1 Thessalonians 5:18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. (Quick Amplified Bible)
The Apostle Paul exhorted us to give thanks to God always for all things. Now this statement given to us by the Apostle Paul finds me many times (as I'm sure it must many of you) perplexed to think that I should thank my Heavenly Father when someone lies on me, steals from me, injuries me physically, attacks my family, or any number of very horrible things that happen to the children of God.
It is very easy to thank the Lord for the pleasant things that we experience in this life down here, but how are we doing when it comes to some of the aforementioned things above. We all can honestly say that we fall short many times in this area of our fellowship with our Lord and Savior. I am learning that giving Him thanks does not mean only for the things I find acceptable, but also for the things that are not so easy for me to accept. For example, when you find out that your teenage daughter (who just recently graduated High School and planned to go to college) is pregnant you do not immediately feel like shouting Hallelujah. The only thing pulsating in your mind then is sadness, anger, and grief.
However, when the Apostle Paul wrote the words giving thanks always for all things and rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice, he was languishing in a wet and cold dungeon. We might sometimes ask ourselves, how could Paul write such a thing being in a dungeon? Well, the Holy Spirit taught Paul to keep his thoughts off his circumstances and always have them firmly focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is beautiful no matter where you find yourself or no matter what so-called bad news may come to you.
When our Lord told the disciples that He would leave them His peace, He would be hanging on a Roman cross not long after that statement. You see the giving of thanks never finds its importance in the place or circumstance we find ourselves, but it finds it wonder and beauty in the person of Christ. Therefore, let us thank the Lord Jesus Christ for everything, knowing that in Him we have just that, everything.
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. (NKJV)
In essence, what King David says is that we are to find all that we need in fellowship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the delight of our hearts. Therefore, we are to thank Him for everything, even the things we consider bad. For whatever comes to us must come through His sovereign hand and therefore, we can know that He has a purpose in allowing it. Nothing comes a child of God's way, but what the Lord Jesus Christ allows and He always has a purpose in everything He does, unlike us.
When I read many of the other Psalms of King David, I find a man extremely perplexed at times as he saw the wicked men of this world seemingly prospering tremendously. You would think that this would cause him to shriek away from thanking the Lord, but on the contrary, he praised and thanked the Lord in every circumstance he found himself in, the good and bad. King Saul hunted David like a lion stalking a gazelle. He could not understand what would cause the King to hate him so and desire to take his life.
1 Samuel 26:18 And David said, Why does my lord thus pursue his servant? What have I done? Or what evil is in my hand? (NKJV)
However, David knew that the Lord was with him. Despite the misguided evil brought upon him by King Saul, David knew the Lord would deliver him from the King’s hand. I am sure that in many quiet moments, David felt like complaining to the Lord about his circumstance, but Scripture never records David doing any such thing.
David had two occasions that he could have killed King Saul and the men with him urged him to allow them to do just that, but David would never stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed King. David through all this distress continued to revere the Lord and give him thanks for everything. He thanked the Lord for sending Abigail to him keeping him back from slaughtering the men of Nabal. David knew that it was not his place to take vengeance on King Saul.
1 Samuel 26:24 And indeed, as your life was valued much this day in my eyes, so let my life be valued much in the eyes of the Lord, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation. (NKJV)
And because of David’s faithfulness and continued reverence and thanksgiving to the Lord, the Lord spared his life and destroyed King Saul. David became King of Israel shortly thereafter. The actions of David were the result of a man reverent, faithful, and thankful to the Lord of Host.
Jeremiah 12:1 Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your Judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? (NKJV)
Now honestly we, all even today, understand where brother Jeremiah was coming from with this inquiry of the Lord. Giving Him thanks means being patient under trial and test and not always understanding His complete purpose initially.
Albert Barnes (1798-1870) says this of delighting in our Lord Jesus, “The fact that a child loves his father, and finds his happiness in doing his will, will do much to regulate his own 'wishes' or 'desires,' and will at the same time be a reason why the father will be disposed to comply with his requests.”
Psalm 43:4 Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy; yes, with the lyre will I praise You, O God, my God! (Quick Amplified Bible)
Here the Psalmist shows us what our continual response should be of having fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ and that is exceeding great joy. When we see Christ (we see Him in His Word), we are able to thank Him for all things that He allows into our lives, the good as well as the bad. What peace and ease to know nothing will ever befall you but what He allows and in so allowing, He will surely provide the corresponding grace to each one of His children to endure. How can we not thank Him understanding this truth?
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (NKJV)
Here is what our brother in Christ Matthew Henry (1662-1714) had to say about us delighting ourselves in the Lord, “If we make conscience of obedience to God, we may then take the comfort of complacency in him. And even this pleasant duty of delighting in God has a promise annexed to it, which is very full and precious, enough to recompense the hardest services: He shall give thee the desires of thy heart. He has not promised to gratify all the appetites of the body and the humors of the fancy, but to grant all the desires of the heart, all the cravings of the renewed sanctified soul. What is the desire of the heart of a good man? It is this, to know, and love, and live to God, to please him and to be pleased in him.”
When we delight ourselves solely in the Lord Jesus Christ, this means we are going to fall in love with His Word. We are going to desire Him to make His Word real to us and ask that it produce in our lives what it says. This too will cause our hearts to well up in thanksgiving and gratitude as the Holy Spirit takes His Word and makes it come alive in our hearts, minds, and in our lives. We show our ingratitude when we steer away from the Word of God and desire to head out into the far country as did the prodigal son. Our hearts may stay continually open to hear God's Word and allow that word to form us anew. The Lord warned the children of Israel about this issue of taking His Word lightly or laying it aside altogether.
Jeremiah 6:10 To whom shall I [Jeremiah] speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised [never brought into covenant with God or consecrated to His service], and they cannot hear or obey. Behold, the word of the Lord has become to them a reproach and the object of their scorn; they have no delight in it. (Quick Amplified Bible)
How thankless did these people become during this time in human History. The Lord chose them over all the other people's of the earth to give His oracles to and they show their thanks by scorning His Word. Let us never be as ungrateful and thankless as to lay the Lord's Word aside and go our own sinful ways. However, sadly this is happening today as people deny the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the sanctity of marriage, the blood atonement, the bodily Resurrection, and many other things the Apostles and the Prophets spoke by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The hearts of Christ true followers must cling to Him and His Word and never let anything separate us from our close fellowship with Him and the truth of His Word. We must remember that everything written to us about the things that happened to the children of Israel were written for our admonition or warning. Our Heavenly Father expects us to be grateful and thankful to Him because He has reconciled us back to Himself and allowed us to learn His truth so that we might not enter into some of the same destructive paths as the children of Israel.
Perhaps the ugliest thing found in our hearts by our Heavenly Father is ingratitude. We should be willing and able to say as Job said to his wife, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” This should be the continual cry of every redeemed soul. Every redeemed soul experiences hatred down here since Christ has taken us out of this world. The world hated Christ as He walked down here among men. Are we better or greater than He is? He thanked the Father for everything, even the cross. Should we not be compelled to do likewise, if we love Him?
Here is a prayer I found from F.B. Meyer (1847-1929):
Your heart's a garden God has sown.
To give your life the work it needed.
Some day He'll come to pluck His flowers,
So mind you keep your garden weeded.
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author, Silent Assassins of the Soul (not yet published; coming soon)