Thanksgiving in All Circumstances

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At the end of a football game I was watching the other day, one of the star players of the winning team was interviewed on TV. When the running back was asked about all the yardage he ran and touchdowns he’d made to help win the game, he didn’t answer the question. Rather, the first words out of his mouth were, “I want to thank my God….”

Now and then, whenever athletes win a game, they’ll do as this football player and thank God or Jesus for their victory right before the TV audience. To be honest, I am not sure what to think of it. Is that person really being sincere? Is he just trying to impress everyone in religious tones by crediting God for his victory? Or, is he truly speaking from the heart? Do his actions on and off the field or inside or outside the arena reflect his acknowledgement of God?

Furthermore, I wonder what he would say if he lost the game. Would he still be able to give God thanks before all those watching even though he didn’t win?

I raise these questions in view of that fact that while it’s natural to be thankful when everything is going well, it’s not so easy when we’re facing disaster. And yet this is precisely what God wants which is to be thankful even when situations are not going our way.

In First Thessalonians 5:18 the Apostle Paul says, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will by Christ Jesus concerning you,” (Emphatic Diaglott; See also Philippians 4:6.). The Greek words for “in everything” are en panti and translated, “in every condition or in every matter.” Other passages with these words mean, “in every way, on every side, in every particular [circumstance] or relation,” (Cp. 2 Corinthians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 7:5, 11, 16; 2 Corinthians 11:6, 9; Ephesians 5:24.).

Notice that Paul does not say we are to be thankful for every circumstance. No one is required to be thankful for conflicts or catastrophes. And for this we can be thankful for not all circumstances in life are good. On the other hand, we can still have a thankful attitude in every circumstance, even when facing disaster.

You might think of it as looking for that silver lining when the clouds of life are dark and dreary. Robinson Crusoe, for example, was able to look on the bright side when he was shipwrecked on a lonely island:

  • He was cast onto a desolate island, but he was still alive, not drowned as all of his ship’s company was.
  • He was divided from mankind, but he was not starving.
  • He had no clothes, but he was in a hot climate where he didn’t need them.
  • He was without means of defense, but he saw no wild animals.
  • He had nothing to speak of, but God had sent the ship so near to the shore that he could get out of it all things necessary for his survival.
  • So Crusoe concluded that there was not any condition in the world so miserable but that there was something positive for which to be thankful. (SermonCentral)

The truth is we can always be thankful regardless of the situation as this story illustrates: There was this old, clever preacher who was serving several churches in North Dakota. The preacher gained a lot of admirers because no matter the circumstances, he always found something for which he could always give thanks.

But on one very cold December morning, when he was making his usual rounds, he was late in getting to worship due to large snow drifts along the way. The church members were eager to find out what the old preacher could come up with to be thankful on such a frigid and miserable day. Their curiosity was satisfied as he began to pray, “Gracious Lord, we thank you that all days are not like today.” (selected)

Whenever you find yourself in circumstances that could cause you to be discouraged, it would do good to keep in mind that there is still something for which to be thankful. Below is a list of examples of what you can be thankful for in spite of those not-so-pleasant scenes you encounter.  You can say to yourself,

I am thankful in spite of….

  • the taxes I pay….because it means I’m employed.
  • the clothes that fit a little too snug….because it means I not only have enough to eat, but need to keep my diet under control.
  • a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing….because it means I have a home.
  • the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot….because it means I am capable of walking.
  • my huge heating bill….because it means I am warm.
  • all the complaining about our government….because it means we have freedom of speech.
  • the lady behind me in church who sings off key….because it means that I can hear.
  • the piles of laundry and ironing….because it means my loved ones are nearby.
  • the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours….because it means that I’m alive.
  • weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day….because it means I have been productive. (adapted, ibid.)

The next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, write it down and then write down what you are thankful for in spite of it. This provides a positive perspective when you’re caught in negative conditions. You might be amazed at how this will help you to face your misfortune constructively as you ask God for strength.

At this time, as we in Canada celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday this Monday, it is important to remember to give thanks in all circumstances whether good or bad for this is God’s will through Jesus Christ our Lord. And if it’s God’s will, that’s good!

Good News to you!

Pastor Michael

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