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This week many will gather around the table with friends and family for the purpose of giving thanks. Some of us are looking forward to this, some with apprehension, and others with downright disdain.Around the holiday season, I always think of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. As Paul closes, he gives several exhortations concerning community life and relationships. He instructs us to be at peace with one another, to do away with vain idles, to take care of and encourage the weak in faith, to do good to one another, and not to seek revenge (1 Thess. 5:13b-15). If you’re like me you’re thinking, “These types of commands are absolutely impossible!” Some may take it a step further, “Have you met my crazy uncle_________?” (For the safety of all the sane uncles I left the name blank!) We haven’t even got to the good stuff! Perhaps, the most difficult instruction is found in the proceeding two verses. Thankfully, they also provide the root for the fruit.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanksin all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (emphasis added)

That word “thanks” in the Greek here is “eucharisteo” and is found 36 more times in the New Testament; 9 of them are found in the Gospels being exemplified by Jesus, Himself. In Matthew 15, Mark 8 and John 6 you find the account of Jesus feeding thousands with a few loaves of bread and fish. All three accounts record Jesus “giving thanks” to God before distributing to each who had need. In John 11 we see the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. After Lazarus was raised back to life it is recorded that “Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” In Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22 you read of the account the Last Supper. All three accounts record that Jesus “gave thanks” as they broke bread and drank wine.

Paul takes the exemplification of Jesus and begins to apply it to his life and ministry. In Acts 27-28 it is recorded twice that Paul “gives thanks” to God for the breaking of bread with his Roman brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul opens his letter to the Roman church sometime later explaining that he “thanks God” for them. He goes on to “give thanks” for a number of things throughout the letter. Likewise, Paul writes this to the church in Corinth, the church in Ephesus, the church in Philippi, the church in Colossae, the church in Philemon, and finally the church in Thessalonica. Littered throughout those letters Paul instructs these churches to “give thanks” for the freedom to eat what we desire for all has been made clean (ham eaters are particularly thankful for that!) He instructs us to desire and “give thanks” for the spiritual gifts the Lord has given them, and even tells them to “give thanks” for hard stuff. Paul actually finds a way to “give thanks” for division within the church – as He knows well that God will use it to bring about the growth (in depth) of the church as leadership grows in understanding and understanding always leads to unity.

Paul (clearly exemplifying this Himself) instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances.”This implies that this is something you do, not just something you are. Eucharisteo is a verb, not a noun. Notice that Jesus doesn’t turn to God and exclaim a “thankfulness” for all that the Father had accomplished. So, Paul does not instruct us to “feel thankful” but following after our Saviour he  calls us to “give thanks” in all circumstances.

“How do I do that?”

Paul tells us! This is done so through the divine power of God through faith in Christ! “…for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Paul sees this as so important that he re-iterates the point in a second letter to the church! 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “…by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” Thinking theologically here; the faith God gave you in His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit by the preaching of the Gospel gives you the ability to “give thanks” in all circumstances as exemplified by Paul and Jesus, Himself. To give thanks is to respond to the most important change of circumstance one could ever experience: salvation by faith. Paul expounds on this in his letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2.

A good Pastor friend of mine puts it this way, ‘To give thanks is to be CONTINUALLY RESPONDING to who God says He is and has shown Himself to truly be through the Gospel.'”

As you gather this week (yes, even with your crazy uncle __________), “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”