“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
Give thanks in all circumstances:
When Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, they were experiencing suffering of the worst kind. They were being shunned by their families, rejected by their neighbors, and people did not want to do business with Christians. It was rough for them, but they stood fast. Whether they were insulted or beaten or put to death, they still followed Christ. We (in America) rarely face the same trials that the early Christians did but we find it just as hard to give thanks to God when feeling the pressure of circumstances. Why is it so hard for us to be grateful for what God is doing in our lives?
His Plans vs Our Plans. God knew us before we were born (Jer. 1:5) and if we listen for Him, He will instruct us on how to live our lives (Psalms 32:8). I, for one, think I can plan things out for my life better than what God has for me. I remember when I was single, and I thought for sure God was wanting me to be with this one guy. I prayed about it, pursued it, but it just wasn’t working out. He was a nice Christian guy, why wouldn’t God want me to be with him?! Well, that is because God had someone better not just for me but for that person as well. We can’t see beyond our feelings or our desires, but God can see the whole picture because He already has it planned out for us (Proverbs 16:9)
Comparing Lives. Another reason why we struggle with giving thanks for the circumstances we find ourselves in is because we look around instead of up. By that I mean we look at what we perceive other people’s lives are and we want that. It is one of the ten commandments. Exodus 20:17; “Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” It was important enough for God to say “DO NOT” right up there with “do not murder” and “do not steal”. It is a heart issue. Coveting someone else’s life is toxic to our heart and turns us against the blessings we have in our own lives. Proverbs 14:30; “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
Being content. Phil. 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. One of the most popular yet misquoted verses in the new testament. We see it on mugs, on t-shirts, in yearbooks and even hear it quoted by sports athletes. It is not “I can do any thing” – win that football game, go get that dream job, conquer the world. If we look in the context that Paul wrote we see that God provides strength when we don’t win that game, when we are passed on for our dream job and when the world rejects us. Phil 4:11-12 “ I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. “
Count your blessings. My mom has kept a prayer journal for years. She will then go back two years, four years or even six years ago and look at what she wrote in her journal. She can see through those journals how God has not only worked in her life but mine and my siblings’ lives too. This past Mother’s Day she gave my sister, my sister-in-law and myself prayer journals to be able to do the same. We sometimes forget what God has done for us when we are going through trials. We sing “Count Your Many Blessings” in church but do we ever really sit and think of what God has done?
“For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”. It is God’s will for us to rejoice always, to be aware of His presence and to come to Him in any circumstance giving thanks.