In Everything Give ThanksDecember 12, 2018 Pastor's Pen
Cultivating a Heart of Contentment
The other day while out shopping I witnessed yet another little toddler literally smacking his mom because she had the audacity (sarcastic) to tell him “no” to his request for another toy. While cute and humorous to some, this is a microcosm of a deep-seated problem in our society that we must beware of, especially during the “holiday” season. It’s a problem, better “sin,” that even Christians like you and I struggle with. The sin of discontentment & failure to give thanks.
One of the grave dangers of living in a materialistic, consumer-driven culture is that it breeds the sin of discontentment in each of us. Marketing and advertising, while good business, are designed to get us, the consumers, to believe that, “if I only had that car or house…if only I had that TV…if only I had that video game…if only I had that husband or wife…if only I had that kind of child…if only I could go on that kind of vacation, if only I had that “better” job…then, and only then, would I be truly happy.”
It’s not that each one of these desires is evil or sinful, in and of itself. The problem lies in how we respond when we don’t get those things. We might begin to idolize those things so much that we are driven to whining (yes, even adults, not just kids!), complaining, bickering, or even enviously resenting others who might have those things. Ever been there? Don’t lie. I certainly have.
We are not the only ones who have ever struggled with the sin of discontentment. The Apostle Paul writes to his beloved brethren, the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit…” (1 Thess 5:16-19). You ever wonder what God’s will for your life is? Here is some of His clearly-revealed will right here, “in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
If you are a Christian, then God desires that you and I repent of the sin of discontentment, and instead be thankful in everything. “In everything” means…drum roll…“in everything” in the Greek J. In the good times and the bad. In prosperity or scarcity. In times of circumstantial rejoicing or times of sorrow. In times of sickness or times of health. My, how we need God’s grace. But His grace is sufficient to aid us in being thankful people, even in our suffering. He wouldn’t ask this of us if He is not committed to granting us the grace to obey Him in this area.
But being thankful doesn’t come in isolation. There are other truths that we need to be reminded of as well, if we are to be thankful people. From our text there are exhortations which surround Paul’s instruction to give thanks in everything. Right before he speaks about “rejoicing always” (v 16), and from the previous context in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, we learn that we “can” rejoice because of the Day of the Lord! Paul says, “because Jesus is coming back, you can rejoice always,” no matter what’s happening in life. Also, in the verse right before his instruction to give thanks in everything, he says “pray without ceasing” (v 17). We can’t possibly cultivate a heart of contentment, which leads to verbal thanksgiving, if we are not walking in daily prayer and communion with God, being daily reminded of the 2nd coming of our beloved King.
Finally, in the verse after his exhortation to give thanks (v 19), he says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” One of the ways we can quench the Spirit is by walking in sin, not only personal sin, but also in our sin toward others. Ephesians 4:30, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” When we are not walking in love, forgiveness, and kindness toward one another, we grieve the Holy Spirit, and we won’t be very grateful people.
May God grant us His grace, and the enabling help of His Holy Spirit, to be people who, “in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”