“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thess. 5:18)
It seems each year as we arrive in late November approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, I am convicted of how much I have taken for granted and not given appropriate thanksgiving for God’s blessings in my life. Rather than an annual, once-a-year remembrance of God’s blessings and thanksgiving, the Lord commands his people to give thanks “always” (Eph. 3:20). Furthermore, God’s will for us is to give thanks “in every thing.” (1 Thess. 5:18) We certainly do not give thanks “for” everything in our lives. We don’t thank God “for” sin, temptations, sickness, death, the devil, and the evil of this world. However, in spite of any circumstance we encounter in this life, we can still give thanks to God “in” the midst of any trial.
Even if we are going through trials of medical illness, loss of a loved one, unemployment, or any multitude of deep spiritual valleys we inevitably encounter in this world, we can still give thanks to God “in” the midst of that difficult season of life. Similar to joy, we are commanded to rejoice in the Lord “always”, and again I say rejoice (Phil. 4:4). We certainly do not rejoice “for” every trial in our lives, but we can rejoice “in” every circumstance. We can rejoice always in every thing, and it is God’s will for us to give thanks “in every thing” as well.
It is a common phrase that can be used in a trite way, but we should have an “attitude of gratitude” of thanksgiving for God’s blessings in our lives. It is very easy for us to get busy and not be purposeful in giving thanks to God. If we maintain a sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude for too long, it will inevitably breed sin and straying from the Lord. That is why being “unthankful” is actually a characteristic of the fallen, wicked world apart from God (Rom. 1:21). We have to be purposeful and thoughtful to give thanks unto the Lord.
What Do We Give Thanks For?
How then can we give thanks “in the midst of every thing” when we are struggling through the many various challenges of this world? If we are not vigilant, we might fall into the trap of “conditional gratitude”. We might give thanks to God when things are going well; when all the “conditions” in our life are comfortable, easy, and exciting. However, we might be prone to not be thankful when hard times come, and fall back into murmuring, complaining, and maybe even blaming God during these challenging times. Our thankfulness is not primarily based on the current positive conditions of our lives but based on steadfast, unchanging truths that we can always rejoice in and give thanks for, regardless of the severity of our trials. There are some resolute truths that do not change regardless of any circumstance in our lives. Those absolute, unchanging truths should be the primary source of our thanksgiving to God “in every thing” in our life, no matter how difficult or severe the trial we are passing through.
First, we thank the Lord for just being God, for his good, merciful, and holy character. We give thanks: for God is good (Psalm 106:1); for God’s holiness (Psalm 97:12); for God’s mercy endures forever (1 Chron. 16:34).
We thank the Lord for the unchanging word of God. We give thanks: for God’s truth endures to all generations (Psalm 100:4-5); we should rise at midnight to praise God for his righteous judgments (Psalm 119:62); along with Jesus, we give thanks for God’s revelation to the babes in Christ (Matt. 11:25).
We thank the Lord for our eternal salvation given us through Jesus Christ. We give thanks: for the victory over death we have through Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor. 15:57); for the “unspeakable gift” of eternal salvation by God’s grace (2 Cor. 9:15).
We thank the Lord for the church, and for our dear friends in the kingdom of God. We give thanks: for God’s grace bestowed upon the church (1 Cor. 1:4); for our dear friends in the church and commit to praying for them (1 Thess. 1:2).
We thank the Lord for God’s daily provision of food in our lives. All food or drink that we consume, we ought to give thanks for our food and God’s answer of daily bread prayer and his daily provision of food in our lives (Rom. 14:6).
Obviously, we ought to give thanks to God for providential blessings as well – good health, deliverance from harm, and other timely blessings from the Lord. However, our thanksgiving to God cannot be totally dependent on positive circumstances in our lives. We cannot only give “conditional thanksgiving”. We are to give thanks to God even when our good health fails, when we are injured, when loved ones die, and when times are hard. The primary basis of our thanksgiving is not comfortable times and great things happening in our lives, but the primary basis of giving thanks should be the resolute, unchanging truths of God’s mercy, goodness, holiness, his word, his church, his daily provision, and his unspeakable gift of salvation.
How Do We Give Thanks?
Since we are commanded to give thanks always, in what manner then do we give thanks? We are commanded to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17), and also to pray with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6). Therefore, as we pray unto the Lord continually, one of the primary components of our perpetual prayer life should be thanksgiving unto God for these unchanging truths we have noted above and for his providential blessings in our lives (Col. 4:2).
We give thanks through the “fruit of our lips” (Heb. 13:15). We give thanks through the fruit of our lips in prayer, if we pray aloud. Also, we can offer thanksgiving by the fruit of our lips through singing. We praise God with praise and thanksgiving by song (Psalm 69:30). What a blessing to sing unto God in praise and thanksgiving for his unspeakable gift of salvation, as well as all the rest of our blessings. We also offer the fruit of our lips in thanksgiving as we share God’s blessings with others. We should have a testimony to others around us as we thank God to them of how the Lord has blessed us in our lives.
We can certainly give thanks in our secret closet of prayer and singing by ourselves in thanksgiving to God. However, the primary place we ought to offer thanksgiving to God is in public worship in the house of God. We should give thanks in the midst of the great congregation (Psalm 35:18). We should enter into God’s courts with thanksgiving and enter into his courts with praise (Psalm 100:4). The proper place to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving to pay our vows is in the presence of all his people in the courts of the Lord’s house (Psalm 116:17-19). We need to offer thanksgiving in public worship every single Lord’s day, and other worship services throughout the week as well.
As we approach this annual Thanksgiving holiday, I hope we are reinvigorated to be more purposeful to give thanks unto God always and in every thing. Our thanksgiving is not “conditional” on the ease of circumstances in our lives. We have no right to be unthankful, murmur, and complain when times get hard. Instead, in any circumstance in our life we can always give thanks for the unchanging truths of God’s mercy, goodness, holiness, his word, his church, his daily provision, his unspeakable gift of salvation, and certainly for his providential blessings in our lives as well.