Finding Your Thanksgiving

9 11 2015


When it comes to being truly thankful the hardest Scriptural command is 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

   No matter what happens always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (NLT)

Perhaps like you, I have always struggled with the seeming incongruity in this verse. My questions followed along the lines of, “How is it possible that I am to be thankful for even the bad things that happen in my life? Aren’t the bad things a product of Satan’s work? After all, isn’t Satan God’s enemy? Does God expect me to thank Him for the enemy’s work? Doesn’t God, who is love, only have good things intended for me?

Over the years I have read those who have tried to play theological gymnastics with this verse to explain the contradiction. They suggest that there is a hidden interpretation in this verse that excludes the bad since God surely isn’t the author of bad things. A loving God can’t also be the God of bad times. So, this verse has to be reinterpreted in line with how we have customarily understood God.

But the Bible says that there is only one God (Isa 46:9). Nothing exists apart from Him (Isa 66:2, Rev.4:11). There is no such thing as an opposing, independent power in the universe (Jer.16:20). God alone rules the universe which is a manifestation of Him (Acts 17:24-28). He controls all things and determines the good and the bad. Satan is a creation of God and is His convenient agent in carrying out God’s will which is always loving and redemptive (Job 1:8-12).

This is hard to understand, let alone accept! Could God then be in the bad things? Our logical and pragmatic minds can’t fathom such a contradiction. And that is precisely the issue. For man to understand this truth he must go beyond his reason to faith. He must have eyes to see through every situation in life to ultimate spiritual reality. That reality is where we see God.

Some of the most amazing revelations of God come in our worst days. The Bible is replete with examples from Job, “ my eyes see You”(42:5); to Joseph, “but God meant it for good”(Gen 50:20); to Jesus, “the cup the Father has given me” (Jn 18:11); to the apostles. “ whatever your hand.. determined..”(Acts 4:28) ; to Paul, “I will rather boast in my infirmities”(2 Cor. 12:9) ; to James, “count it all joy”(James 1:2). What were these people “seeing” in the midst of their suffering? What did they see about God that resigned them to simply trust Him?

We are so accustomed to thinking that Satan runs unchecked over the world and that God helps us get a measure of victory over Him. If we can hold on, everything will be finally OK in the “end”. But Satan is not free to do anything outside of God’s determined will. Whatever he throws at us God has already determined that it is ultimately intended for our good. That is why Paul could also say – “All things work together for good…”(Rom. 8:28). That makes every problem a miracle in disguise. The question is not “Why would God allow…” but rather,  “What is God really up to?”

Can we truly give God thanks for “all” things? I find that the prayer of Paul really helps as I ask God to give me the “power to understand…how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love really is.” (Eph. 3:18,19) Only when I come to trust Him that He is working all things according to His love for me am I also able to say “thank you Father for everything”. I find real thanksgiving. I find Him! I pray that for you as well and that your hearts will be full of thanksgiving in this season.

photoDennis D



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