If there should be any single rumbling in the heart of a Christian, it should be the rumble of gratitude. Gratitude is something that can be expressed “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man” (Mark Twain). Gratitude keeps us growing. Gratitude keeps us going.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It unfold plainly and simply.
First, we need to give thanks. In the New Testament, there are indicatives and imperatives. The indicatives are teachings, truths, things that are stated for our education and enlightenment. An example might be, “The church is build of the apostles and the prophets” (Ephesians 2:20).
But in addition to indicatives, there are also imperatives. Imperatives are different from indicatives in that they’re not teaching truths. Instead, they’re commands. So what’s the point?
The point is simple: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is not a suggestion or an analytical teaching, where Paul is saying, “Please sit and think about thankfulness and parse the verse ‘to give,’ and consider all of its implications.” No. It’s a command. “Give thanks!” This is what’s called an imperative. It’s a command. It’s an order. Paul is telling us, without any question, to give thanks.
And to add to his thrust, “Give thanks” is a present imperative active, meaning that Paul wants this to be a recurring theme, a continuous action in our lives. He doesn’t want us to throw up a “thank you” every now and then, or just occasionally. It should be something we’re doing constantly. This leads us to our next point.
Second, we need to acknowledge that there are some circumstances in which it will be easier to give thanks than others.
Why don’t we give thanks in some circumstance? Is it because we believe that not all circumstances are equally helpful? Equally pleasurable? Equally profitable? Of course.
For example, what about pain? Is pain a circumstance in which we are usually thankful? Of course not. Nevertheless, there are things in painful situations that we can be thankful for. That’s Christianity. Bad things are bad. Good things are good. They are called so by God. And we, as human beings made in His image, have the capacity to understand the difference. But Christian joy and gratitude isn’t a disconnected, oblivious feeling. Instead, it’s an awareness, even during tough circumstances, that there are always things we can be thankful for. So, for the Christian at least, gratitude is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not natural circumstances. And as we grow closer to Jesus, so our joy and gratitude grow, too.
For example, my wife and I once had a tough couple of weeks. We both got flat tires. The washer motor burned up. The refrigerator dispenser stopped working. Wow! Not only do these things cost money, but they’re things that we use each and every day. We had a choice: we could’ve allowed this to derail our joy or we could’ve recognized that even though our circumstances were challenging us, our true, lasting joy is rooted in Jesus—and that will never change. Whether or not the washer is working, we can always be thankful for that.
Finally, we talk a lot about the will of God. Sometimes in such a way that we make it should like the dew on the ground: it’s neat to look at, but you just can’t grasp it.
And in reality there’s more than this. There are actually 3 punches: a right, a left and an uppercut. He says, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks . . . this is God will.”
It’s a 1, 2, 3 combination of imperatives. Imagine if we, like boxers, lived our lives with this fighting combination.
pray without ceasing
give thanks always
These imperatives constitute God’s will for your life . . . for mine. There’s no illusion here, no magic tricks, no gimmicks. Just plain, simple vocabulary in the form of a command. This is God’s will for your life in Christ Jesus. What is it? Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks.
Why wouldn’t we? Well, I can think of a few reasons.
we keep a more secular schedule than a spiritual one
we keep company that keeps us from what matters most
we keep priorities that rob us of God’s priorities
What’s keeping you from rejoicing? Praying? Giving thanks?