“Thanksgiving Praise Amidst the Chaos”
In the context of evil days, Paul tells the believers in Christ to do three things:
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 RSV)
First, be joyful: "Rejoice always." The word perhaps ought to be translated, "Be cheerful." Do not let things get you down. Society is filled with despair and gloom. I have had several phone calls this week from people who are at the end of themselves. The pressures under which we live today can do this. But a Christian has an inner resource. Therefore, we can obey the word of James, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials and temptations," James 1:2). Do not take it as an attack upon you. Do not moan and groan and say, "What have I done to deserve this sort of thing?" But rejoice, because it is good for you. Trials make you grow up, make you face yourself and learn things about yourself you did not know. That is what James goes on to say, "That you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing," (James 1:4b RSV).
Second, Paul says, be prayerful: "Pray constantly." That is the method of drawing on the inner strength that God provides. Paul says, "Pray constantly." When you are under pressure and in trouble, be prayerful. Lean on that inner strength that God provides.
Then, third, be thankful: "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Why be thankful? Because when you are faced with a trial you are being given an opportunity to glorify God. If you never face trials or pressures, how could anyone ever see that you have an invisible means of support, that you have a reliable source of strength that others do not know anything about? These are the opportunities that God gives us. So, be thankful.
When the early Christian leaders were arrested by the Sanhedrin, they were beaten for their faith, but they left the Council rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to bear suffering for His name's sake. That is a thoroughly Christian attitude, and that is how we ought to face our trials.
Notice how the apostle underlines this: "This is the will of God ... for you." The will of God is not to make some dramatic display of power or gift that is going to attract attention. It is the quiet response you make to the daily trials and circumstance in which you find yourself. Twice in this letter Paul uses the phrase, "This is the will of God." In 4:3, where Paul says, "This is the will of God for you, that you know how to preserve your own body in moral purity." That is the will of God for your body! But here is the will of God for your spirit, your inner life -- that you "give thanks in all circumstances." If you want to do the will of God there are the two areas in which his will is clearly set out for you: Moral purity for your body; continual thanksgiving for your spirit. Let us be thankful always!