Summary: The reality that we live in a hostile environment challenges Christians to stay focused on the coming of Christ to receive us unto Himself, to stay away from evil, to stay in touch with God's Will as revealed in God's Holy Word.
IN ALL THINGS TRUST GOD AND GIVE THANKS FOR THE GOOD THAT COMES FROM HIM
Things turn out best for folks who trust God because God helps folks who trust Him to make the best of the way things turn out. To trust God in all things is to give thanks in everything.
"Yeah, right," someone says cynically. "Paul also admonished us to rejoice always! Rejoice and give thanks!" . . . "Surely the Lord does not expect us to rejoice and give thanks when we are sick ... facing a crisis such as a loss of this or that . . . bereaved!"
A lot of what Paul called on Christians to do, and adhere to, does cause us to pause - because in our day we just don't have enemies to contend with the way he did - or do we?
My skepticism about "rejoicing always and giving thanks in everything" began to subside then replaced with optimism after reading about Corrie Ten Boom's survival of her ordeal in a Nazi concentration camp as described in a book she wrote.
Corrie tells about the infestation of fleas that nearly drove her and sister Betsy crazy. Fleas got in their hair, under their skin, made sleeping impossible - and they had no soap or flea powder.
Corrie's sister Betsy, though, reminded her of this verse, "in everything give thanks", but Corrie said, "I cannot and will not give thanks for fleas.”
Betsy responded, "We can at least give thanks that we are together and that they did not check our belongings so that we still have our Bible."
Corrie agreed to give thanks for her sister and for their Bible. They did not give thanks for the fleas, but they did give thanks for whatever they could, even while living a flea-bitten existence.
Years later, looking back at their horrible experience,, it occurred to Corrie that for yet another reason she and her sister should give thanks: Since they were flea infested, neither of them was ever raped by prison guards.
Sometimes it's hard to find something to give thanks for, but keep on asking God to help you see any good that you may have overlooked - not that we seek to rationalize that which may be irrational, but to honestly see if there be anything of good report - any way to turn a negative occurrence into a positive outcome.
Remember Garrison Keillor's theme song on the radio show "Prairie Home Companion" - "Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side of life."
How the Apostle Paul could rejoice despite all of the adversity he endured is beyond comprehension to those whose relationship to the Lord is rather casual - but, understood fully by those who have "been there, done that”.
Early in his ministry Paul and Silas sang hymns and prayed in their prison cell. Later in his life, yet again in prison - this time awaiting trial and execution - Paul wrote a brief letter to the Church at Philippi, urging them to rejoice.
Likewise, in his letter to the Thessalonian Christians, he calls on those who trust God in all things to give thanks - I Thessalonians 5:16-22 ...
In these exhortations, as Paul concluded his advice to the Thessalonians about getting ready for the coming of the Lord, he made seven announcements based on firmly-held beliefs:
(1) God created us to be happy, so always be joyful in the Lord as we await (as we look forward to) His coming to receive us unto Himself.
We know not the hour nor the day when our Lord may come, but we live daily with the hope within us that He will indeed keep His promise to receive us unto Himself - whether it be sooner or later ... in life or in death ... body and soul raptured or body and soul reunited when the "dead in Christ shall rise." Rejoice and give thanks.
(2) God's gift to us is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, so constantly pray that we might live a life worthy of that gift.
There is never a shortage of things to pray about, nor a time of day when prayer is not in order, so cultivate an attitude of readiness to pray whether our prayers take the form of words or thoughts or "groanings" - inexpressible urges that can occur in private or in public. The Spirit of God communicates our unspoken prayers to the throne of grace even while we are engaged in conversation or some type of activity! Rejoice and give thanks!
(3) God works in and through all circumstances in our lives to bring about that which is good for those who love Him, so always look for the silver lining and give thanks in everything -- for the tiniest blessing that comes to mind despite our human tendency to dwell on the negative.