In Everything Give Thanks . . .
The historical background for I Thessalonians can be summarized as follows. After leaving Thessalonica, Paul tried to return several times, but Satan thwarted his plans. Therefore, he sent Timothy and Silvanus to strengthen and encourage the church during its time of affliction and to learn about their progress in faith. Timothy has now recently returned to Corinth from Thessalonica with an encouraging report that the church has remained steadfast in its faith despite severe affliction. Overjoyed by this report, Paul writes a paraenetic letter to encourage the Thessalonians in their faith and to remind them of what they already know.
They are in the fight of their lives. I mean they are really catching it. They are dealing with their deficiency. They are learning that at times the life of faith is not a life of abundance. Rather, it is a life of uncontrollable and unforeseen afflictions. They are also handling the deserters. There were many that abandoned the faith and returned to their former lives and loves. Finally, to make matters worse, they are struggling with their detachment. Paul, who has tried on several occasions, just cannot return to be in their physical presence.
Considering all of this, the encouragement from the apostle is somewhat problematic. Paul says: “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” How could Paul make such an unfair and irrational statement? How could he sagaciously suggest such seemingly insensitive and inconsiderate advice? How could he advocate this commanding word of advice? After all the church at Thessalonica was facing, how could Paul say: “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus?” How could Paul instruct them to “give thanks in all circumstances?
This statement or directive seems not only irrational, but also nearly impossible. The reality is that there are circumstances that we may experience that might be difficult to echo the words of Bobby McFerrin hit ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy.’ We each know the hurt of the human experience that leaves us without emotions or energy. How could Paul make such an unfair and irrational statement? How could he sagaciously suggest such seemingly insensitive and inconsiderate advice? How could he advocate this commanding word of advice? After all the church at Thessalonica was facing, how could Paul say: “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus?”
Is Paul saying something else? If the emphasis is placed on “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” perhaps we gain a new level of praise and thanksgiving. So the question that must be answered is: What is this a reference too? If this makes reference to the word give thanks than this verse is not just irrational, but also impossible. However, if this is a reference to God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, then this verse takes on a more powerful and practical meaning.
After the transitioning of my wife, I had to meet with attorneys for the purpose of estate planning. Along with this came a living will. My living will is document of my wishes and wants for BJ and Brennon in my absence. It places upon certain individuals an assignment. They have directives and instructions I want them to perform on my behalf in my absence. And, this living will has been done prior to any unforeseen and unexpected afflictions or absences.
I think what this verse places emphasis is not only on ‘give thanks’ but more importantly “the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.” In other words, as a child of God, we know that God is not only aware of but He is associated with our circumstances. Simply put, everything you are in is God’s will. While what we may be ‘in’ may be the most incomprehensible, it is God’s will. Though what we may be facing is the test of our life, it is God’s will. While it may be unexpected and unwarranted, what you are in was predetermined.
So how can I give thanks in every circumstance? I can give thanks in every circumstance only when I see my life as God sees my life, then I can give God praise for the circumstances in my life.
Be reminded of the fact that God knows “the plans He has for us, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11 NIV).”