Just when we might have hoped that COVID-19 was gone, it has again raised its ugly head, threatening to be the “Grinch” that steals away our Thanksgiving gatherings. Bah humbug. This plague is so discouraging and disgusting it makes me sputter in my facial covering.
Even though our gatherings may be reduced, next Thursday still does not have to be “Black Thursday” if we remember what the day is really all about — thanking God for his blessings. In fact, for the Christian, everyday should be Thanksgiving Day.
Our Lord seems to love to give us seemingly impossible commands to obey. Such as one found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (NKJV). No “everything” is not a misprint. Other translations read “No matter what happens, always be thankful” (NLT) and “Give thanks in all circumstances” (NIV/ESV). Ephesians 5:20 explains that one result of being filled with or controlled by the Holy Spirit is “giving thanks ALWAYS for ALL things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Whoa! Now we are in even deeper, not just giving thanks IN everything but also FOR all things and doing it ALWAYS.
When exactly is always, and what are all things? Silly question. As one of my professors said, “All means all and that’s all all means!” God can’t mean such things as bills, sickness, accidents, disasters, trials, losses, deaths, ornery people and COVID-19, can he?
Even if all things are not good, we can thank God knowing that “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Even when we are filled with anxiety and worry, we are commanded “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication WITH THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). We can thank God that he is in control and will help us deal with whatever we face.
The Greek verb “give thanks” means to “express thanks well, freely and graciously.” It is in the present tense meaning to do it continually, constantly, habitually, now. It is also in the active voice expressing strong personal involvement in doing it rather than just passively thinking about it. Finally, it is a command and not optional. The Lord desires our responses to be like the Marines “Hua!” — “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged!”
There are many times when we are unsure of God’s specific will for us: Which job shall I take? Who should I marry? What church should I attend? But there is no doubt about God’s will here in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Who can obey such a command? Only those who are “in Christ Jesus.” The “you” refers to believers in Jesus Christ, born again, saved, redeemed through repenting (turning from) their sins and trusting Jesus alone for forgiveness and eternal life (John 3:16). 2 Corinthians 5:17 states “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.” In Christ we have a new nature, new desires and are under the new management of the Holy Spirit of God who enables us to be, do and say what God desires. Being a Christian is the truly “in crowd.” Are you “in” or “out”? Jesus died to get you “in.”
If one is not “in Christ,” he probably does not have much to be thankful for. In fact, Romans 1:21 bluntly affirms that after not glorifying God as God, the second step in man’s downfall was not being thankful to him. While the ungodly world talks with filthiness (obscenities), foolish (Greek “moronic”) talking and coarse jesting (suggestive, immoral) speech, such words are not proper for believers whose speech is to be characterized by giving of thanks (Ephesians 5:4).
It is always easier and natural to complain about all things rather than give thanks and praise to God. This was Israel’s pattern in the desert on the way to the Promised Land as they griped about everything including the miraculous manna. God warns us not to follow their sad example (1 Corinthians 10:10) and “to do all things without complaining and disputing” (Philippians 2:14). We all need to join “Complainers Anonymous.” Amen?
Even if our whole world is falling apart, as believers we can still thank God everyday for his unspeakable, inexpressible and incomparable gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ
(2 Corinthians 9:15). The hymn urges us to “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done” (Count Your Blessings by Johnson Oatman Jr., 1897).
Snoopy had to eat dog food on Thanksgiving Day and, as he sat on top of his dog house, said, “Everyone else is eating turkey! How about that? Of course, it could have been worse; I could have been born a turkey!” Let’s make everyday Thanksgiving Day as we praise God from whom ALL blessings flow even in this COVID-19 plagued year.