As a pastor, one of the common questions that I get is “How do I know God’s will?”. There are many ways I think we can know, discern and understand what His will for our life is, but the first place where we have to begin is in the Bible. We can start by understanding the things that are clearly identified as God’s will for all of us. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Thessalonica and in his closing remarks he said, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT). There are several things we can learn from this verse that are relevant to all of us, especially on during Thanksgiving.
This is not a suggestion, but more of an emphatic command. In the words Paul writes prior to and immediately following this verse, he is addressing how to live our lives. He tells us to encourage others and not harm them. He says we should be joyful and prayerful, not critical and impatient. As a part of that full life that he is describing, a large part of that is to be thankful. Webster’s dictionary defines thankful as “conscious of benefit received”. The origin of the word suggests that we would express gratitude for blessings or benefits. Henry Van Dyke said, “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” Being thankful is something that must be intentional.
In All Circumstances
There is a clear distinction that must be made between being thankful “for” circumstances and being thankful “in” circumstances. There are some situations where we find ourselves, sometimes not of our doing, that we would prefer to not be a part. However, in every circumstance we can find something for which to be thankful. Learning to be thankful in your circumstances requires you to stop seeing things only from your perspective. You may need to look at the bigger picture or see the greater benefit for others involved and how it changes their lives. Numerous times throughout the Bible we are reminded that things work for good and what was meant for evil God used for good. Our thankfulness takes a turn when we begin to see things from God’s point of view instead of our own.
I am no different than you when it comes to wanting to know exactly what God desires of me in every situation. Sometimes that is difficult, especially in a decision making process. Paul takes all of the guesswork out of this one. He says this is God’s will. His desire for your life is for you to be thankful in every circumstance. Being thankful is the reflection of Himself that He wants people to see in our lives. Intentional focus on gratitude.
Thankfulness is achieved much easier when we understand that ultimately God is in control. Our circumstances may not change, but our attitude about them will change our understanding of each situation and help us to reflect Christ better. God’s will is for us to be thankful. Today is a good day to practice. Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!