If you’re like me, you probably find it easier to compartmentalize and categorize your Bible. But there’s a reason why the Bible wasn’t arranged in topics, but as one great narrative. One of the reasons why we like to compartmentalize the Bible is because life seems more manageable that way. Are you feeling lonely? “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16). Are you weighed down by life’s hustles? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28). Struggling with giving? Perhaps you need a motivator, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Mal 3:10).
While there are times when such compartmentalization and categorization can be helpful, it is not always the case. This is because Bible is not an instruction manual that we consult for quick-fix answers to our problems. It is the very Word (and words) of God. John drives this point home by reminding us that the Word of God is more than just a piece of literature. The 66 books are really one book because the hundreds of stories are really one story and the dozens of messages are really one message. And the message communicated to and through so many people is really a message about one person, Jesus Christ:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
That is why coming across verses such as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 can be an unwelcome interruption to our otherwise cozy and logical little world of compartmentalized bible verses and bible messages. God, through Apostle Paul, says to the Thessalonians … and to us:
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
[1 Thessalonians 5:18]
The verse cannot be any clearer. We are to give thanks in ALL circumstances. “Even in my sickness?” Yes, give thanks even in that. “What about my job loss?” Give thanks. “And after losing both my legs to a grenade attack?” Give thanks. “Surely, you don’t mean that this verse applies even to those who are victims of rape?” What part of “all” didn’t you understand?
If one stops to consider the reality of the worst that could happen in this fallen world, it is easy to see why it may be difficult to wrap our narcissistic heads around this passage . We are accustomed to giving thanks in job promotions, not demotions. We are supposed to be thankful in receiving stuff, not in having stuff taken away from us. We are wired for thanksgiving in joy-injecting circumstances, not in joy-sapping moments. That’s what we are used to. Yet, the Word of God confronts us with the clarity of the noon day sky over the Sahara. And just in case our rationalizing minds are tempted to “reinterpret” Paul and accuse him of imposing his personal preferences and opinions on scripture, we are reminded that “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”
We are to give thanks in everything! This means that we are to give thanks ALWAYS. Why? How’s this for a suggestion? We are to give thanks in everything because every moment of our lives is a gift from God. Every breath taken is undeserved. It is a gift, not a right. In light of the Word, we do not even have the right to life. We lost that right the moment Eve’s teeth tore through the skin of that fruit in Eden. What we deserve is death. No, that’s false. What we deserve is worse than death. Since our sins are in opposition to an eternal God, we deserve an eternal punishment. Since our falleness is in light of an infinitely holy God, then we deserve an infinitely painful punishment. Hell is what we deserve and nothing less.
Imagine the worst thing that could ever happen to you on this planet. Multiply it a million times (okay, a billion times). That pain, that suffering would still be infinitely better than you deserve. Your very existence is a product of the Grace of God. To contemplate living anything short of a continually thankful life is borderline blasphemy.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God NOR GAVE THANKS TO HIM, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” [Romans 1:21]
So, give thanks. IN EVERYTHING.
An attitude of gratitude is the ultimate expression of worship.