Anyone who believes in the Word of God knows that it says we are to be thankful. Naturally, when we think of our many blessings we are inclined to thank God for them. But what about times of disappointment, disaster, and dejection? Can we still be thankful? Is the scope of our thanksgiving so deeply and keenly focused on God’s Word that we can be thankful in any circumstance we face?
The Apostle Paul made some amazing statements about being thankful “in all things”:
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (New American Standard Version, NASB). The New International Version (NIV) reads, “Give thanks in all circumstances….”
Ephesians 5:20 “…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father,” (NASB).
Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” (NASB).
The apostle seems to be telling the church to do something that is almost impossible to do even when things are terrible. Did he really mean “everything” including the worst of our experiences? Apparently so. Paul, himself, faced many difficulties as he proclaimed the Good News in his journeys. Yet he and the other church leaders were able to have a grateful attitude in spite of those circumstances:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you, 2 Cor. 4:7-12, (NASB).
Apparently, the scope of their thankfulness was so deep that regardless the circumstance, they could deal with their problems. Not only that, they were able to encourage the church, too. In fact, Paul went on to state,
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal, (2 Cor. 4:16-18, NASB).
Interestingly, even when Paul addressed some of the most disappointing news of the Corinthian church (e.g., 1 Cor. 5-7; 10:14; 11:17-22), he could express his thanks. He was able to look at the positive regardless the negative. Instead of tearing down the church with their many self-inflicted problems, he sought to build them up for he understood human weakness. For example, at one point he commended them for their generous giving to the Lord’s work and gave thanks to God for it:
Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Cor. 9:10-15, NASB).
When it comes to the extent of being thankful, you can see a pattern that emerges. The apostle demonstrates that one can look beyond the present circumstances and look forward to a wonderful eternal future for all the faithful. Even in this present life, there is something in which we can rejoice (Phil. 4:4).
The scope of giving thanks has much to do with how one thinks. And it starts with the way we look at things. Even children learn that even though certain situations are not the way they’d like, they are still capable of being thankful for something. Onetime little Kathy was asked by her father if she didn’t want to thank God for sending her such a fine new baby brother. Imagine his surprise when he heard this prayer: “Thank you, dear God, for Jimmy. I’m especially thankful that Jimmy wasn’t twins like I heard the doctor say he might be.”
We can be thankful that even though circumstances are bad, they could have been worse. If we’re willing to count our blessings even when times are dark and dreary we can begin to see there are rays of sunshine beyond the clouds. And a day will come when the clouds will be cleared away forever when Jesus comes to establish God’s Kingdom (Rev. 21:4).
Jesus, God’s Son, provides the mindset we choose for being thankful. Our eyes are upon the Son, who himself endured the cross with joy. He provides the hope that goes beyond the suffering of this present life (Rom. 8:18). Hebrews 12:2-3 says,
…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NASB)
As we trust in God’s Word, we can put our complete faith in Jesus Christ. He is our primary example through whom we can give thanks for victory is achieved in his blessed name (Rom. 8:36-39; 2 Cor. 2:14; 1 John 5:4-5). When we give our lives to Christ according to God’s Word, the scope of giving thanks provides the opportunity to be thankful in all circumstances.
Here is a musical vignette that reminds us to take time to give thanks: http://youtu.be/7Pyvls0xXcU
Good News to YOU!