OceanSide church of Christ
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IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS
Victor M. Eskew
The title of this article is found in I Thessalonians 5:18. Paul’s words are as follows: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Giving thanks is very easy at times. When the blessings of God seem to be showered down upon us, it is not difficult to be grateful to the Father of heaven. When individuals pour out of their abundance for our benefit, we can bow our heads and give thanks for such gracious individuals who touch our lives. When life is joyful and full of merriment, again, we can easily be thankful for our prosperity, comfort, and good fortune.
There are other times, however when giving of thanks is not simple. Yet, the apostle tells us to give thanks in “everything.” Let’s discuss a few of the times when gratitude might be more difficult to express. One area when it is difficult to be thankful is when temptations overcome us. Struggling with Satan is a difficult engagement. He knows our weaknesses. He knows when we are most vulnerable. When sin is staring us in the face, why should we give thanks unto God?
There are several reasons that we can set forth in answer to this question. First, Satan’s temptations often indicate that we are children of God. Satan’s desire to have us means that we are not on his side. Second, temptation gives us the ability to rely upon God. He has promised a way of escape (I Cor. 10:13). Now we can turn to Him and ask for assistance in our trial (Heb. 4:15). Third, temptation gives us the opportunity to be like Christ. He, too, was tempted by the enticements of the evil one (Matt. 4:1-11). Fourth, temptations can bring victory to our lives. James declared: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptations: for when he is tried, he shall receive a crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).
Another time when it is hard to give thanks to God is in tribulation and persecution. Sometimes the trials can be very intense. They often come from those who are closest to us. Why be thankful when ridicule and cruel mocking are constantly coming our way?
Several reasons can again be stated as to why we can give thanks to God for tribulation. First, tribulation helps us to develop our Christian character. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that they trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). Second, persecutions set us in the company of the faithful elite of days gone-by. Jesus noted this in the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12). Bible greats of the past have suffered humiliation and pain. They have been ridiculed and chastised for their faithfulness. Our afflictions place us within their number. Third, persecution makes us like unto the Son of God. “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household” (Matt. 10:22-25). As Christians, we are called upon to be Christ-like. One of the elements of Christ-likedness is the ability to both face and endure persecution.
A final area wherein most find thanksgiving difficult involves human frailty. Human frailty is seen most often in sickness and death. Mankind likes to think of himself as being strong and invincible. He glories in his dominant position in the earth. Sickness and death, however, reminds him of his feebleness. This being the case, why should we express gratitude in such a time?
First, the experiences of sickness and death cause us to think soberly about life and ourselves. Solomon expressed this thought in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4. “It is better to go the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning: but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Second, physical pain and anguish cause one to rely more upon God. We come to understand that we are not in control. In such times, we are more willing to accept the help of a divine being. Paul expressed it well in II Corinthians 12:9: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Third, physical ailments prove to the world that God’s children do not merely serve God for His blessings. They serve Him because of who He is. Job was smitten with boils from the sole of his feet to the crown of his head (Job 2:7). He was so grievously afflicted that his close friends did not know him (Job 2:12). Previously, God had abundantly blessed him. Now he had nothing. Yet, “in all this did not Job sin with his lips” (Job. 2:10).
Brethren, we encourage you to give thanks. Give thanks in everything, the good and the bad. Find the blessings of temptation, persecution, and human frailty and lift up your voice with thanksgiving. Do as the psalmist exhorted: “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Ps. 100:4).