1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)
Give Thanks in ALL Circumstances
It can be easy to get caught up in how we could be happier and more thankful if we had DIFFERENT POSSESSIONS, DIFFERENT PREDICAMENTS, DIFFERENT POSSIBILITIES and certainly, DIFFERENT PEOPLE in our lives. However, verse 18 tells us to give thanks in ALL circumstances. Given the events of this last year, it can propose some major challenges in giving thanks in ALL circumstances. In the Pandemic alone, we’ve had 46.3 million persons infected with COVID-19. At the time of this Devotional, there have been 751 thousand deaths from the virus in the United States. There are tens of millions of people making less than a living wage, causing us to enter into what is now being called “The Great Resignation.” This ongoing trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs is a response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. It’s a response to the American government refusing to provide necessary worker protection and wage stagnation despite rising living costs.
Almost half of Americans believe that the cost of living is the biggest threat to their financial security. Food, housing, education, transportation, and medical cost have all skyrocketed. Toilet paper is high. Gas is high. Chicken wings are high. Medicine is high! Food, housing, education, and medical costs increased by 2.3% over the past year alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index. The cost of medical care rose 4.6% in 2019, the most significant year-over-year increase since 2007. Housing jumped 3.2% last year, while education expenses rose 2.1% and food prices increased about 1.8%.
In contrast, real wages effectively remained stalled last year, showing only a 0.2% year-over-year increase. We can’t afford to buy unleaded gas, and the government can’t give us unleaded water! We have 80 million people who are underinsured or uninsured. And Pastor, you are suggesting we ought to give “Thanks in All things”?
We have wrestled over the past year with the “Battle for the Ballot!” We’ve wrestled with Racial Injustice, poverty, and inequality with an unjust criminal legal system. We’ve wrestled with vaccinations versus non-vaccinations. Persons are being threatened with losing their jobs for refusal to be vaccinated. Mask versus no mask. We’ve watched loved ones die without even having the emotional support from family and friends. There have been people in our lives who have over-promised and under-delivered! The truth of the matter is, we often feel like Sophia from “The Color Purple” who said, “All my life, I had to fight!”
God Reveals Himself
We have always been in struggles and battles. We are always fighting for the simplest of things. We’ve had to fight for access. We’ve had to fight to have the right to get up. We’ve had to fight to be seen! We’ve had to fight to be heard. We’ve had to fight not to be violated. We’ve had to fight when we went to work. We’ve had to fight to have a relationship. Not to mention, some of us have even had to fight to be a part of God’s church. And yet, Paul tells us to “give thanks in ALL circumstances!” I’ve been ambushed. I’ve been deserted. I’ve been bullied; I’ve been jumped. I’ve been left for dead. I’ve been left without. I’ve been forsaken. I’ve been betrayed. I’ve been cheated. I’ve been tricked. I’ve been lied to and lied on. And yet, Paul writes to tell us “to give thanks in ALL circumstances!” ALL? It’s important to note that we are not instructed to give thanks FOR everything, BUT IN everything! It’s IN the Struggle that God reveals Himself! It’s IN my need that God demonstrates His sufficiency. God doesn’t have to change our circumstances before we give Him thanks. He commands that we give thanks IN ALL circumstances.
Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey
The history attached to our text is critical in order to get an understanding of our text and to see our text within the context of the text. The letter to the Thessalonian Church takes place during the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul writes this letter while in the city of Corinth after the return of Timothy from ministering and serving the new believers in Thessalonica. Upon Timothy’s return, he gives the Apostle Paul a report regarding the Thessalonian church that was quite favorable. After Paul started the church in Thessalonica, he had to leave because of the violence and threats of incarceration. So he sent Timothy back to help nurture the new believers. Timothy comes back with a glowing report. The Believers at Thessalonica were growing spiritually and serving God fervently. However, they had questions about the Lord’s return. They wanted to know what happens to a believer who dies before the Lord’s return.
In addition to Timothy’s favorable report, he also informed Paul about where the church of Thessalonica was falling short. In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, around AD 51, he sought to address them with words of encouragement with their spiritual relationship with God. He then sought to address their questions and concerns. And then Paul finds it necessary to give them instructions on living a life of holiness. Chapters 1 thru 3 are about Paul longing to revisit them but being unable to because of the interference of Satan. In chapters 1 thru 3, Paul expresses his concern for them and how he was encouraged to hear about their growth in the Lord. In verses 11-13 of chapter 3, Paul covers them in prayer. May I suggest parenthetically that one of the responsibilities of our modern-day Shepherds is to PRAY for the sheep, not to PREY upon the sheep. In chapter 4, Paul gives instructions to the Thessalonians on living in Christ and being a holy representative. He warns them against sexual immorality, control over their own body. He warns them about lust and passion. He instructs them to mind their own business and to love one another.
In verses 13-18 of chapter 4 and verses 1-11 of chapter 5, Paul addresses the questions regarding the return of Christ and those who die before His return. He tells them about the rapture, how Christ will return for His people, even those who died before His return. It’s here where you will find the clearest biblical teaching on the rapture of believers. Paul knew that this young church of the Thessalonians had been exposed to errant teaching from those in opposition to the way of Jesus Christ and the grace of God. Paul understood that unless this young church continued to mature in its faith, the danger would only increase over time. Paul is blown away, however, by the faithfulness of the Thessalonians in the face of persecution. He reminds them that the persecution they were receiving from their “own countrymen,” the Jews who rejected Christ as the Messiah, are the same ones that the Old Testament prophets suffered at the hands of.
In verses 12-13 of chapter 5, Paul instructs the church to respect the church’s leadership, for the Pastor. He talks about how the Lord has placed them in positions of authority and trust over the church. Paul challenges the members of the church to hold their leader in high regard because of the ministry they perform. In verses 14-18, Paul instructions to believers was a warning for those who are lazy, to encourage those whose faith is weak, to exercise patience with everyone, and do good to everybody. And it is here where our text is seen. Paul tells us to Rejoice Always, Pray without Ceasing and to give thanks in ALL circumstances.
This is God’s will for you
Allow me to focus on verse 18 of our text for the balance of this Devotional. “Be thankful in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” The word “All” in this passage simply means “All.” The good, the bad, and the ugly; in “ALL” circumstances. No matter what the circumstances are, we are to give thanks! Let’s just go ahead and acknowledge that this command is tough. Because to give Thanks IN ALL circumstances is counterintuitive to our natural desire to complain whenever life becomes difficult. This command is seemingly impossible! I believe, however, that “Being Thankful” In all circumstances can be transformational for us if we put it into practice. Instead of complaining about what you don’t have; instead of complaining about how things are not working out for your good; instead of playing the role of the victim and acting as though everybody is out to get you; instead of saying, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all;” instead of saying, “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another,” why not declare, “I will bless the Lord at ALL Times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Why not declare, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Why not declare, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Why not declare, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against me in judgment thou shalt condemn.” Why not declare, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of a shadow of death, I’ll fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Why not declare, “My God shall supply all of my needs, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Giving thanks and being thankful in all circumstances can be transformational for us if we put it into practice. Allow me to examine the word, “Thanks.” The text tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” The word, “Thanks” in Hebrew is the word, “Toda.” If I add the Hebrew word “Raba” and say, “Toda Raba,” it just means “Thank you a lot” or “Thank you very much.” The “Toda” gives an indication of the fact that you have been the recipient of good things from the Lord. This means we will not consider our circumstances with our natural eyes. Still, we look only through the eyes of faith at our God our deliverer and give Thanks because we are the recipients of God’s goodness.
It’s Time to Start Thinking
Pastor, what have we received? We are the recipients of His salvation. We were on our way to Hell but He saved us. We are the beneficiaries of His provisions. Everything we have, God provided. We are the possessors of His protection. He has protected us from seen and unseen dangers. No wonder He wants us to give Him Thanks. It’s hard to enter into God’s presence and not think about what He has done. Most of us can’t worship because we don’t think! If you would just think – worship would be automatic! When we think about what God has done for us, it becomes easy to worship. If you could think about where God has brought you from – If you could think about what He has provided you with, giving Him thanks would just be automatic.
The word that is equivalent for “Thanks” in Greek is “eucharisteo.” The etymological breakdown of eucharisteo is “Eu,” which means “good” and the second part is “charis,” which means “grace.” Grace is nothing more than the unmerited favor of God. It’s God giving me stuff I don’t deserve. “Eucharisteo” means nothing more than “good grace!” In other words, we are the recipients of God’s good grace. This means then, we don’t come into His presence to “Receive,” but we come into His presence to “Give” Thanks for what we have already Received!
We ought to be aware of what we have already received. The English word “Thanks” comes from the ancient Anglo-Saxon word, “Think.” The word “Thank You” in its original form was the phrase “Think You.” The idea behind it was to say, “Thank You,” you must “think.” The person that is “Thankful” is the person that is “Thinkful.” It’s the “Thinker” that gives “Thanks.” Could it be that the reason why many of us don’t give “Thanks” is because you don’t take time out to “Think?”
Just think for a minute about the fact that you didn’t create yourself, God made you! The brain that you have, didn’t come from you. God gave it to you! Your body that you have, with all the details inside of it, God did that! The opportunities you have been enjoying and taking advantage of were God who gave them to you. The children who are the love of your life, that son, that daughter, it was God who gave them to you. When you Think about what He has already given to you, the least you could do is Thank Him! Wait a minute! It does not matter what your current condition is. It doesn’t matter what money you have or don’t have. It doesn’t matter how many people you owe or how deep in debt you are. It doesn’t matter what your doctor just diagnosed you with! You have been the recipient of God’s good grace! Just on that alone, you ought to Thank Him! “Enter into His gates with Thanksgiving and into His courts with praise!”
Recipients of God’s Good Grace?
Can any of you honestly say you have not been a recipient of God’s Good Grace? Let me help you answer that. No! Here is how I know. Because you’re still alive! However bad things are, you’re still alive! And as long as you are alive, things can get better. Because God has the power to turn things around. So on this day, I don’t need to mope around because of all of the difficulties I’m facing. I don’t need you to throw a pity party for me nor do I need you to feel sorry for me because I’m going to give Him thanks while I’m still in it! I can always find something to be thankful for! As long as I’m alive and I have God in my life, things can get better. It’s not the last chapter.
Giving Thanks in ALL Circumstances
Giving Thanks in ALL circumstances requires that our focus is on the past; not what’s currently taking place. Your focus has to be on what HAS taken place. Here is why – In order for Satan to discourage you, he has to minimize the past and amplify the presence. He has to attempt to make you forget what God has done for you and magnify your current circumstances. But if you can remember what God has done; If you can remember what God brought you out of; If you could remember what He delivered you from; then you can Thank Him in your circumstances! Thanksgiving has to do with yesterday! Thanksgiving has to do with battles that have already been fought and won. Thanksgiving is about Victories that have already been won. Thanksgiving has to deal with stuff that God has already pulled you out of. Thanksgiving has to deal with the healing He has already given you! I’m grateful! I’ll Bless You Anyway! In the middle of my storm. In the middle of my trial. I’ll still bless you. When I’m in the middle of the road and don’t know which way to go. I’ll still bless you anyway! Tears in my eyes. Questions in my mind. No money in my pocket. Sickness in my body. Depression all around me. Betrayal on every side. I’ll Bless You Anyway!
One Moore Minute
One Moore Minute – a 40 Day Devotional – explores issues that are deep in nature and yet entrenched in our daily affairs with biblical truths that are both timeless and treasurable. This devotional will touch who we are, where we are, and why we are.
The chaplain for Timothy Partners, Ltd., Pastor Anthony E. Moore is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and his lovely wife, First Lady, Cynthia A. Moore a native of Dallas, Texas. Pastor Moore has served Carolina Missionary Baptist Church since 1987 and has been proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ for over thirty years. His latest book is “One Moore Minute” a devotional series. No matter your age, the color of your skin, your circumstance, your economic plight in life, it’s a fact, that through the love of Jesus Christ – you can do all things.