Thanksgiving is one word; giving thanks is two, but they are really just one word and a word that should be part of our lives every day, not just one day a year when we use it as holiday jargon.
We are always looking for the will of God, and finding his will is a vital component of our lives.
We seek God's will for changing jobs, moving from one home to another, marriage, major purchases, new steps in ministry and prior to making other changes.
That is as it should be. We must always consider God's will above all else. But here is God's will for every one of us every day of our lives: "In everything give thanks," I Thessalonians 5:18.
Sometimes we think what we are experiencing is "just not fair." Perhaps the test or trial has been a long and uphill battle all the way. We are human, and rain falls on the just and the unjust. We Christians are not going to be immune from trouble.
Our reactions to times of unrest and trouble, however, show if the will of God really is what we're seeking and heeding. "In everything give thanks."
Paul, the writer of Thessalonians, knew what it was to go through some tough times. See II Corinthians 11:23-28. Through all of those trials, though, Paul tells us that in everything, we are to be thankful and give thanks. He tells us why in the same verse: "... for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
This is the best example for finding the will of God. Place yourself squarely in the will of God by giving thanks daily and you will be able to find his will easily for everyday decisions.
If, when it feels as though you are in the middle of a fiery furnace, you give thanks, the will of God will be actively working to get you through the situation without any burns. If, when you are in the valley of depression, you give thanks daily, the will of God will be actively working to get you through to the other side.
David did not say, "Yea, though I walk in the valley of death," but he said, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of death." Don't stay in the furnace or the valley, but rather walk through them with praise and thanksgiving.
Paul also told the Philippian church in chapter 4, verse 6, "Be careful for nothing ... ."
Why would he give such seemingly careless advice? Because he goes on to tell us, "... but in everything." Here again, it is everything, "... by prayer and supplication ... ." Next comes what I think is the key to the entire verse: "... with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
Jonah 2:9 is a very interesting verse. It says: "But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that which I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord."
Where was Jonah when he said this? Of course, he was in the belly of the great fish that God had prepared for him.
I find Jonah's insight very interesting. He began to understand God's will as he prayed in the midst of his greatest problem.
He learned at least four lessons during his time of being out of the will of God. Lesson one: He needed to cry out to God by reason of his affliction. I think all of us do this; we cry out to God when we get into real trouble.
Lesson two wasn't learned until the third day when he finally arrived mentally and spiritually at the place where God was trying to direct him.
He concluded that, although the situation wasn't pleasant and his surroundings weren't desirable, in spite of the terrible place, he would do better to praise than complain.
He would sacrifice with the voice of thanksgiving, letting God know how grateful he was for all he had done.
Lesson three: He needed to fulfill his promises to the Lord.
Lesson four: He acknowledged that deliverance comes from the Lord alone.
These lessons were all important to Jonah, but thanksgiving was his only route to deliverance. Jonah needed to get back into the will of God, and thanksgiving was the only way to get there.
No matter what comes our way, we will always be in the will of God if we practice thanksgiving every day.
I don't want to get into the middle of the valley, or find myself floundering in a furnace or any other unpleasant place without God going before me.
I can be assured that his will has priority in my life if I place him there every day through praise.
Stuart Churchill is pastor of Kenai United Pentecostal Church, Mile 16.5 Kenai Spur Highway.
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