I Thessalonians 5:18a
Give Thanks In Everything
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

The Pilgrims proclaimed many fast days in New England. They had fast days when low on food, when attacked, when a ship did not arrive on time. They had so many fast days that the people began to lose heart. At length, a man suggested it might be good to have a feast day occasionally. He felt God would be pleased if, instead of mourning mercies they lacked, they thanked Him for mercies enjoyed. Thus they instituted a Thanksgiving Day.

The man was wise. Few things are more despicable than ingratitude. Shakespeare called it a “marble-hearted fiend!” and added, “I hate ingratitude more in a man than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, or any taint of vice.”

In contrast to this, a thankful life is beautiful. A grateful person is a contented person, and a contented person is an attractive person. Thankful Christ-followers reflect well on Him, and make Him more winsome to others.

For this message, let’s pretend we are condensing our whole lives into one 24-hour period, which we will examine through three lenses: night, day, twilight.

I Thess. 5:18a (Holman) Give thanks in everything.

One, night. “Give thanks in everything” shocks us. We don’t automatically thank God in bad times. It’s hard to give thanks in the nights of life.

Let’s be precise. Our text says give thanks “in” everything, not “for” everything. Life deals us staggering blows. As time passes, we find it easier to see in the rearview mirror God’s presence and providence in the blow. We can often sincerely say thanks later, but it’s tough to do in the midst of the storm.

Nevertheless, even in the midnights of life, ingratitude is never an option for believers. We must never whine about life, or reflect negatively on God’s dealings with us. Instead, give thanks in everything. This can be difficult to do in times of trouble, but with God’s help can be done.

When Daniel knew the trap was set, and heard the decree forbidding worship of his God, he continued kneeling at his window three times daily. He “prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (DN 6:10).

In the whale, Jonah (2:9) prayed, “I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving.” Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles, uttered as her last request, “Children, as soon as I am released, sing a psalm of praise to God.”

However dark the nights become, we must thank God. Since we are commanded to give thanks in everything, we are assured God will in every circumstance provide things in our lives for which we can be grateful. Even in the darkest midnights of life, keep searching till we find something to be thankful for.

We often see in life what we are looking for. He who looks for providences will not lack providences to see (Flavel). If we concentrate on things we have, they tend to stand out more clearly in our minds. If we concentrate on things we don’t have, these obsess our thinking.

Even Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, wrote in one of Scripture’s saddest books, “His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (LM 3:22b-23). Make every morning a spiritual treasure hunt. Wake up every day trying to find God’s new loving kindnesses.

We will die before we quit having things to thank God for. We will never run out of reasons to express gratitude, even in the darkest midnights of life.

Two, day. Not all of life is lived at night. God lets us live in the day. He gives us times of bright, unclouded sky. We believers are thankful to God for blessings enjoyed in the day: family, church, health, friends, jobs, freedom. Our staff listed other things they are grateful for: outdoors, love, tasty food, amusement parks, Alabama football, time, peace, peace at home, fresh water, heat and air conditioning, a sense of humor, art, music, bow hunting, barbecue.

You would think the days of life, filled with multiplied blessings, would make us naturally thankful, but it is possible to receive God’s mercies every moment, yet be desensitized to the Hand that gives them. Many times the overwhelming number of God’s kindnesses can actually lessen our gratitude.

It’s easy to begin thinking we are indebted to God only for “extraordinary” mercies. We often express little gratitude for common, everyday mercies. We sometimes act like children who thank parents for a new bike, computer, or cell phone, but never mention food, clothing, and shelter.

In the blessings of the days of life, don’t let second causes blind us to the First Cause. Many of our benefits appear to be the fruit of our own labor and knowledge, or due to the kindnesses of others, but never forget, God is the primary source of all our blessings. “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).

Three, twilight. Every 24 hours, we have night once and day once, but we have twilight twice. We live most of our life not in gloomy night or exhilarating day, but between the two, in the twilight, in the ordinary course of life.

Twilight ingratitude seems to characterize our society. An old legend told by John MacArthur applies to our day. Two angels were sent to earth to gather the prayers of God’s people. One was to collect requests, the other thanksgivings. The angel responsible for requests was unable to carry them all in one load. The angel who collected thanksgivings was able to carry them all in one hand.

We Americans have abundance, yet complain about clothes, houses, cars, jobs, vacations. “We need a bigger car; we need lower car payments.” “I can’t find anything to wear; we need more closet space.” “We should get away more often; we need more time at home.” On and on it goes, wishy-washy ingratitude.

In the twilight, we are bombarded with messages opposing a mindset of gratitude. “Advertisements always aim to make us feel discontent” (Indeed, page 17, Nov./Dec. 2008). We are challenged to be discontent with our scholastics, our appearance, our athleticism. This culturally reinforced discontent, if not countered with our intentionally cultivating a sense of gratitude, leads to a grumpy twilight.

Ungrateful with what we have, we covet more, and the more we want, the more discontented we become. As a result, we are often miserable people.

When we forget the duty of thankfulness, we lose its joy. Gratitude is a God-given mental healer. When focused on giving thanks, worry disappears.

Anyone who develops a habit of thanksgiving will enjoy deep-seated contentment, and never be a slave to prosperity or to poverty. A grateful heart keeps us from being too proud over possessions, or too broken over adversity.

“If a man be rich, and God has given him a thankful spirit, he cannot be too rich. If he will give thanks to God, he may be worth millions, and they will never hurt him. On the other hand, if a man has learned to give thanks to God, and he becomes poor, he cannot be too poor, he will be able to bear up under the severest (poverty). The rich man should learn to find God in all things; the poor should learn to find all things in God, and there is not much difference when you come to the bottom of these two” (Spurgeon).

Gratitude in the twilight, in the ordinary course of life, safeguards against sin. Rejoicing in God’s numerous kindnesses to us strengthens holiness, but the absence of thanks is spiritually dangerous. Feeling cheated in life makes sin easier to commit. If we are discontented, ungrateful, beware the danger. Satan tripped Eve by making her feel cheated (GN 3:5). If a heart turns sour, bad actions follow.

God wants His children to live in a grateful frame of mind. Giving thanks is more than words. It is to be an ongoing attitude, a mind-set, an atmosphere.

Gutzon Borglum spent 14 years sculpting Mt. Rushmore. He did not spend every minute of every hour of 14 years on the mount, but the job was his passion, always on his mind. Similarly, gratitude should be our constant attitude.

Much of life is lived in the night and the day, in sadness and gladness, but we live most of our life in the twilight, in the ordinary flow of life. How we respond in the common course of our lives often determines if the twilight we are in is dawn, heading toward day, or dusk, leading to night.

Be wise. God is kind and good. We should be constantly giving thanks to Jesus because He is constantly giving to us, in the nights, the days, and the twilight.

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