Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
There are three great truths concerning thanksgiving taught in this little verse.
Thanksgiving is not to be limited to special occasions or to a special day. We are to be giving thanks in everything. Just as we are to rejoice evermore and to pray without ceasing, so we are to be giving thanks always.
Thanksgiving in everything also means thanksgiving for everything. Nothing lies outside the scope of our thanksgiving.
And precisely for this reason thanksgiving is possible only for believers. Giving thanks is a profoundly spiritual activity in faith. And, faith is God’s gift.
In everything…give thanks!
This does not mean we give thanks for some things but not for others. We have a bad practice in this respect. We tend to divide our possessions and our circumstances into two groups: that which we call good, and that which we call bad! The good things are health, wealth, a good family, success. The bad things are sickness, grief, the disappointments of life. Then we give thanks for some things and some circumstances, but not for others. The text says we must give thanks in everything.
In everything! This does not mean that we give thanks for the good and patiently bear the bad. If this were the meaning, it would not be difficult to understand and believe the text. But the text says, “In everything give thanks!”
Of course, the Bible teaches that we must be patient in adversity and endure afflictions. But even this must be done with thanksgiving. The Christian is no Stoic who simply accepts whatever comes his way.
In the sphere of everything we are called to give thanks. We may not qualify this Word of God. We are not to put our limits on what God says here. The Lord means in every circumstance, in every experience, in every life situation, give thanks!
As churches we are to give thanks in everything. For the boundless blessings we enjoy as we gather in the communion of saints to hear the Good Shepherd through the preaching of the Word . . . give thanks. What a blessing that is! Lords Day after Lord’s Day we hear Jesus as He comforts, instructs, corrects, and encourages us. For the wonderful task of preaching the gospel on the mission fields . . . give thanks. For the privilege of witnessing beyond the four walls of our sanctuaries by means of radio and printed page and by our godly walk . . . give thanks. For being used by God for the gathering of His church out of the nations and for the coming of His Kingdom . . . give thanks. For pastors, elders, and deacons through whom Christ, the Chief Shepherd, cares for us . . . give thanks. For the freedom to worship unmolested and to educate our children in the fear of God . . . give thanks.
But this is not everything! When the text says “in everything,” it means that should God take away our freedoms and send us persecution we must also then give thanks. There are thousands of saints in other lands who must worship in secret and who are put in prison merely for reading the Bible. To them the Lord says, “give thanks.” Also when the great tribulation comes we shall be called to give thanks in everything. After all, to suffer together with Christ is also to be glorified together with Him!
The same applies to our live as individuals! In everything give thanks! For our earthly life and all its gifts, our powers and talents, our health and employment, our abundance of food and drink, our peace and plenty, our homes and families, the rain and sunshine, the crops and harvest…in and for all these give thanks.
But our thanksgiving doesn’t end there! This is not everything. Our earthly life is not all prosperity, joy, peace, and plenty. It’s also a weary night of sin and death. The creation itself bears the curse of sin, and the creature is subject to vanity. Death pursues us relentlessly and casts its shadow over even our brightest moments! There is health, but also sickness. There are fruitful years, but also barren; peace, but also war. There is rain and sunshine, but also wind and storm. There are joys, but also sorrows!
In all these circumstances too, give thanks!
Impossible, you say? Indeed it is! For the unbeliever! No matter his life’s circumstances—whether God sends him health or sickness, poverty or plenty, he cannot give thanks. His life consists of the abundance of the things he possesses. And all these are lost in death.
But can we who by grace believe on the Lord Jesus Christ give thanks in everything? Can we give thanks for sickness? When God takes the love of our life from our side can we give thanks?
Yes, we can! We can give thanks in everything because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us. God willed us to be in Christ. God sent His Son to die on account of our sins and to be raised from the dead on account of our justification. By His Spirit we are born again with life from above. We are united to Christ by faith, God’s gift. This is the gracious will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us!
Why> Because God wants a people, filled with His goodness, to acknowledges Him thankfully in everything!
Because that is God’s will concerning us. He comes to us with this word, “In everything give thanks.” This is possible only by the grace of God! It is possible only because everything is for our good and salvation. Nothing can be against us! God withholds no good thing from us. All things work together for our good. This is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.
Really it all comes down to this: we have one thing for which to give thanks, our salvation by grace in Christ Jesus.
But, this on thing is everything!
Regardless, then, of our circumstances…no matter what the Lord in His wisdom and grace sends us, we say, “Thanks, Lord! Thanks for everything. Thou art good!” Joyfully, full of hope, in the confidence of faith, we live new, holy lives of thanksgiving to God’s praise. In everything!
One day soon we will be giving thanks in everything in glory! That will be glory, indeed!