If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably discovered that some commandments in the Bible are easier for you to obey than others. This could be due to various factors such as your personality, previous habits before salvation, or areas of personal weakness. However, sometimes the problem is a lack of understanding about how to obey a particular command.
Scripture contains directives that are rather straightforward and need no further explanation, such as “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). But while other verses give clear commands, we may not know specifically how to go about obeying them without receiving further explanation. For instance, Ephesians 5:18 says, “Be filled with the Spirit,” but unless we look at the context and search other passages of Scripture, we won’t know how to do this.
Another example is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We know what Paul is saying, but we may not be sure how we can possibly do this. Maybe if it said, “In good things give thanks,” we’d know exactly why we should obey this command because it makes perfect sense. But when we consider the phrase “in everything,” we begin to question whether all-encompassing gratitude is even possible.
Life includes many painful experiences—loss of loved ones, financial downturns, illnesses, natural disasters, accidents, and broken marriages are just some of the possibilities. How in the world are we supposed to thank God in the midst of all these?
The key to discovering how to be thankful in everything is not found in the immediate context of the command but throughout the Bible. It would be very convenient if the scriptures were arranged in such a manner that we can easily find the answer for every problem or question, but sometimes we need to search a little deeper for the information we need to handle life’s problems.
Although the answers we need for life are found within its pages, the Bible is first and foremost the unfolding revelation of God and His redemption of mankind. To treat it as anything less robs us of the blessing of growing in our knowledge of His inspired Word and in our love and worship of this amazing triune God. It’s in the whole counsel of His Word that we learn to know who He is and what He does. Then we’ll understand why we should be grateful and how we can give thanks in everything, even those things that don’t seem worthy of gratitude at all.
The first truth we should understand about God is that He is sovereign. Nebuchadnezzar, pagan king of Babylon, learned this the hard way when he went through seven years of insanity before he finally raised his eyes to heaven and praised the Most High God, saying, “He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’’’ (Dan. 4:35).
We don’t have to look around at our circumstances and think that we are helpless victims of fate or evil. Every event and situation that comes our way has first passed through the hands of our loving heavenly Father. Although we may not understand what He is doing, we can find peace in knowing that He is in control.
Every event and situation that comes our way has first passed through the hands of our loving heavenly Father.
Second, God is always good. Without this attribute, we’d find no comfort in God’s sovereign control because we wouldn’t be sure of His motives. But we never have to fear, because we are under the rule of the almighty God, who is eternally good and does good (Psalm 119:68).
Third, God is always working everything for good to those who belong to Him (Rom. 8:28). Although we experience circumstances that are not good in themselves, the Lord skillfully weaves those dark threads of life together for His glory and our ultimate good. And the goal He’s working toward in our lives is revealed in the next verse: “He also predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of His Son” (v. 29). Any painful or difficult experience, even one caused by our own sinful rebellion, can be used by the Lord for our spiritual growth and the development of godliness.
Because of these three scriptural truths about God, we can give thanks to Him in everything. Gratitude is not dependent upon good circumstances but is based on our confidence and trust in the Lord and His promises. It’s the evidence of submission to Him and dependence upon Him, and the result is peace that transcends comprehension, a relationship with Christ that is steady and unwavering, and a powerful witness that influences those around us.
If you’re a child of God through faith in Jesus, He is with you in whatever situation you are facing today. Although you may not be able to see the good He’s working at the moment, can you trust that He is? The most priceless good He brings comes in eternity; therefore, our greatest gratitude in every situation is for the salvation of our souls. After we’ve received His temporal benefits, unimaginable blessings await us in heaven, so let’s be faithful and thank Him today.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. I pray that you will have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration as you gather with family and friends. Perhaps God will use your witness of gratitude in everything to touch the lives of those around you who are struggling with hardships, loss, or pain.