November 19, 2017: Give Thanks in All Circumstances

Posted on : Nov 16th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Every so often the Holy Spirit taps me on the shoulder and says, “Whoa!  Look at that!”  So it is with this wonderful admonition from the Apostle Paul to the young Christians in Thessalonica.  For those who don’t know, Thessalonica is somewhere between Barstow and Las Vegas.  Only joking.  Today, Thessalonica is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of Macedonia.  It was a very populated and wealthy city.  In the 2nd century A.D. the historian Lucian mentions it as the greatest city of Macedonia. It was important, not only as a harbor with a large import and export trade, but also as the principal station on the great Via Egnatia, the highway from the Adriatic to the Aegean Seas.

Also worthy of note is that Paul got his butt kicked out of Thessalonica!  Seems that “the-powers-that-be” were so miffed that Paul was doing such a great job of converting folks to Christianity, that they accused him of sedition.  Paul sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage this young congregation.  When Timothy returned to Paul, he brought with him some questions from the young Christians in Thessalonica.  Paul answers their questions in this first letter to the Thessalonians.  As is common with Paul, he got so carried away in the spirit that he ended up offering an extensive set of exhortations. To exhort simply means to strongly encourage or urge (someone) to do something.

Paul wraps it up with these words, which have become some of the most quoted words of his writings:

Rejoice always,

pray without ceasing,

give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit.

Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything;

hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In looking at those familiar words, one thing that I had never noticed before was the implication of Paul’s exhortation to “Give thanks in all circumstances.”  All circumstances – as in, ALL circumstances – implies that there are some circumstances in which it is difficult to give thanks.

Most often we think of giving thanks when things are going well; when we have a lot of blessings to be thankful for.  But Paul encourages us to also give thanks when things are not going well, like when we get thrown out of town.

A contemporary example of this is found in the stories of those who survived the wildfires that destroyed over 3,000 homes in northern California.  Time and again we heard people who lost their homes and all their possessions say they were thankful simply to be alive.  They were not thankful for the fires, but thankful for those who helped save them and for the blessing of surviving this tragedy.

As I reflect on my life and faith experience, I am aware that there are a number of experiences that I was not thankful for at the time they happened, but now see blessings in them.

As we celebrate the season of Thanksgiving, the Apostle Paul offers us some great insight about what it means to give thanks to God in good and difficult, in joyous and sad, in prosperous and not so prosperous circumstances.

Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

I Thessalonians 5: 16-24

Paul’s words of admonition about “Christian” living.

 

Rejoice always,

pray without ceasing,

give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit.

Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything;

hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The one who calls you is faithful, and will do this.

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