by Dillon Walls
Every year at Thanksgiving, my family goes to my in-laws for dinner. We take part in the tradition of talking about the things for which we are thankful. Some years we all have to say something, other years only those who want to share have the opportunity. I know this is a common tradition and maybe your family does something similar, but this is one of the best times I have with my family all year. We put aside all the craziness of family, what is going on in the world around us, and just enjoy each other and talk about the things for which we are thankful, and why we are thankful.
Now, it is after Thanksgiving and we are well into 2018. I thought that this would be an appropriate topic to think through having entered the New Year, because, as Christians, we are called to be thankful whether during the time of Thanksgiving or at any other time of the year.
Being Thankful is God’s Will
To be honest, being thankful is hard. Every year around this time I focus my Wednesday Bible Study on being thankful. I do this for two reasons: 1) Thanksgiving has passed; and 2) we need to be constantly reminded to be thankful. This past Wednesday, our focus verse was 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which states, “Give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Yes, it does say “in everything!” This is where being thankful can be hard. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 not only commands us to give thanks in everything, but it also tells us that “this is God’s will for you.”
As a Student Pastor, I often talk to my students about doing God’s will, about finding God’s will in their life. They must live in God’s will. I am often met with blank stares, which not so delicately indicates a response of: “What are you talking about? How can I know what God’s will is for my life?”
How Do We Know God’s Will?
Prayer is a part of understanding God’s will. When we communicate with the God of the Universe in prayer it helps align our will with his. If we are not talking to God, it is hard to be close to him. Just like any other relationship, there are times of listening through his Word and then response, a give and take by way of communication.
Being in a community with believers is another part of understanding God’s will. When you surround yourself with other believers who understand who you are and with whom you can be vulnerable, you are putting yourself with people who see your strengths and weaknesses. These people can help you see what God may have in store for you, as you seek counsel and seek the Lord together.
A third way, and the main way, to know God’s will is to be in God’s Word. A part of this is to allow the truth of the Word to expose the selfish motivations that are in your heart. Along with giving us particular way to live as Christians, God’s Word focuses on our motivations for living rightly. If our motivations are selfish, seeking our glory and not the glory of God, then we are probably living contrary to God’s will. A friend in of mine in youth ministry constantly uses this mantra, “Stay in the Word.” This discipline is a huge part of understanding God’s will in your life. This connects us back to prayer, which is a response to God and the truth revealed in his Word. It fosters the relationship that we have with God through Christ, and it fosters a heart for obedience. So, being in the Word helps us to understand who God is and the kind of actions he desires your life.
Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5, explicitly gives us one way to know God’s will. Be thankful. There is no arguing with this command. God’s will for me is to be thankful. God’s will for you is to be thankful. When you or I stop being thankful, we start complaining. When we start complaining, we are not in the will of God. This is something that I have to fight against constantly in my life. It is so easy to think about the things I don’t have or wish I had, newer and better things. When I start down this road, I become irritable, frustrated, and unthankful. These are not Christ-like character traits. When I am showing these traits, God is not glorified and I am not practicing God’s will for my life.
What Should We Do When We Begin to Be Unthankful?
- Stop and ask. Ask, why am I being unthankful? Why am I complaining? For what am I thankful? How can I be thankful in what is going on right now? For whom am I thankful?
- Respond. Pray. Actually, write out the things for which you are thankful. Talk it out. Do something! My students have been challenged to write 5 thank you notes to 5 different people in their lives and personally hand them out, and I am doing this with them. The night I challenged my students to do this, I asked them to write down 3 people for whom they were thankful and why. Though this was greatly beneficial for my students, the biggest effect I have seen has been in my own life. I never ask my students to do something I wouldn’t do. So, this is something I am doing as well. I am writing thank you notes and sending them to the people for whom I am thankful. God has placed these people in my life, and I know that I am not always the easiest person with whom to get along. I want them to know that I am thankful for how God used them to shape and mold me into the person I am today. I cannot continue to live as if I do not need help in this world. That is not how I, nor anyone else, have been created. For ultimately, if I think that way, I will not see the need for Christ in my life and the reason why I should be most thankful.
So, Be Thankful Because…
Being thankful is hard.
Being thankful causes us to be humble.
Being thankful causes us to realize that there are people who love us like crazy and we have not been very good to them.
Being thankful sometimes means we have to step up and admit we were wrong about how we treated someone.
Being thankful means understanding that we cannot do things alone even though we don’t want to admit we need help.
Being thankful means understanding what Christ did on the cross.
Being thankful means understanding that we need Christ and we need people in our lives.
Being thankful means being vulnerable.
Being thankful is an attitude.
Being thankful is a lifestyle.
Being thankful is God’s will for us.
So, don’t complain, but remember what God has done for you and all he has provided. In all you do be thankful, for that is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18