Summary: Give thanks IN all circumstances. A few reasons why: 1) our hope is eternal, beyond any earthly circumstances 2) God work out all circumstances for the best 3) God is with us in the circumstances we are in; 4) it will produce graceful words, 5) it will ch
Why is it that we must be reminded to set aside one day a year to be thankful? Should we not be thankful every day? Yes; but unfortunately we don’t always remember to do what we should. And that’s why many Holiday was setting a day aside to remind us of what we should be doing. We need Mother Day and Father Day for example, to remind us to honor our parents, while we need no Children Day, because it’s easier for us to care for the little one. I believe it’s the same thing with Thanksgiving Day; it was designed to remind us of being grateful, because it’s our human nature to gripe and complain, and that’s why we need to be reminded every year. If we ever get to the point of being grateful all the times, then we can set aside one day a year and call it “Grumbling Day”; then spend the other 364 days being thankful.[xi]
Similarly with the Christian life, we are constantly being reminded to live a life worthy of God’s grace on us because we are so easily slipped back into our old habits of sinful nature. How many of you have seen the new movies “The Incredibles?” The superhero in the movie at one point had to save the same people again and again out of troubles; he was frustrated and asked, “Why can’t they stay saved?” The same applied to many of us, after God saved us through Jesus, He also wants us to “stay saved” and provide the instruction manual for us to do so through the Bible.
The letters to the Thessalonians were written from Paul to a community of believers shortly after they accepted Christ. In these letters, Paul expressed his excitement about their new faith, but also provided some concrete instructions for them about “What should I do next after I decided to follow Christ?” We won’t have time to study the whole letters this time, but I would like to highlight the focus on verses 16-18 in chapter 5 only. Let us read from the Word of God “16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
According to this verse, you can confidently walk up to any other Christians and said, “I know what God’s will is for you,” or “I know what God wants you to do.” And you can meet their amazement by point to this verse, “God wants you to do three things, 1) give thanks in all circumstances, 2) pray continually, and 3) be always joyful.”
Notice the three adverbs of “always”, “continually” and “in all circumstances”; all three encompasses the constant state through times, not just a particular moment. All of you in the United States set aside last Thursday for thanksgiving; but here Paul said that you “in Christ Jesus” should be giving thanks all the time, not only in good times but in bad times as well; that’s what it means by “in all circumstances”.
But first of all, what is thanksgiving? Is thanksgiving the same as gratitude? Not really. When Jesus healed 10 men of leprosy in Luke 17, no doubt that all 10 were grateful for what he had done (you would be insane not to feel grateful to be cured of a disease like that), yet only 1 actually came back to thank Jesus. The issue in the story is not one of gratitude, but of thanksgiving. It is one thing to feel grateful; it is another thing to express it.[i] Gratitude is one of the most difficult emotions to express and maintain. Perhaps our culture is partly to blame. Gratitude is particularly hard when everything comes easily; when our [accomplishment] makes us think we can get whatever we need. Why should we be thankful when we’ve earned it on our own?[ii] And so, if during this past Thanksgiving season you haven’t actually thought of how blessed you are, or if were only getting this warm and fuzzy feeling of gratefulness without actually expressing it, then by definition, you haven’t giving thanks yet.
But then, to whom are we giving thanks? When you say, “Thank you”, there have to be a person you are say thanks to. You cannot just give thanks to nobody, or to yourself.
Harriet Martineau was an atheist. One morning she & a friend stepped out into the glories of a beautiful fall morning. As she saw the brilliant sun peaking through the haze, & the frost on the meadow, & the brightly colored leaves making their way lazily to the ground, she was filled with the beauty & burst forth with "I am so thankful. I’m just so grateful for it all." And her believing friend asked, "Grateful to whom, my dear?"[iii]