We should do it whether we feel like it or not.
"Give thanks in everything — for this is the Will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I Thessalonians 5:18).
When the Apostle Paul wrote these words to those struggling, first-century believers in Thessalonica — which is located in Greece — what was he thinking? Was he some forerunner of the modern-day "Health, Wealth and Prosperity" gospel or a guru for positive thinking?
No, on both counts.
He knew what it felt like to be persecuted, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, beaten, imprisoned, robbed, betrayed, hungry, cold, etc. (II Corinthians 11:23-27) — all because of his preaching the Gospel. That’s why he also wrote how they were "pressed out of measure, beyond strength insomuch that they even despaired of life itself" (II Cor. 1:8).
But, that didn’t cause him to become bitter or ungrateful.
Why was that?
Simply because he realized each one of us has a "death sentence within us so we shouldn’t trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead" (II Cor. 1:9).
Yes, like a man who’s sitting on death row, Paul realized our days here on life are few at best — for "it’s appointed unto all of us once to die and, after this, the Judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Like the Apostle James, he knew our lives are "as a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:13-15).
That’s why he wrote the churches in Ephesus and Colossae to "redeem the time" (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5), for we can ill-afford to squander our time here on earth. Truly, life’s too short to waste it on frivolity ("riotous living" — Luke 15:13), triviality, self-centeredness, etc. Neither can we allow ourselves to become bitter, somehow feeling like we deserve better than what we’re getting.
Yes, Paul knew the importance of an "Attitude of Gratitude." Just as the "attitude" of a plane (the direction of its nose) determines which way it’ll go, so does our attitude/response to what’s happening to us determine whether we’re soar or crash-and-burn.
Now, let’s be honest.
It’s easy to be thankful when things are going good and everything’s coming up roses, isn’t it? But, it’s not easy when things are falling apart … when our health’s failing … when the money runs out before the month does … when the boss gives you a pink slip at work … when others betray you or take advantage of you.
That’s why we must remember all that happened to Jesus during his time here on earth and follow His lead. We can’t even begin to imagine the agony He went through — when He didn’t have to — simply because He loved us. Because of His omniscience, He knew ahead of time what folks were inside, what they were going to do and say BEFORE they did it and why they did it.
Yet, He still loved them and prayed for them.
Thus, we must daily surrender our lives to Him and allow Him to live His Life through us if we are to be able to "give thanks in everything and fulfill His Will in our lives." We must continually stay focused on Him, knowing He’ll use EVERYTHING (good and bad) in our lives for our good and His Glory (Heb. 12:1-2; Romans 8:28).
Here’s hoping you’ll use this time set aside for Thanksgiving to thank the Lord for His blessings. Even if this has been a particularly difficult and painful year, will yourself to still "give thanks in everything."
In so doing, you’ll fulfill God’s Will in your life and also keep the devil from setting up housekeeping in your life. As someone said, "God is good — all the time." So, demonstrate your gratitude to Him for His Grace this week by being a conduit of His blessings to others.
To contact Bro. Tom or receive his daily e-mail devotional, entitled "Morning Manna," write him at P.O. Box 10614, Fort Smith, AR 72917 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.