In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul exhorts us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Given that not all circumstances are desirable and some are downright tragic and heartbreaking, how can we as believers be a thankful people no matter where we may be in life? Here are a few thoughts that will help nurture an ongoing spirit of thanksgiving in our hearts that is not defeated by temporal, fleeting, present situations.
Note, Paul doesn’t say “give thanks for all circumstances” but to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Giving thanks “in” the trial is not necessarily the same as giving thanks “for” the trial. Many times when God brings us through difficulties, we can look back and see His hand, and see how He has taught us and shaped us for His glory, and on the other end of the trial, we can give thanks for the trial. However, while we are in the middle of the trial, enduring the trial, we are not called upon to necessarily be thankful for the trial itself. There is much for which we can be thankful that will strengthen us to persevere through the trial. We can be thankful for God’s sovereign care, grace, and presence with us in the trial. We can be thankful for the good He will bring out of the trial. Paul was not fond of his “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Cor 12. He prayed for God to remove it, and he called it a “messenger of Satan.” But he could see how God was using this “thorn” for good, and it was the good of the trial for which he could be thankful.
Giving thanks in all circumstances defeats the slithering sins of grumbling, complaining, worry, doubt, and discouragement that are constantly trying to slip into our hearts. If we allow these thoughts room to fester and grow, we become angry, bitter, and miserable. Giving thanks turns our hearts away from these vices and to the goodness and greatness of God, thereby filling our hearts with peace, rest, and joy in tumultuous times.
You can only give thanks in all circumstances by the grace of God, so let us pray for God to give us the grace to be thankful no matter where we are in life.
Circumstances can really wreak havoc on our thanksgiving. Good circumstances often cause us to neglect thanksgiving. Bad circumstances often cause us to forget thanksgiving and for all that we do have for which to be thankful.
Trying circumstances tempt us to give way to emotions, sin, and fleshly reactions. Recalling the faithfulness of our heavenly Father enables us to react in faith, not in the flesh, by clinging to and resting in His promises and His character.
We can only give thanks in all circumstances when Christ is our Treasure because that does a number of things – (1) it cuts circumstances down to size – circumstances change, Christ doesn’t. Circumstances can be good or bad, Christ is always good. Circumstances are fleeting, but they appear monumental. Christ is above our every circumstance. (2) When circumstances rule the heart, we sway in the wind. When Christ rules the heart, thanksgiving is present no matter the circumstances. (3) When Christ is our Treasure, portrayed by giving thanks even in the worst of circumstances, He is greatly magnified and sinners are compelled to see His glory and worth!
The way to be thankful in all circumstances is to be thankful for those things God is doing that are above our circumstances! For example, He is sanctifying us and completely preserving us for eternal glory!! (cf vv23-24)
The next phrase in v18 is a powerful aid in helping us to give thanks in all circumstances, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And there it is my friends! The position that outweighs every single circumstance in this life, whether bad or good – in Christ!
Nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, neither height nor depth, nor death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor anything else in all creation! Nothing! Rom 8:38-9
Circumstances may crash upon us, beat upon us, nag at us, tear at us, but they will never remove us from our position in Christ. If you are in Christ, you are justified before God – that will never change! You are reconciled to God – that will never change!
So for what do we give thanks while in all circumstances? No matter what we face in this life, we give thanks for all that God is for us in Christ Jesus.
We can take heart this Thanksgiving Day and every day of our lives – we are not just in a circumstance, we are in Christ. We are not defined by our present circumstance, we are defined by our position in Christ. Circumstances may temporarily tear us apart, but they can never tear us away from Christ, and that my friends is reason enough to give thanks in all circumstances!
Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor