Are you still giving thanks?
Yeah, I know, Thanksgiving was last weekend. Depending on the size of your gathering and the size of your bird, you might still be eating leftovers (I know we are). But beyond that, is Thanksgiving still alive in your life?
For some, being thankful is a once-a-year thing, like going to church on Christmas Eve or visiting the in-laws on their anniversary. But for the growing follower of Jesus, being thankful is a lifestyle choice. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5.16-17, NLT).
There are a few things worth noting about those two short verses.
First, the verb tenses indicate ongoing activity. Joy, prayer, and thanksgiving should be characteristic of who we are.
Second, thanksgiving doesn’t stand alone. Joy and prayer are the companions of thanksgiving, and help to make thanksgiving a natural outworking of a life filled with joy and prayer.
Third, thanksgiving is not momentary, nor is it intended to be a blind, pollyanna-ish blanketed thanksgiving ‘for everything’. When we visit our loved ones and they welcome us warmly, we might depart by saying, “Thanks for everything!” But we hardly do that in every aspect of life, do we? If we’re in a car accident, do we give thanks for the accident? I doubt it! What Paul exhorts us to do is to give thanks in all circumstances, not for all circumstances.
Giving thanks in all circumstances requires a great degree of patience and Christian maturity. After all, if verse 17 is true, we don’t expect those who are not followers of Christ to be thankful in all circumstances. The verse says that such is God’s will “for you who belong to Christ Jesus” – not for anybody else.
To that end, giving thanks in all circumstances can be a powerful testimony of faith to others. When people see you enduring hardships or trials of various sorts, and thanking God in the midst of those troubles, they will see a faith that is worth investigating, if not adopting.
Without a doubt, giving thanks in all circumstances – all of them! – is not easy. It only happens by the grace of God flowing through us. But when it does, life takes on new meaning. Deeper meaning. Eternal meaning.
So, are you still giving thanks?