give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians was one of the earliest epistles of Paul, if not the earliest. Paul’s ministry in the prosperous city of Thessalonica was recoreded in Acts 17 1-10. Having been forced to leave the city of Thessalonica abruptly in a hurry as soon as it was night [Acts 17:10], Paul was naturally anxious about the situation of his brothers. The theme of this epistle, according to Mark Copeland, is holiness in view of the second coming of Christ, as Paul offers many instructions concerning holy living. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22, Paul offers his final instructions to the Thessalonian Church not unlike his instructions to other Churches or brothers. While he did not go in depth into each of these instructions, as they were his concluding words, they offer a quick idea of what Paul desires for the Church. Thanksgiving is an important duty of any Christian.
in all circumstances – all means all. Good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, a promotion or a demotion, or even after 30 years stuck at the same job. In a funeral or in a wedding, at the critical ward or at the nursery ward of a hospital, the moment before an accident and the moment after the accident. In times of suffering, pain and trials; in times of joy, celebration and merry-making. When you are chided by your boss or when you reprimand your employees. In usual circumstances and in unusual circumstances.
Give thanks in all circumstances.
I love the word ‘circumstances’. It’s long enough that by the time I finish saying it, I would have been able to cast away all the negativity; it’s a word that is so much more sophisticated than the likes of ‘plight’ or ‘situation’. Of course it usually means something unusual or bad – one wouldn’t go around saying, oh, my circumstances are as per normal. That’s annoying. Know me well enough and you would have heard me saying this at some point – I believe that whether life is good or bad depends not on my circumstances, but on my attitude – that’s basically my life mantra, if I’m allowed to have one. I can easily quote you some biblical verses to give a Christian vibe to it, but I like it this way. Because my attitude has been generally good, I can thus say that my life has been good. That’s all there is to it. Circumstances? It’s not a factor in my equation of whether life is good or not.
Best example in the Bible? I would say Christ, but that’s an overused analogy. Let us look instead at the life of one of the major prophets, Daniel. Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before [Dan 6:10]. What was Daniel’s circumstance? The King Darius, under the advice of ill-meaning administrators, issued an edict that if anyone would pray to any god or human other than the King for the next thirty days, they will be thrown to the lion’s den [Dan 6:7]. It was a ridiculous edict – if you want a law like that, why just for thirty days then? The only purpose for that edict was to trap Daniel with it. Daniel probably even knew that it was an evil plan hatched by those administrators. Yet he would not look away from God. He would not stop praying to God. Even in difficult circumstances the decision for him was easy to make – he still prayed in a room where the window was open. He had nothing to hide. He still thanked God, as per normal. He never stopped thanking God just because his circumstances were harsher than before.
That is why, perhaps, I believe that the attitude is the key to being able to give thanks in all circumstances. I lose most people at this point, because I know that attitude is not something that you can change just by pressing a button. How could Daniel do it? The Bible stated all that in just a verse, it sounded so easy for Daniel. He was so upright about it, so blameless about it, so consistent about it. For Daniel, it was something he had always done. He had always given thanks to God three times a day, so it was easy to continue doing it when times were hard. If you do not give thanks to God in good times, you will never be able to do so in harsher times.
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus – God’s will is for us to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances [1 Thes 5:16-18]. He wants us to be happy, he wants us to maintain a good relationship with him, he wants us to depend on him, and to acknowledge his works in our lives. Give thanks sincerely. Give thanks to God, knowingly – always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [Eph 5:20].
Let us learn, then, to have a positive attitude in all circumstances. Let us learn, then, to begin to give thanks to God in good times. Get into that habit – not as a routine, but as a genuine gratitude from our hearts. Let us get into that habit, so that even in difficult circumstances, we are prepared to give thanks to the Lord.