My heart doesn't tend to go towards giving thanks during the difficult circumstances in my life. Honestly, my heart doesn't automatically go to giving thanks even in the good times of my life. I’m reminded in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that giving thanks in all things is God's will for us.
You can read the post below (6 minutes) or listen in to the podcast, where I share a bit more information (21 minutes).
Motherhood reminds me that we're not born with a bent towards thankfulness. Not only am I dealing with my own grumbling complaining spirit, now I have children who are so good at it too. Our children don't come out of the womb with thanksgiving on their lips. I lived this out with my kids but now get to do it again when I'm with my grandkids. How often did, or do I have to remind them as littles (and bigs) to say “thank you.” It is learned and taught and a caught response.
As much as I'm training my children and now grandchildren to be thankful, I find myself at times living my daily life as it states in Romans 1:21 – “neither were they thankful.”
Ingratitude is a sin that fails to acknowledge God as the giver of all things. Gratitude is an attitude that honors God. It acknowledges that He is the giver of all things.Ingratitude is a sin that fails to acknowledge God as the giver of all things.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 it states:
Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
We're given three exhortations in those verses: Rejoice, pray, and be thankful. Why? Because this is God's will. Joyful, prayerful, and thankful Christians make the gospel attractive to a watching world.
When things are going well, it's easy to be thankful. Unbelievers are thankful when conditions are favorable. But what about when life's situations aren't conducive to thankfulness. When illness strikes, or loneliness, depression, broken relationships, financial difficulties, or the death of a loved one?
How do we give thanks then? Do we just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and say, “Well, God's Word says I'm to be thankful, so I'm going to give it my best shot.”
If we look back at 1 Thessalonians 5:18, there are two things we need to focus on from that verse. The first is “in Christ,” and the second is “God's will.” It is God's will for us to be thankful, and in Christ, we are equipped as believers to do this.
Second Corinthians 5:17 is a verse we memorize as new believers:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.
When God opened our eyes and heart to the gospel, and we repented of our sins and put our faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation; A great exchange took place.
At the moment of salvation, our sin was imputed to Christ, and He was made to be sin for us. Christ's righteousness was imputed to us, and when God looks at us, He now sees the righteousness of Christ. When this transfer happened, we were made new creations in Christ. The old has gone, and the new has come. We have been spiritually born again. We are now reconciled to God because of the work of Jesus on our behalf.
At the moment of salvation, we were given new hearts and minds that desire to obey and please God. God's Spirit at work in us enables us to give thanks in all things because it is His will for us.
Why should we be thankful? Because it states in 1 Thessalonians, “For this is God's will for you.”
David Guzik states about 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
“After each one of these exhortations – rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks – we are told to do them because it is the will of God. The thought isn't, “this is God's will, so you must do it.” The thought is rather, “this is God's will, so you can do it.” It isn't easy to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks, but we can do it because it is God's will.”
The reminder in Romans 1:21 is man by nature is ungrateful. Being transformed by grace is the only way we will indeed have thankful hearts inwardly and not just outwardly.
God's will is not a mysterious secret that we need to decode. It is laid out for us in His Word. To know His will, we need to know Him, and to know Him, we need to spend time with Him in the Word and prayer.
The more we know about someone, the more we know about their desires and likes, and dislikes. Marriage is an excellent example of this. I love my husband and want to please him. Our life together is continually learning how to please and serve one another. Why? Because we love each other.
Understanding the doctrine of the providence of God at work in our lives is key to giving thanks in all things.Understanding the doctrine of the providence of God at work in our lives is key to giving thanks in all things.
J. I. Packer defines providence:
“The providence of God is the unceasing activity of the Creator whereby, in overflowing bounty and goodwill, He upholds His creatures in ordered existence, guides and governs all events, circumstances, and free acts of angels and men, and directs everything to its appointed goal, for His own glory.”
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
A sparrow is the tiniest of creatures, and yet God is aware of everything that happens to them. The hairs on our head are numbered by Him. His providence guides and governs even the seemingly insignificant and mundane moments of our lives.
Giving thanks to God is a reminder that He is in control of all things. God is continually working in my life, all the various circumstances to conform me into the image of His Son. He is a good God, and I'm thankful to serve such a Father who takes care of even the minutest details of my life. He sees all and has purpose in all.
Giving Thanks in All Things:
As I sat with 1 Thessalonians 5:18 the other morning, I made some notes while praying through it to share today.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you
1 Thessalonians 5:18
-Not some but all
-As Christians, our lives are to be marked by thanksgiving.
-It is an imperative – a command.
-The commands of God help us to glorify Him, enjoy Him, and live the free and abundant life we have in Christ.
-The opposite of giving thanks is murmuring or complaining.
-When I complain against my circumstances, I am complaining against the one true God who has designed every circumstance of my life
-I desire my attitude to be one of gratitude.
-I owe everything to God; how can I not be thankful?
-I must practice thanksgiving in every circumstance (Romans 8:28 is a reminder)
-Ingratitude is a sin (Romans 1:21)
-There is always something to be thankful for – even on the seemingly darkest days. There is still an abundance of blessings.
-I need to pray for eyes of faith and an eternal perspective.
My last thought is a bit longer:
We often hear it says we don’t need to give thanks for the hard circumstances but just in them. First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Ephesians 5:20 says, “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus.” This is hard, and as I pondered through this one, I was reminded how often in those hard trials—the ones I would’ve never asked for —those are the ones where the Lord drew me closest, and my faith strengthened. I’m not saying we need to pray for trials but I do know the Lord works in mysterious ways that I will not fully comprehend while on this earth. This world is hard, and the older I get, the more I desire the future joy promised—Heaven. One day soon I will see Jesus and be like Him. One day soon, I will be free from sin and experience, full joy. One day soon, God is going to complete this work He began in me. God wants our eyes on the future joy He’s promised us.
These are truths we all know, and I haven't shared anything profound in this list, but they are ones I need to be reminded of daily, and if I do, I think you do too.
The providence of God is my foundation of being secure in trying circumstances. I'm reminded that God is working all things for my good and HIs glory.
When I find my heart grumbling and complaining, I'm questioning God's wisdom in His work in my heart and life.
My lack of thanksgiving shows a prideful heart. It's saying that I believe I know what is better for me than God does.
I can't control the circumstances of my life, but I can control how I respond to them. God is working, and there is purpose in everything. I desire my heart to be one of gratitude and thankfulness. I don't want to be known as a complainer. I want to be known as a woman who loves and trusts her God, knowing that He is for her and working out everything in her life for her good and His glory.
May we be women who desire to be known for thankful hearts to God for whatever in His wisdom He deems to allow for our lives. Will we respond naturally or supernaturally?
May we find ourselves:
Praying without ceasing.
Giving thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
“Thankfulness to God is a recognition that God in His goodness and faithfulness has provided for us and cared for us, both physically and spiritually. It is a recognition that we are totally dependent upon Him; that all that we are and have comes from God.”
Free Resource Library – PDF Download of Letter mentioned in the podcast
Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth