Published November 20, 2012

Paul's Epistle...
"In Everything? Really?"

Last week Shelia and I went to Walmart to pick up a few things. Entering, we found no greeter on duty – no one to pull out a shopping cart for us. So, while Shelia went ahead to look at something on a shelf, I pulled out one of the carts from where they're all jammed together just inside the door. To my amazement, I no sooner got it loose and pulled it out than a lady behind me grabbed it and said, "Thank you." I said, "You're very welcome." And off she went.

I told Shelia later that I must be of a certain age to be mistaken for a Walmart greeter.

But at least the lady said, "Thank you." A lot of people don't. In fact, a Lenox Etiquette Poll found that half of Americans usually just don't bother.

Do you? And, more to the point, are you a thankful person? Do you live in a spirit of thankfulness? We thank each other, sure, but the One we should be absolutely certain to thank is God. After all, James 1:17 tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above..."

But there is one Scripture about thankfulness that's difficult to understand if we are to take it at face value. The Apostle Paul, in 1st Thessalonians 5:18 says, "in everything give thanks..." Note that it says, "in everything." Observe that it doesn't say "be thankful to God for all good things." It says "everything." What's included in "everything?" Everything!

Thanking God is easy to do when everything's going well. But it's more difficult – sometimes seemingly impossible – to express thanks to God when everything's not going well. And yet, that's exactly when we our need to express thanks to God is greatest. That's when it's most beneficial. Even secular science has confirmed this. A psychological study by Emmons & McCollough found that there are quantifiable, observable benefits that accrue to a thankful person. They have greater optimism; they recover from illnesses more quickly; they are more likely to feel loved; they take better care of themselves; they sleep better; they get sick less often.

Why should this be? Because God made us in such a way that thankfulness would actually benefit us in tangible ways. That's why He tells us to be thankful — it's good for us!  He never ceases to amaze.

But to be thankful "in everything?" Even the bad stuff? Yes, even the bad stuff. Think of the worst thing that happened to you in the past week or month. Go ahead, I'll wait... Now, what was it about that "worst thing" for which you could be thankful? Yes, there is something. Obviously, you survived it. It could have been worse. You probably learned something from it. In fact, God may have been teaching you something through it. Did you thank the Lord in the midst of it? Or since?

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to difficulties. And that's putting it mildly. Read 2nd Corinthians 11:24-27 and you'll quickly find that he was put through more than any average person could bear. But Paul was still a thankful person. Throughout his writings he is constantly expressing thanks to God.

Why should we express thanks to God for such difficulties?

Well, let me cite one of my favorite verses, Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." If "all things" are working together for good, then we must remember that "all things" includes what we might see as the bad stuff. But God is working through it for your good. No, we don't always understand it, but He is. And someday we'll see how.

On the other side of the equation, thankfulness is not a common characteristic among unbelievers. Paul, in Romans 1:21, cited several characteristics of unbelievers: "they did not glorify...God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts..." Paul gave another such list in 2nd Timothy 3:1-5, which includes this: " the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful..." and the list goes on. But it's clear that unthankfulness is a characteristic of an unregenerate life.

What else contributes to thanklessness?

But something else that suppresses thankfulness, even for many Christians, is doubt.

Doubt is a serious sin. To doubt God is to say that you can't trust what He's told us about Himself. It says you can't trust Him to do what He says He will do.

On the other hand, if you're a thankful Christian, you are more likely to have...

If you are aware of all of those things, how could you not be thankful?

So, why should we be thankful "in everything?" The end of that same verse – 1st Thess. 5:18 – has the answer: "...for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Not being thankful would quite literally be going against God's will.

So, can we be thankful in everything? Really?

Thankfully (and absolutely), "Yes!"

- Paul

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