Happy Thanksgiving! 1 Thessalonians. 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Be sure to notice the last part of verse 18, look at it again, “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” There aren’t a lot of passages in the Bible that specifically spell out, “this is God’s will for you,” but this is one of them. Think about that. This specifically is God’s will for all of us – that we rejoice always, that we pray continually, and that we give thanks in all circumstances. In the original Greek language, they could be translated, “continually rejoice, continually pray, and continually give thanks.”
That’s really where the challenge lies, doesn’t it? I mean, we would have no problem if it said, “Rejoice sometimes, pray occasionally, and give thanks when you feel like it.” It’s the words, “Always”, “Continually”, and “In all circumstances” that trip us up. And the implication is that the real impact of the gospel will be seen in those times when we don’t feel very joyful, when we don’t want to pray, or when we can’t think of a reason to be thankful. That’s where we discover if our faith is real or if it’s just a show.
Let’s be honest, this is a challenging verse: for the person who’s recently been divorced; the person who had a miscarriage; the person whose body is devastated by the treatments they are receiving; the person who feels like they are barely existing in a job filled with difficulties and disappointments; the person who is overwhelmed by financial demands; the person who has to helplessly watch their child suffer; the person who lives with a cloud of depression; the person who has recently stood at the freshly dug grave of someone they love; or the person who feels suffocated by their loneliness.
In each of those situations, the idea of “giving thanks in all circumstances” is beyond difficult! In fact, it seems impossible. So what is Paul saying? Well, let me tell you what he’s NOT saying, he’s not asking us to pretend. Jesus openly WEPT over the death of His friend Lazarus. And that Greek word isn’t used anywhere else in the entire New Testament. It literally means that Jesus spontaneously burst into tears, that He was overcome with grief. Jesus was the most thankful person who ever lived, but that didn’t keep Him from deeply identifying with human sorrow, suffering, and death. So this is definitely not about pretending or denying.
Nor is Paul saying that we’re to give thanks FOR all circumstances. Obviously we shouldn’t be thankful for evil or injustice or any of the many things that grieve God’s heart. BUT, we are to be thankful IN all circumstances. And that’s an important distinction. The implication is NOT that everything that happens to us is good. But rather, regardless of what happens – HE is still good! And for the believer, JUST THAT provides us with a lifetime of reasons to be thankful.
Each year brings with it ups and downs, joys and sorrows, big & small changes – and 2022 has been no exception. Through it all, it is my prayer that we are a grateful people and just a little bit more like Jesus. It is my prayer, that in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of today and this weekend, that you will choose to see all the blessings in your life and be reminded that the greatest of those is that you belong to Jesus! I can’t tell you how very thankful I am for you and for the privilege and honor of being your Pastor. Paul’s words in Philippians 1:3 are very real to me, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.”
Whether you and your family are here in Charleston or out of town this weekend, I hope to see you at Coastal on Sunday – in-person or online! We have 2 services – 9:30am & 11:15am. I love you Coastal, I love being your Pastor, and I love what we get to do together!
P.S. This weekend & the week ahead will see the largest traffic of onlline shopping of the year! While you’re shopping, don’t forget that you can also GIVE ONLINE. You can give through our website, or TEXT the word “GIVE” to 843-571-1777 and follow the simple instructions. This would be a great weekend to give to our Christmas Offering! Simply use the keyword, “Christmas.”