Is This the Will of God?

Photo credit: lightstock.com I remember seeing this title—“In Everything Give Thanks?!”—on a pamphlet someone gave to me. I was a young pastor and the author was a popular televangelist in my area (So Cal).

I looked up the Scripture reference and saw that he added his own punctuation to the text.

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

His opinion and perception was that the apostle Paul was wrong. His biased view of theology prompted him to reinterpret God's Word.

A wrong view

This man was wrong, flat wrong, for a number of reasons I won't get into now.

What he did is what many of us do when we come to something in the Bible that's hard to understand or accept. We look for a work-around. We try to reframe or interpret a text so it's more to our liking.

When we try to do this, just like this man did, we put ourselves in a precarious position. It's an audacious and presumptuous attitude to question the truth of God's Word, because it doesn't line up with how we think it should read. We read our own meaning into the text when we do so.

An important element of studying the Bible is to understand it within its context. This includes the surrounding text and its historical context.

Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) So, we need to be students of all that is in God's Word.

Encouragement from experience

Paul wrote this letter to disciples who endured considerable persecution for their faith, so he wanted to encourage them.

Paul could identify with them. He was persecuted by the same people (see Acts 17). Paul's exhortation was based in truth and experience.

He wanted these believers to know what they were experiencing wasn't unusual or unexpected. He also encouraged them to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing...” (verses 16-17).

These were not empty words, nor a casual comment. He was encouraging them to persevere in their faith.

Genuine gracious faith

True faith sees beyond the circumstances (Hebrews 11:1), and is grounded in relationship with God (Hebrews 11:6). Paul was telling them to be thankful regardless of their circumstances.

This is the response of genuine faith. It isn't overcome by trials, hate, even tragedy. It stirs us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks to the One who is the origin and focus of our faith—Jesus!

How can we be thankful in all circumstances? Here's a few ideas to consider—

  • Consider what the apostle Paul endured in Chapters 16 and 17 in the book of Acts. Can you see how he endured his hardships?
  • Make a point to be thankful to the Lord in the midst of whatever circumstances you experience this week—good or bad.
  • Be thankful for as many things as possible every day for a week. See if your attitude changes and if your week goes better than the previous one.

What are ways you've found to be thankful regardless of your circumstances?


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You might also like last week's post as well, Dealing with Unmet Expectations