“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thess. 5:16-18
When I read this verse, I wonder, is there any space of time we shouldn’t give thanks? Is there any moment when I should allow anguish to quench my gratitude? Should I express gratitude in an ideal situation? What is all? Well, all means all. This means when the family is doing well, the kids are behaving, job promotions arise, bonuses are given, as well as when loved ones receive heartbreaking diagnoses, or when disappointment and grief are knocking at our door. All circumstances.
The letter was written to the beloved church in Thessalonica. Like much of the early church in the East, they were in the midst of persecution and were being encouraged by the Apostle Paul. They believed in the ways of Jesus and their belief made them a target for God’s presence. Jesus said this would happen to believers and yet, Paul admonishes them to make a conscious choice, that if their situation has any effect on them, it should be that they “Rejoice always…in all circumstances give thanks.”
Right now, the thought passes my mind. Our Savior, our beloved, in the true Hebraic way breaking bread to give thanks at the last supper. He knew what He was about to do. He understood the cup of suffering would not pass from Him. He also knew that we would be eternally joined to Him, yet He offered His thanks. Beautiful Jesus passes the bread to the ones who would leave him on this night of His betrayal. This was it. He’s sitting there with the one who would turn Him over to the Roman guard and yet, His pattern of thanksgiving did not escape Him at this moment. His commitment to His disciples and the feasts of memorial for how God rescued Israel during the Passover was not shaken. He was preparing a feast for us in the middle of His last feast before the Cross. He spent time with his friends and loved them until the end. He was making a glorious way for us. May we always remember where thanksgiving precedes us and may we be grateful for our God is with us in everything through the ever-present Holy Spirit and He has overcome the world.
The psalmist pens “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4) We are instructed in our relationship with the Lord to remember thanksgiving. It’s our offering as we enter His presence. It’s a gift we bring into the presence of our King because He is good and His mercy endures forever! (Psalms 100:5)
Gratitude has a way of helping us focus on what really matters and connecting us to the ones we love. In Jewish culture, there is a practice called “Hakarat Hatov” which means recognizing the good. It is the Hebrew word for gratitude! When I am recognizing the good that I have experienced, it lifts my eyes above the natural and connects us with our Father.
With all of the bad news we are presented with in society, I pray that you will find rest in Jesus and recall all of the goodness of God in your life, with your family and loved ones. From all of us at Leif Hetland Ministries, we wish you a happy and joyful Thanksgiving season.
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