Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)
November is a month when we often think of giving thanks, and the obvious reason is the national day of Thanksgiving, which falls on November 22 this year. During Thanksgiving we remember that we do have a lot to be thankful for, as we gather for family celebrations and special worship services. We lick our lips when we think of hot turkey, fresh out of the oven, served with cranberries, mashed potatoes, and maybe even gravy! Favorite desserts include pumpkin pie with whipped cream, or hot apple pie served ala mode. Yes, we are thankful for family, friends, food, and all of the blessings God has given us.
But would you still be thankful if your circumstances were far more difficult? When Paul wrote this letter to his friends in Thessalonica, he wrote to Christians who were experiencing persecution. In his traveling through Thessalonica, the Lord Jesus had blessed the preaching and witnessing of Paul and his companions. Some Jews and many Gentiles believed, including not a few prominent women. Sounds great, right?
But shortly after this, a riot started against Paul and his friend Silas. A mob formed, looking for these two. Paul and Silas escaped, but it had to be a harrowing experience. The Thessalonian believers stayed behind, and they had to deal with the persecution and anger that remained.
It was to these people that Paul wrote the words, Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Would you feel like giving thanks if you were experiencing persecution? If a mob started a riot to go after the leaders of your church, how thankful would you be?
How can we be thankful “in all circumstances?” First, let’s remember that this text doesn’t say that we should be thankful for all circumstances, but in all circumstances. For example, we are not thankful for death, but when death does touch a loved one, we can still be thankful in the midst of death, because Jesus has risen from the dead and has conquered death.
Jesus really is the key to giving thanks in all circumstances. Notice how the text says, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” “In Christ Jesus,” we can be thankful even in the worst of times, because in Christ Jesus, we have God’s mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life. In Christ Jesus, we can be thankful even when the news from the doctor is bad. In Christ Jesus, we can give thanks for His care during difficult financial times. In Christ Jesus, we can rejoice in the resurrection, even as death brings us pain in this life.
In the strength of Jesus Christ, we can give thanks in all circumstances.
Happy Thanks-giving. Every day.