Finally, we come to the difficult part of this giving thanks series. You may say to yourself, “Sure there are many things which we can give thanks for. Okay, I see how this is important, and I can see there are many ways in which I can do it. But, …
How can I always give thanks to God in all things?
There are many unpleasant, hurtful, evil things that happen in this world. There are wars, poverty, hunger, sicknesses, deaths, injustices, and just plain evil in this world. Am I really expected to give thanks to God for such things? The answer appears to be yes. 1 Thess. 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
The Scriptures constantly remind us that we are to live by faith: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). When we respond to God with a spirit of thanksgiving – even in times of difficulty – we are demonstrating our faith.
How could I ever thank God for something as terrible as that?
Several years ago now, my wife and I went though the most difficult time in our marriage. It was a very painful and strenuous time for us, and it did not look like we were going to make through. Our lives were thrown upside down, and we were being painfully humbled. During two weeks that we were living apart I remember going to God with my pain and expressing my sense of hopelessness. As I was praying I remembered the command to thank God for everything. I did not want to. My whole world was collapsing. How could I ever thank God for something as terrible as that?
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” God said He would work through all things for good for those who love Him. Do you believe this? If you do, then you can logically acknowledge the reasonableness of God’s command to always give thanks.
Although I did not feel like it could work out for good, I decided to trust God and hold onto His promise. I thanked God for taking me through a very difficult and painful time, even though I did not know how it could turn out good. Thankfully, now I can look back and see many wonderful things God gave to us through that time and can trust more good is still going to come through it.
Choosing faith over worry — choosing hope over despair
By thanking God in the midst of circumstances that seems awful, we are saying to God, “God, I do not see You in this, but I trust You know what You are doing and can make this good.” And, by saying this we open ourselves up to hear what Jesus is doing and to experience two of God’s wonderful gifts.
When there are difficulties in our lives, we give them to God with thanksgiving, and He will give us supernatural peace, peace that makes no sense to the world, because it comes from God (Phil. 4:6-7). We cannot manufacture this peace through feelings or emotions. The peace of Christ is a supernatural peace which we can experience only as Jesus lives His supernatural life in and through us. And in order to experience the spiritual privilege of that peace, we must be thankful – thankful by faith.
Thanking God by faith
Thanking God by faith not only leads to God’s peace, it also leads to God’s joy. When we thank God by faith for every circumstance in our lives, we turn our eyes off whatever is troubling us to look to God who will work everything out for the good. Since we are assured from the Bible that God loves us, we would be very foolish indeed to worry about our problems, cares and tribulations even for a few moments. Cast them upon the Lord as soon as they are brought to your attention for He cares for you.
By looking to Jesus instead of our circumstances we will learn to experience joy in the midst of any situation, because joy does not come from the events of our lives. Things do not have to be going well to experience joy. Joy comes from the work of the Holy Spirit that is set before us. Whenever we turn our eyes off Jesus, we stifle the work of the Holy Spirit.
In Hebrews 12:2 we are commanded to be continually “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” It would have been devastating if Jesus went to the cross and could only see the pain and the suffering of what lay ahead. This verse says that it was for the joy that was set before Him that He endured the cross. – We are to do the same.
I want to add that Jesus did not have to come to the earth, and He did not have to go through the excruciating suffering of the cross. Jesus chose to do these things because He loves you and there was no other way for you to experience His love.
Imagine a husband coming home with a bouquet of beautiful flowers for his wife. Would she want to thank him for them?
It depends. It depends on why he got you the flowers, correct? Is he trying to get himself out of the doghouse? [~thanks~] Or, is he just looking for a way to express his love for you in a way you would appreciate? [! Oh, thank you so much, sweetie! They’re beautiful! (KISS)]
Jesus was not trying to get out of the doghouse. He did not have to. His love for us was His motivation. He deserves our undying gratitude and allegiance.
This is why we are to be thankful. He deserves it. By always thanking God for everything, we are able to refocus our eyes on the One who loves us and is taking us through to the other side.
Thanksgiving should be the motivation for everything we do.
We can express our gratitude to God through our prayers, songs, tithing, witnessing, loving, and living our lives like Christ. Jesus considered this very important, and when we do it we can experience God’s supernatural peace and joy. This is an overflow of living by the Spirit. This is an overflow of living like Christ.
Jesus wants us to give Him thanks. It pleases Him. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). And, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13).
If you trust and obey Jesus, He will enable you by the power of the Holy Spirit to do what He has commanded you to do. Only a person living by the Spirit can experience such joy and peace and demonstrate such a thankful attitude. A thankful heart is a characteristic of the life lived by the Spirit, a life lived like Christ.