Ross was involved in Pastoral, Evangelistic and Academic Christian activities for 40 years. Presently He writes to teach and encourage.
Being Thankful – God’s Will
Have you been trying to find God’s will in some area of your life? You have prayed about it but the answers aren’t coming. Perhaps you are dealing with some difficult issues that are persisting. Maybe it is a few small irritations that are robbing you of the quality of life you want. I identify with all those issues. None of us gets by without some difficulties. Jesus underlined the fact when He said, “In the world you will have tribulation”. (John 16:33) If it’s inevitable a struggle or two will come my way, then I want the cleverness to handle those difficulties in the best way. If God has given directions for dealing with life then it is wisdom to take notice of that instruction and act on it.
That brings us to a verse in 1Thessalonians 5:18. “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. Firstly, if we are not sure of God’s will in every other part of our lives, here we are certain of God’s will in at least one thing - we are to give thanks. Secondly, we have here some information on how to handle tribulations - Give thanks. Notice it says, ‘in everything’. Whatever we find ourselves ‘in’ we are to give thanks. And it is all encompassing. In ‘everything’ give thanks. Every possible experience that might come to us is included here. Have you seen those old wartime posters of Uncle Sam pointing a large finger at the reader with the caption, ‘Uncle Sam needs YOU’. This verse reminds me of that poster. The large hand and finger of Scripture points at me and the caption reads, “This is God’s will for YOU in Christ Jesus.
The Lord made it clear to me as a new Christian, He wanted me to make a habit of giving thanks in my new life. I thought it was marvellous that God had given me this awesome revelation about living for Him. I put it into practise until the first difficult circumstance came across my path. I stopped right there and did not think about it again for years. The Lord gave me a quick path to maturity and a door through which He could enter to bless me and I missed it.
It’s about obedience because the New Testament has a lot of teaching on being thankful. The problem is, giving thanks in all things, pleasant or not so pleasant, is a spiritual activity. Being thankful in difficult circumstances does not appeal to the flesh - our humanity. When I thought about it I recognized I gave thanks in difficult circumstances for a time, but when it did not instantly remove the hard thing I quit. I did not have sufficient maturity to understand when God gives an instruction it will always result in blessing.
Ephesians 5:20 gives more guidance about being thankful. “Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father..”. The previous verse told us to give thanks in all things. Here we are to ‘always’ give thanks ‘for’ all things. Giving of thanks should be a regular practise, and for all things. That’s all encompassing again. If I lost my job this week I am to give thanks to God for that. If ( personal experience) my leg injury I have accepted healing for in faith, continues to be painful and to greatly hinder my mobility, this verse tells me I should thank God for that. Someone might say, “no, that can’t be right”. What am I to do? Get the scissors and cut those two verses and others about thanks giving out of my Bible? Obviously not. I should submit to the word of God, knowing anything God asks me to do will inevitably result in blessing. I believe giving thanks in all circumstances is a powerful spiritual activity and not to be taken lightly. I think of it as a spiritual weapon. Giving thanks in all circumstances will always in some way, result in benefits for those who put it into practise. Paul was not asking his readers to do something he was not doing. When he and Silas were beaten with rods and locked in the deepest and filthiest part of the Philippian prison, their response was thanks and praise. (Acts 16:22-25
We have many good things to be thankful for. We are saved, born again and have eternal life. We have the Bible and the Holy Spirit. We are loved by Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit, and we have the angels available to help us. We can also focus on the many ways God helps and supports us daily. I have one sore leg, but the list of my blessings from God is long. When we thank God in difficult situations we declare that God is in control of our lives. We also place ourselves in control of those circumstances. Paul and Silas praised and thanked God knowing, through God, they were not helpless victims of the hardships. The resulting earthquake God sent proved that. I have no doubt they thought it all worth-while when the Jailer and his family were saved,
Paul tells us in Romans 1:21 the ungodly don’t thank God. I am practising putting thanks at the beginning of all my praying. Philippians 4:6 says to include thanks giving in every type of prayer. We are not to be anxious for anything but to ask God about everything and be sure to include thanks with it. I have always thought of praise and thanksgiving as separate spiritual actions. Hebrews 13:13-15 gives another view. “Hence let us go out to Him (Jesus) outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that gives thanks to His name”. The context is thanksgiving during persecution.
I read this thanksgiving testimony recently. “Choosing gratitude helped me to see things in a whole new light. It was no longer about where I was or what was happening in the moment. It was about what I had and what God had done for me. No my husband is not perfect but neither am I. My kids don’t always listen, and my house still isn’t clean – but God has taught me to be grateful for my life anyway. To be thankful for my wonderful children and that we have a place to live. I still have days when depression sinks in but God always brings me back to His peace and reminds me what He has given me”. (Heather Hart)
If you need a nudge over the line regarding being thankful, the previous testimony is from the book; ‘21 stories of gratitude’ by Shelley Hitz. It’s an ebook on Amazon for around $4.00. Shelley Hitz has two or three other books available on being thankful. Being thankful is not about forcing a positive emotional state. Most of the time I don’t feel thankful. I have learned not to be controlled by feelings. Giving thanks is a choice just as deciding to pray or going to Church is a choice. I guarantee if you persist in thanking God, if only once or twice a day, you will soon notice a difference in yourself and your circumstances.
Ross Thompson lives in Melbourne, Australia