“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
A National Call to Give Thanks
This is Thanksgiving week. It is a holiday celebrated here in the United States every year on the fourth Thursday in November. It was first celebrated nationally in 1789 when President George Washington issued a proclamation calling all Americans “to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”
President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving in the midst of the nation’s Civil War. He made his proclamation for the Day of Thanksgiving to be held on the final Thursday of November, 1863. He asked Secretary of State William H. Seward to write the proclamation. It begins:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
Notice that both proclamations call us to be thankful. And both also encourage us to remember what we are to be thankful for. Last, but certainly not of least importance, both exhort us to not forget to Whom we are to give thanks–“Almighty God.”
A Biblical Call to Give Thanks
Those of us who have experienced the wonderful gift of God’s grace and forgiveness certainly have much to be thankful for. The gift of salvation has come to us through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. How can we not be thankful?
And those of us who have experienced the gift of a loving, committed husband or wife, certainly have thanks to proclaim to God.
We men, for example, can quote the words of Proverbs 31:10-11: “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.” I have been blessed with such a wife, and I am so thankful to God for her.
If you are a wife whose husband loves you “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26), then you have much to be thankful about.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to be thankful for these and God’s many other blessings. But we should not only be thankful once a year. Nor should we only be thankful for the things we perceive as good.
God through His Word puts a great emphasis on being thankful. Throughout the Bible, we’re called over and over again to be grateful and gives thanks to God.
Praising God is a way to express to Him our thankfulness. We read, for example, a number of things to thank God for in Psalm 103:2-5: “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
I can thank God for all of those things–and I should. I can add to that a long list of other things, beginning with the wife and marriage He has given me. And for the family He has blessed us with. I could go on and on, and I should. As we all can, if we stop and think about it.
Let me give you a few more thoughts from God’s Word about being thankful for you to think about as we celebrate Thanksgiving.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Rejoice in verse 16 is a command to be filled with the joy that comes because of God’s grace in giving us salvation as a free gift through faith in Christ. We are told in Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” If you have placed your faith in Christ you should be incredibly thankful. (And if you have not, don’t miss out! Please read Meet Jesus.)
God tells us to “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17). This means we can be in constant communication with Him–our Lord and the Creator of everything. He not only allows this, but desires it, and commands us to do so. This should always lead us to give thanks, as He asks us to do in 1 Thess. 5:18.
Thanksgiving in All Circumstances
How do we give thanks to God “in all circumstances”? No matter what is going on in our lives? No matter what is happening in our marriages? We recall and trust God’s truth found in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
We know that not all things in our lives and marriages seem good. But we still thank Him for who He is, what He has done, and the promises He has given to us. We thank Him because we can count on Him and His Word.
We do this by putting into practice His command in Hebrews 12:1-3: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Another Bible passage that tells us the need to give thanks is found in Luke 17:11-19:
“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’”
Since it is God’s will for us to give thanks in all circumstances, we must always be thankful. While it is certainly true that we need to thank God as a couple even when we are having difficulties, we must also not forget to thank Him when everything is going well. We have a tendency to think about God, to call on Him, and even be thankful when we realize our need for Him. It is also true that we have a natural leaning to forget God when things are going well.
That is what happened in the account of Christ and His encounter with the ten men that we read about from Luke above. When they needed Christ, they sought Him out. When He met their need, all but one of them forgot about Him. How much are we like this in our marriages?
We must make certain to give thanks to God always. Whether things are good or bad, we must give Him thanks.
One tool Sabra and I use every week to worship and learn from God together is what we call Couple Connect. It has been a blessing in keeping us faithful to connect with each other and seek the Lord together. And it is also a great opportunity to give thanks to God as a couple. (For more information, read our post on Couple Connect or download our free ebook here: Couple Connect – A Simple Weekly Plan to Stay Close for a Lifetime.)
I can guarantee that as you think and talk together, you will find many things to thank God for. How about starting with your marriage? There is your family, friends, church, job, the roof over your head, the food on your table…and I could go on for a long time.
Hebrews 12:28 says: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” Our salvation is something we should never forget to thank God for. It’s amazing what will come to mind once we start thanking Him.
Mark Buchanan, in his book The Holy Wild, tells of being in a worship service in Uganda when a woman stood up and praised and gave thanks to God. Why? She told the congregation that she had prayed to God for shoes for three months. Then she said, “Look!,” showing one of her feet to the group. “He gave me shoes!” Buchanan writes that the entire church loudly praised God.
When was the last time we praised God for a pair of shoes? When was the last time words of thanksgiving came from our lips about anything as we prayed to God? Now is a good time for us–especially as husband and wife–to begin.
Sabra’s most recent post, “A Blessing Journal” is about giving thanks and keeping a record of things you are thankful for. I encourage you to keep such a journal as a couple. It would make a wonderful reminder of how God has blessed through the years.
The Israelites throughout the Old Testament often ran into trouble because they didn’t remember all God had done for them. If we keep a journal, it will help us not to fall into the same trap. As we write down God’s blessings in our life we’ll recall His love for us–and we can’t help but give thanks to Him.
Thanklessness is a spiritual prison that hurts our relationship with God and each other as a couple. Thankfulness is the key that opens the cell door and frees us to show God’s love and grace to each other. When we freely offer God our thanks it changes us and our marriages.
As we count our blessings, we become overwhelmed by what God has done for us. And we learn to trust Him for our future, whatever may come our way.
This is because it is not possible to be truly thankful to God and to be anxious and worried at the same time. That’s why we have this command and promise from God in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (bold mine).
So enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday this week. But remember Who to give thanks to. And don’t forget to always give thanks to God together as husband and wife. See what a difference it makes in your marriage.
Questions for Discussion
- Reread the teaching together. Discuss what God has taught you.
- Let this be a time of thanksgiving. Each of you tell the other some things you are thankful to God for about her or him. Stop and pray thanking God for each other and those things you have named.
- Make a list of other people, things, events, etc. you can thank God for right now. Pray together and thank God for those things.
- Consider starting a blessings journal together as a couple.
Until next week, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.