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What Can 1 Thessalonians 6:16-18 Teach Us This Thanksgiving?

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (ESV): Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

What does it mean to be thankful? As Americans we may tend to struggle with the concept of thankfulness, because we live in a time and culture where we want more and can have more quickly. Want the newest iPhone? You can have it with an early upgrade. Need new shoes? Free two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members.

At the root of our struggle with thankfulness is our struggle with contentment. Contentment is being satisfied in God no matter the circumstances. Contentment is an attitude we can have towards circumstances and things we possess, while thankfulness is the real-life action that comes from a heart of contentment. In a sense, giving thanks is the fruit of a content believer. This is why many of us on Thanksgiving actually give thanks. We look back at our year and try to find reasons to be thankful for what we have been given. We tend to reflect more on holidays when we are surrounded by loved ones. 

1 Thessalonians teaches us how to be thankful everyday. At the heart of this passage is the fact that these things are God’s will for our lives. Moreover, it is His will for us in Jesus. This means that if we are in Jesus, He wants this for us and produces this in us by way of sanctification. What are the things God wants us to do? Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. Notice, all three of these actions are meant to be done at all times. It does not matter the circumstance or the time, they are always to be done. These three actions can only be done when our attitudes towards our circumstances and God have changed. Rejoicing, praying, and thanksgiving flow out of humble and content hearts. 

Rejoice Always

We will rejoice in all circumstances when we are like Job, who understood that everything in his life was a gift. We came into this world with nothing and we will leave with nothing. So we can rejoice no matter what have or lack. We can rejoice in gain or loss. We can rejoice in sickness and in health. We do not rejoice always because we think God owes us more health or wealth. We do not rejoice at all times because we think we would make a better god than God. We need our pride slashed and to be content in our circumstances. 

Pray Without Ceasing

We pray without ceasing when we realize we are not in control of our lives. James 4:15 “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  We make plans but God is in control. We do not pray for safety and help because we do not realize we need God at all times. We do not see the need to rely on the Spirit which causes us to walk in the flesh. 

Give Thanks in all Circumstances

We give thanks at all times because we realize who God is, who we are, and what we deserve. We deserve God’s wrath poured out on us for all of eternity. Instead, we get grace. We get Jesus! That is enough for us to be thankful at all times. So no matter what we lack, no matter what we need, we have all we need in Jesus! Let us make sure our Thanksgiving is not a day, but a springboard for the rest of our lives and spiritual walks. “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

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