. What does it look like to give thanks in all circumstances?

“Rejoice always, Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

What is Thanksgiving or Gratitude?

Gratitude is a “natural expression of thanks in response to blessings, protection, or love. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, gratitude is not a tool used to manipulate the will of God. It is never coerced or fabricated in one’s mind; rather, gratitude is a joyful commitment of one’s personality to God. In the OT, gratitude to God was the only condition in which life could be enjoyed. For Jews, every aspect of creation provided evidence of God’s lordship over all life…When they received good news they thanked God for his goodness and great deeds (1 Chr 16:8–12). When they received bad news, they also gave thanks, trusting that he was a just God (Jb 1:21).[1]

When I think of thanksgiving I also think of contentment. As believers, we have peace and rest that unbelievers do not have, and with that, we have reason to give thanks in all things. Giving thanks doesn’t mean being happy all the time. We live in a fallen world where there is pain and heartache present all around us, but despite all the suffering believers know the one who is in control and we have His promises to cling to. As an old hymn says, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.”

The Context of First Thessalonians

Paul is writing to encourage believers at Thessalonica to grow in their walk with the Lord, even during trials. He points them forward to the hope that believers have in Christ coming again and this is evident throughout Paul`s letter. He tells the Thessalonians to walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord in light of Christ`s return. Both those who died in Christ and those who are alive will all meet the Lord in the air at the time of the Rapture. The reality of the coming rapture of the Church was meant to be a comfort to believers then and it is meant to be a comfort to believers now. We should praise God and thank Him for the hope that He has given us.

Giving Thanks in All Circumstances?

I think giving thanks in all things means that, no matter what happens, you thank God for who He is and what He has done, trusting that He is sovereign. In the end, no matter what happens, He will make everything new and right again. Part of the hope that we have as believers is that life is not always going to be hard and painful. We can look forward to spending eternity with Christ. When we begin to put our focus on the return of Christ, our priorities change. When you focus on Christ, you begin to see what really matters in life. We have reason to thank God always for His goodness and kindness towards us because we don’t deserve anything that He has given. The only reason we have eternal life is purely that God is good, not because we are good.

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” -II Peter 1:19

We live in the world, but we are not of the world because Scripture tells us that our citizenship is in heaven. So while believers are still on this earth, we are called to be salt and light in a dark world. Light exposes and salt stings, so we are bound to experience opposition, but we know the one in whom we have put our trust. He will carry us through until the end. It is for this that we have every reason to thank Him in all things knowing that we can trust God`s Word over our feelings.

Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…”

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[1] Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. “Gratitude.” Baker encyclopedia of the Bible 1988 : 900. Print.