A Thanksgiving Meditation

by Dennis Michelson
(Painesville, Ohio)

I Thessalonians 5:18 - In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Introduction: The great mark of scholarship is simplicity. This simple text goes as deep in the matter of thankfulness as any frail human is willing to go. This text answers the questions posed by those who - at this time of Thanksgiving - err by thinking they have nothing for which to be thankful.

The old hymn states that "In sunshine or shadow, He careth for you." Perhaps you have grown weary with pious platitudes and Christian sloganeering. Perhaps this has been an especially rough year for you. Let this text speak to you directly, deeply and personally. Our Lord has given us far more blessing than we deserve and this one verse preserves us from the erroneous conclusion that the all-wise God has somehow bereaved us of the ability to give thanks.

1. When to give thanks (in everything)

How can this be possible? Even in the bad things? The text makes no exceptions - in everything. We often become so focused on secondary causes that we fail to remember that the Sovereign God does all things well. We believe in our pitiful stupor that somehow things happen to us outside of the Providential care of God. It is admitted that it is more difficult to arrive at a point of thanksgiving in some situations but the universal directive given in this text affirms that we must.

Job gives the path to genuine thankfulness - The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away - blessed be the name of the Lord. Our tendency to hang on to the blessings of God often obscure the fact that such blessings are gifts and not possessions.

What is it that God has taken away from you that He did not first give? May the Lord help us to be thankful when He gives the blessing and be equally thankful when He takes it away. After all, the focus in the Christian life ought to be on the Giver and not the gift.

2. Why give thanks (for this is the will of God)

Everyone seems to be confused about the will of God. What should I do? What decisions should I make? This phrase gives clear direction concerning the will of God for every believer. Simply stated - the will of God is for you and me to be thankful in every situation and circumstance of life.

The Greek text emphasizes the notion that this is a "will of God kind of thing." That is, the discipline and devotion of being thankful in every situation is exactly what God intends for us to do. Is it possible that when you are angry, resentful, and unthankful, that you are in fact outside of God's will for your life? Why give thanks? It is the will of God!

3. How to give thanks (in Christ Jesus)

We have been afforded all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. God can bless us but He cannot curse us. The curse that we deserved has already fallen on our Savior and it cannot fall upon us. We are in Christ Jesus.

That alone should be adequate to prompt abundant thanksgiving. If you are having difficulty compiling a gratitude list then simply follow the phrase "in Christ" throughout the New Testament. You will need extra paper by the time you complete the study.

4. Who should be thankful (concerning you)

We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. It is absolutely true that God does have a plan and purpose for your life and it certainly does not include morose misgivings about the way things have fallen out for you in life.

An unthankful Christian is a contradiction of terms. Those two words do not belong together. "Concerning you" emphasizes the personal nature of God's dealing in your life. This is how we can confidently be thankful knowing that all things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to his purpose (concerning you).

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