“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The last couple weeks we’ve taken a brief look at verse 16, “Rejoice always,” and then verse 17, “Pray Constantly”. Today we peer in to our third and final directive found in verse 18, “give thanks in everything”. It seems a bit cliché to write about thankfulness during the week of Thanksgiving, but it fits. This series on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is all about posturing our heart towards the Savior, and I know no better way than a heart full of gratitude.
The concept of gratitude is everywhere, signs adorn the walls of our homes and journals have been specially crafted in order to focus on the idea. Along with tangible reminders surrounding us, hundreds of studies have been done on thankfulness and gratitude. According to one article, thankfulness has the ability to improve our physical and psychological health, reduce aggression, enhance empathy, improve our sleep and self-esteem.[i] These are just a few of the benefits a heart of thankfulness can offer.
It turns out these studies have uncovered what I believe to be part of God’s original design for our heart, soul, mind, and strength – thankfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us that it is God’s will for us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks – at all times. While these three directives do not exhaust the will of God, they impact our obedience in fulfilling other aspects of God’s will. If a heart is not postured with thanks 365 days a year, I fear it will be incrementally more challenging to fulfill the individual details of God’s will as they are presented.
The story of Jonah comes to mind. He didn’t exactly tell God “thanks” for sending him to Nineveh. Rather than taking a posture of ‘thank you for using me’ he initially goes the opposite direction. This is a complex story in the Old Testament involving pride and hypocrisy, there is much more than a lack of gratitude involved. Yet I believe it may also serve as an example to us in the context we’re focusing on today. God’s will for the Ninevites to repent came to pass, yet Jonah’s experience in joining God in that will was nothing short of a challenge for him.
Giving thanks for everything cultivates an active and growing spiritual life, while fostering relationship with our Creator and others. Gratitude invites abundance. Through aggravations of this earth, impossible situations, and deep heartache, thankfulness has a way of lifting our eyes to the One who is higher and completely sovereign. Practicing gratitude provides contentedness, it holds an element of humility, ushers in peace, and provides space to experience God’s victory!
I’m not going to provide a list of various ideas to practice more gratitude, because it starts with simply and authentically stating, “thank you”. Tell God! Tell your spouse, parents, kids, pastor, friends, grocery clerk – everyone. Can I challenge you to make it personal, direct, and specific? Reflect back to God what your thankful for throughout the day.
Would you mind sharing your experiences here? Leave a comment! Let’s encourage and inspire one another with how God is using this in your life right now!
It’s my prayer these verses, along with our verse in 1 Thessalonians 5, would be used to posture our hearts this season by giving thanks and rejoicing in and for our Savior.
I’m so thankful to God for you,
A psalm of thanksgiving.
“Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to God!
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before him with joyful songs.
Acknowledge that the LORD is God.
He made us, and we are his –
His people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name.
For the LORD is good, and his faithful love endures forever;
his faithfulness, through all generations.”
Psalm 100 (CSB)