“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
It is an unqualified command, and it is a command just as surely as are the words, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).
“It is a very difficult commandment to obey,” do you say? No: “His commandments are not grievous.” It is impossible, however, to obey any commandment of God, when it is regarded from the human side, merely as a commandment; we must know it as a promise, and then it becomes a delight. Obedience to the commandment, “In everything give thanks,” not only brings, but is the highest happiness that human hearts can know.
What have we to be thankful for?—Everything. Listen: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” (Romans 8:32)? Now the very thought of God’s free gift must awaken love, “and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). Since God cannot but give us all things in Christ, and in Him all things are for our good, how can we be otherwise than thankful in everything?
“How can I be thankful when I know that I am a sinner, and that I am lost?” Easily enough, when you know that “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). If you feel lost, that should remind you that the Lord Jesus Christ is good at finding.
“Ah, but you don’t know how great a sinner I am; you would feel depressed if you felt yourself to be the greatest sinner in the world.”
Not by any means; so much the more for joy. “Faithful is the saying, of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief; howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all longsuffering” (1 Timothy 1:15, 16, R.V.). “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). The greater the sin, the greater the saving grace bestowed. Then thank God.
“But I have so many temptations; how can I give thanks in the midst of them?”
“My brethren, count it all joy, when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2–4). How can one help being thankful for that which makes him perfect, and brings him everything good?
“Oh, but I have more trials and trouble than anybody else in the world.”
Good! then you have more to be thankful for than anybody else in the world; for have you never read: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3–5). The greater the trial, the greater the comfort.
“I am so very poor and needy, I lack everything; how can I give thanks?” Your great need should simply remind you of the promise, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19). The more needy you are, the more you get. “I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me” (Psalm 40:17). “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him” (James 2:5)? Your poverty is your wealth.
“But I am so vacillating, so easily swayed; the slightest breath moves me, and I cannot stand.”
Then thank God doubly for that, “because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4); and if you are so easily swayed by the Holy Spirit. Only let the breath of Christ blow upon you, and it will always carry you in the right direction with the force of “a rushing mighty wind”(Acts 2:2).
The fact is, Christ has so completely identified Himself with humanity, that there is not any circumstance in life, no condition of the soul or body, no need or frailty, that does not in itself suggest the fullness of God in Him. Whatever poverty or temptation or suffering we have, whether as the direct result of our own folly, or from causes of which we are not personally responsible, we may know that they are the sufferings of Christ, and find the joy of deliverance in the knowledge. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16, last part). It seems to a great many that these words drive off the thought of effectual prayer further than ever, for they would not presume to say that they were righteous. But how does anyone become righteous? “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5). “Being justified freely by His grace,” we obtain righteousness, “even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:22).
Therefore the man who is righteous becomes so by believing the glad tidings which God declares to all, “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” He has learned how to take what God gives, and having learned how to take the greatest gift of all, he knows how simple a matter it is to receive all things else.
For to the man who receives Jesus Christ, everything else is given. It can not be otherwise. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” (Romans 8:32)? And Jesus, speaking of food and drink and clothing, says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
God does not force allegiance. He waits for it. The crown of our own individual love and loyalty must be offered by our own hands.
The Present Truth (UK) 80. February 2, 1899.