The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica (5:16-18): Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Gratitude does not seem to come naturally. If it did, we wouldn’t need to set aside a special day to be thankful. A further challenge is to be thankful in any situation – “in all circumstances” – thankful no matter what the season, thankful even when our car won’t start, thankful when healthy but also when sick. Paul encourages the Christian to “rejoice always…and to give thanks in all circumstances.”
When Paul wrote the Philippians (4:11-12), he told how he can to this attitude of gratitude: “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Then he gives the key to his contentment: “13 I can do all things through Him (Jesus) Who strengthens me.”
Paul finds contentment in his relationship with Jesus, his Savior. And Paul trusts that no matter what happens in his life, Jesus will give him the strength to persevere and to conquer all challenges to his faith.
Unfortunately, in our wealthy country, we are spoiled. Many people – it seems more and more all the time –feel a sense of entitlement. That we deserve the best things in life. And if we don’t have them it’s because someone is cheating us. That breeds unhappiness and anger.
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And the greater our sense of entitlement, the smaller our sense of gratitude
The Christian knows that they have received far more than they deserve. God the Father has given them His Son –and through His Son, Jesus, we have forgiveness, life and salvation! This forgiveness is not because we are entitled to it, but because Jesus died for our sins. So, in every circumstance of life, we can be thankful!
One of my favorite actors is Denzel Washington. In addition to his acting talent, I admire him for his Christian faith which he doesn’t hide. At a commencement speech (easily found on “Youtube”), Denzel said: “Everything that I have is by the grace of God, understand that. It's a gift … I pray that you put your slippers way under your bed at night, so that when you wake up in the morning you have to get on your knees to find them. And while you're down there, say ‘thank you.’ Thank you for grace…” Another time he said: “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. Until you change it, you're not going anywhere.”
That’s wisdom. That’s Christian faith.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I pray that you give thanks to God “in all circumstances”. We can “rejoice always” because we know that God loves us, that He sent Jesus to save us, and heaven awaits us. The knowledge of these eternal blessings enables us to praise and thank Him continually.
Rev. Bruce Kaltwasser is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Osage.