One of the most challenging pieces of advice in the Bible is when the Apostle Paul writes: Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess 5:18, NIV).
It’s easy to give thanks for the good things that come our way, but “in all circumstances”? How are we to understand that?
We can see an example of this in action in the life of Jesus.
Jesus had just finished denouncing the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent and accept him. He pronounces terrible woes against them (Matt 11:20-24). Then, in what seems very strange to us, he lifts his eyes to heaven and breaks out into a prayer of thanks!
At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!” (Matt 11:25–26, NLT).
What is happening here is that when faced with the stubbornness and hardness of heart of the people, instead of complaining, Jesus thanked God! There are some important lessons to be learnt by looking closely at what Jesus says to the Father in his prayer of thanks.
“Whatever happens to a child of God is only what God does or what he permits, nothing more and nothing less.”
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The first lesson is that Jesus sees every setback as an opportunity for the Father to bless in another way. If those who are proud and educated are unwilling to listen, then God will reveal his truths to those who are humble and simple.
The second lesson is that Jesus is able to take disappointment because he accepts that it is the will of the Father. What does this mean? It means that he understands that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted; that if God does not fulfil his will in one way, he will do it in another. Jesus understands that the Father is over all and he is fully confident in the providence of heaven. Jesus knows that if anything stands in the way of the Father, that in one way or another, he will turn even that obstacle into a means for pouring out his blessing upon is children.
It takes a lot of faith to see the troubles and setbacks of life in this way. Through the example of Jesus, this is the kind of faith to which God is calling us. Paul understood this lesson, which is why he learnt to see the will of God in every situation, both the good and the bad. Whatever happens to a child of God is only what God does or what he permits, nothing more and nothing less. Though we might not understand it, God sees a purpose in everything. Because of that, Paul is able to say, “Give thanks in everything.”
Think about a difficult situation that you are going through right now. Have you come to the point in which you are able to give thanks to God for everything? Are you able, like Jesus, to lift your eyes to heaven and humbly say, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez. About the Author: Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question.