This morning I wanted to share some thoughts to help us prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving. Look with me at 1 Thessalonians 5-
1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
These are not three suggestions; they are three commands. In addition, these three verbs are in the present tense which means that they should be an ongoing, continuous part of our lives. Every day we should rejoice in the goodness of God. Every day we should talk to God about our lives. And every day we should be thankful for all God has done, is doing, and will do. Many have said that these three little short commands are the identification marks of a mature believer. We should note that our constant rejoicing, our constant attitude of prayer, and our constant thankfulness is ‘in Christ Jesus’ and not necessarily in our circumstances. Because we know Jesus Christ as our Savior, we can be joyful, prayerful and thankful even in the midst of difficulty.
The Apostle Paul was a man who believed much in the power and importance of thanksgiving. To the Ephesians he wrote – “Giving thanks always for all things unto God…” (see Ephesians 5:20) To the Philippians he wrote – “Do not worry about anything, but instead pray to God about everything, and always make thanksgiving a part of your prayers.” (see Philippians 4:6) And to the Colossians Paul said, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (see Colossians 3:17) We know that the Apostle Paul was a great man of God and a part of his greatness came from the fact that regardless of what his circumstances were, he was always thankful.
I. Paul Was Thankful for His Blessings
A. Paul Believed That We Should Always Be Thankful
As I read his writings I see that Paul thanked God for several things:
1. For His Salvation
Throughout his writings you find that Paul was thankful for his salvation. We read from the book of 1 Timothy –
1 Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
Paul never got over the fact that God had been willing to save him from his sins.
2. For the Opportunity to Serve God
In addition to being thankful that he was saved, Paul was also thankful that he had an opportunity to serve. Paul was amazed not only over the fact that God would save him, but that God would also use him to help others be saved.
3. For God Providing For Paul’s Daily Needs
In addition, we see in Paul’s writings that he was thankful that God provided for his daily needs. The Bible says that even Jesus paused and gave thanks before He ate His meals.
B. Paul Believed That it Was a Sin to Not Be Thankful
Paul not only believed that we should be thankful, he believed that it was a sin to not be thankful. We read from the book of Romans –
Romans 1:21 …when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful…
Paul tells us that being ungrateful is one of the worst sins we can commit. People who aren’t thankful don’t glorify God. Someone has said that if the stars came out only one night a year, many would stay up all night just to look at them. But because the stars are there every night, most of us take them for granted.
Sometimes it’s easy to take the goodness of God for granted. The children of Israel cried out for food and so the Lord gave them manna to eat. Scripture says that all they had to do was go out each morning and gather it up. But it didn’t take long for them to start complaining about the manna. Ungrateful people are never satisfied.
C. Being Someone Who is Always Thankful Says a Lot About Us
The Bible teaches us that an attitude of thanksgiving reveals several things about us:
1. It Reveals Our Spiritual Maturity
The Apostle Paul said, “I have learned that whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (see Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:6-8) We know that sometimes Paul didn’t have very much. Scripture says that sometimes he was cold, hungry, and in danger. (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28) Yet he was always content. How? Paul was content because he knew that Jesus Christ was always with him and that the Lord would provide everything he needed. Brethren, that’s spiritual maturity!
2. It Reveals a Life That is Spirit-filled
We read from the book of Ephesians –
Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, which often leads to wastefulness; but instead be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
It has been my experience as a pastor that when I see a Christian who is full of joy and thankfulness, I know that they are walking in the Spirit. They have a song on their lips because the Spirit puts it there. But when I see a Christian who is grumbling and complaining and sour and bitter, I know that they’re not right with the Spirit.
3. It Reveals a Heart That Desires to Glorify God
Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Paul tells us that when we are right with the Spirit, there will be a melody in our hearts that will cause us to be thankful and to praise God for His goodness.
Colossians 2:6 …overflowing with thankfulness…
II. Paul Thanked God for His Burdens
Paul not only thanked God for his blessings, he also thanked God for his burdens.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
There are two important truths here that we must note:
1) The way Paul wrote this indicates that we are thankful in everything that comes along in life. In every situation, there is a reason for us to be thankful.
2) That thankfulness is found not in our circumstances, but in our Savior.”For this is the will of God ‘in Christ Jesus’ concerning you.” Because we are in Christ, we can always be thankful.
A. We Are Always Thankful Because Regardless of the Situation, Christ is Always With Us
God has promised us, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (see Hebrews 13:5) “Neither life nor death, nor demons or anything in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (see Romans 8:37-39)
In Acts 27 we read about Paul being in a terrible storm at sea. So severe was the storm that the sailors were ready to jump overboard and try to swim for shore. Yet Paul told the captain of the ship – “This night an angel from God has stood by my side and told me to not be afraid.” (Acts 27:23-24) Do you believe in angels? I do. I also believe that God sends His angels to watch over us. The book of Hebrews says that they are ministering spirits sent to minister over us. (see Hebrews 1:14) We read from Psalm 34:7 “The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” Many believe that this is a reference to Christ Himself. The king threw three men into the fire, but when he looked in, he saw four and the fourth man looked like the son of a god!
B. We Are Always Thankful Because When We Are At Our Weakest, Christ Can Make Us Strong
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us about a thorn in the flesh the Lord allowed to come into his life. Many have tried to guess what that throne was. Paul tells us that it had some association with Satan.
2 Corinthians 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…
When we are at our weakest, Christ can come and make us strong. Therefore, Paul was thankful. “I delight in being weak” Paul said. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.“
C. We Are Always Thankful Because We Know That God Can Bring Something Good Out of Every Situation
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
As I have shared with you before about this verse, Paul doesn’t say that all things are good. Everything that happened to Paul wasn’t good. It wasn’t good to be shipwrecked, beaten, left cold and hungry, and put into prison. I don’t think that Paul is saying that these were good. They were bad. Yet Paul had learned that God was good and that God had a good plan for Paul’s life and therefore, God was able to use even the bad things for a good purpose.
D. We Are Always Thankful Because Bad Situations Often Give Us the Opportunity to Talk About the Goodness of Christ
In Acts 16 we read about Paul and Silas being thrown into prison. Scripture says that they were arrested, beaten, and fastened in chains. Does that sound like something good? In my book it doesn’t. Yet Paul allowed God to make something good out of it.
Rather than grumbling and complaining about their problems, the Bible says that Paul and Silas began to pray and sing. As they were doing this, the Bible says – “…and the prisoners heard them.” No doubt many of their fellow prisoners thought that these two guys were lunatics and probably told them to shut up. Who sings praises to God when they are in prison?
But then something miraculous happened. Scripture says that there was an earthquake and the doors of the prison swung open and the chains fell off the prisoners.
When the jailer realized what had happened, he took out his sword to kill himself. He knew that if he allowed even a single prisoner to escape, he himself would be executed.
But then Paul cried out, “Do not harm yourself. We’re all here.” Scripture says that the jailer came rushing in and fell down before Paul and Silas and pleaded, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” Paul told him. And that night the Philippian jailer and all his family received Christ as their Savior.
As I studied this I thought back to about a year ago when my mom was in a rehab center, trying to recover from a broken hip. Although mom never complained, you could tell that she was a bit discouraged. One day while I was there visiting her, a friend came to see her and told us about a man in the community that was near death with cancer. Many of you remember me telling the story last year. The Lord spoke to me and told me to go talk to that man. I did and he received Christ as his Savior. Mom and I have talked about that incident often and we both agree that probably if she had not broken her hip, that man might not have ever been saved. He’s in heaven today because of mom’s broken hip. Knowing that causes mom to be thankful, even for a broken hip.
I admit, sometimes the reason to be thankful in some situations is buried pretty deep. Yet, I believe that if we are willing to submit our lives completely to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we will find reasons to be thankful. I read of a plaque one wife and mother had hanging in her kitchen – “A Sink Full of Dirty Dishes is a Sign That Our Family Has Plenty to Eat”
Once again I remind us of what Paul says in Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.