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November 26, 2007

In Everything Give Thanks

“In everything give thinks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Editor’s note: The following was adapted from a sermon Dr. Forrest preached on August 3, 1947, in Toccoa, Georgia.

Paul’s words written to the Thessalonians were both an exhortation and command. However, many times we dismiss them because they seem unreasonable. The thought of expressing gratitude in times of difficulty seems out of place, especially when things don’t go to suit us. But Paul was sincere and serious when he wrote these words. They were not a theory to him; they formed a principle that really works: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The apostle knew first hand the benefits of being thankful even when you feel like the world is against you.

This verse also is a commandment. To do otherwise is to be disobedient. And to be disobedient is to be a rebel. Over the years, I have learned that God never requires anything without enabling us. He equips us for every task—even ones like being grateful when you don’t feel like it. You may be thinking, Am I really to be thankful in everything? You don’t know my situation. The answer is yes—in joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, in the bright morning or the darkest night. Be thankful when you succeed—in prosperity and victory—also when you fail and are humiliated. Be thankful in times of health and also in times of sickness. Be thankful when friends are kind and offer bouquets of love and understanding along with glad handshakes. But also when they pass you by and throw mud instead of flowers. Give thanks in everything because when you do you honor God. I know, this is a high standard, but I think we can see some light in this command and gain some help for our struggling hearts. Thankfulness should not be determined by our circumstances but by our confidence in God. The most grateful people are not always ones who have the most. Gratitude comes when we are confident in the fatherhood of God.

I knew a man who suffered a great deal as a result of a terrible disease. He recovered and was perfectly well. He also was profoundly grateful and refreshed everyone with his joy. But his gratitude did not begin the moment he was healed. It began way before this. It came at a point in time when he realized he was not in control of his life but God was. Later, I met a lady who was facing a deep sorrow. I told her about my friend and how God had worked in his life. But she retorted: “Of course, anyone would be happy when he recovers from such a dreadful disease.” The principle of gratitude escaped her, and she missed the point of my story. But you do not have to follow this same sorrowful line of thinking.

Gratitude is a test of character. Ask God to open your heart to His goodness and to the times that He has worked on your behalf. Refuse to compare your life to another’s. Be grateful to God for what He has given you. He never makes a mistake, and if He has given you a certain path to follow it must be because He trusts you greatly and has a wonderful plan in mind for you. Surely, this is the fastest route for you to reach His planned destination. Therefore, in everything give thanks, and He will pour out His blessings on your life.

Taken from the online book Grace in The Wilderness © 2007