Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. -- I Thessalonians 5:16-18
In Vermont, a farmer was sitting on the porch with his wife. He was beginning to realize how much she meant to him. It was about time-for they had lived together forty-two years and she had been such a great help. One day as they sat together, he said, "Wife, you have been such a wonderful woman, that there are times I can hardly keep from telling you."
How often we go day to day and year to year without telling family and friends thank you for the impact they have had in our lives and for what they mean to us. Equally, we fail to thank God daily for His blessings and work in our lives....and especially His eternal gift of salvation and the forgiveness of our sins.
Writing to the first European Christians at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul's words had a dynamic all-inclusive mandate behind them. "In everything give thanks." There are many passages where thanks, thankfulness, and thanksgiving are mentioned. But none quite like this one.
However, in spite of this call to give thanks in everything, the negative cavities deep in each of our hearts might challenge Paul when we think about it. Surely these words to the Thessalonians have no relevance for our generation?! Certainly, he can't mean every heartache, every broken dream, every tragedy.
The Thessalonian church was hardly bursting at the seams. Those first European Christians might have been called the "feeble few." The infant congregation had about as much influence upon the direction of the Roman Empire as an itch on an elephant.
This was a church that was sandwiched between much pagan idolatry on one side and strong Jewish exclusivism on the other. From the human viewpoint, they did not have much for which to be thankful. Life was extremely tough for the Thessalonian believer.
Now here comes the Apostle Paul. He had been with them for only three Sundays. He tells them that the key to a great future is thanksgiving in the midst of trials and steadfastness in the midst of trouble.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks..." These are powerful words that go against the grain of human viewpoint. They transcend the bounds of every situation in every generation. They refuse to be tied to only fair skies and fair-weather living.
These words tell us that the action of thanksgiving is continuous. When do we give thanks? "Always...without ceasing....in everything." There is neither a time nor a situation where these words do not apply. This is consistent Christianity at its strongest. If Romans 8:28 is true (and it is), that God works for the benefit of each of His children, then this is the outcome of a heart that realizes that not a minute, not even a second, passes without God looking out for our best interest.
It is easy to be thankful when life is filled with niceties. Most of us have no trouble being thankful for our pleasant experiences. But what about in those times when life seems so unfair or just does not go our way? Matthew Henry, the old Bible scholar, was once mugged and his wallet was stolen. That night, in his journal, he wrote these words: "Lord, I am thankful first because I was never robbed before. Second, I am thankful that although they took my wallet, they did not take my life. Third, I am thankful it was I who was robbed, not I who was robbing." He understood Paul's call to have an attitude of thanksgiving.
This week, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, let's be sure to express our appreciation to those we love. But let's be equally diligent to remember that thanksgiving is not seasonal nor is it on a thermostat. Let's determine to have a daily attitude of thanksgiving for whatever comes our way, knowing that everything in our lives is filtered through the hands of the Blessed Controller of all things.