Give thanks in everything

This weekend we celebrate our gratitude to God for His goodness to us this year at our Thanksgiving Dinner on Saturday and in the Thanksgiving Service on Sunday. I trust that you will join in celebrating the goodness of God.

In the concluding instructions of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he encourages his readers to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). In the immediate context, he had exhorted them to rejoice always (verse 16) and to pray without ceasing (verse 17). These are recognizable characteristics of a person who is encouraged and growing in his or her faith. The first two are easy enough to understand; being joyful and prayerful are not complex ideas. Now Paul says that the Thessalonian believers should give thanks in everything which brings a unique challenge.

It is worth noting that Paul doesn’t tell them to give thanks for everything. The preposition used in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is best translated by the English preposition in. Paul is not telling them they must be thankful for the difficulties they encountered, instead, he is challenging them to be thankful in any circumstance. Paul recognized that the secret of contentment is not found in circumstances. Rather, there is contentment in recognizing it is Christ who strengthens us for whatever we might face (Philippians 4:11–13).

In God’s providence He allows things in our lives to help us grow to be more like Christ. The fact is that God’s primary purpose for us is to become more like Christ in our character and priorities. If God works all things together for the good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28) and that good is that we would be more like Christ (verse 29), then we can expect that He even uses hardships in our lives to help shape us to be more like Him. Because He works for that purpose in our lives, we can be filled with gratitude, knowing that there is purpose even in the difficulties we cannot understand.

This Sunday we will consider 1 Thessalonians 5:18 regarding the directive God gives us but also the dynamic that is our motivation and resource for giving thanks in everything.

Your friend and pastor,

Bruce

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