I Thes 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God.” And in many places the Bible says, “Rejoice Always.” (Phil 4:4,6; Eph 5:20; Col 3:5; I Thes 5:16) This plain Bible teaching is another of the long-neglected truths which are being emphasized nowadays in the renewal of the Church.
There are 3 classes of people in the world: 1. Unbelievers, who thank God for nothing (Romans 1:21, I Cor 10:10). 2. Carnal Christians, who are “Thankful in prosperity and patient in adversity.” 3. Spiritual people, who seek to obey God’s clear commands in this matter.
There are many Bible statements besides the ones listed previously: Romans 5:3, James 1:2, I Peter 4:13, Matthew 5:12 and Luke 6:23. There are passages that refer to Paul’s example as found in Col 1:24, Phil 1:18 II Cor 6:10, II Cor 12:9,10. Examples of Christ are found in John 17, Luke 10:21, John 11:41, Luke 22:15-17. Examples in the early church are found in Acts 5:41 and 16:25. The World’s greatest crime is cause for our greatest praise. (Gal 6:14)
The meaning of this is not that we have to be unnaturally happy, pretending to be thankful when we are not; it does not mean that we have to praise God for the affliction itself, but rather what God will do for good by means of it. We are not to blame God for “evil” in our lives; nor is it wrong to seek relief, escape that which is unpleasant. (e.g., Paul’s thorn in the flesh.) But it does not mean either that we seek out suffering; some Christians get perverse pleasure out of being miserable, “chastised”. Praising God for everything is not easy; the Bible speaks of the “sacrifice” of praise! It surely does not mean that we do evil so that some good can come out of it. Christ avoided some attacks; prayed for escape from the cross. Paul also avoided some situations. It does simply mean that I realize that NOTHING happens to me by chance, but that it has a good purpose in my life; that it is absolutely necessary, and I will be better off on account of it. We’ll see later how to express this faith.
There are multiple reasons to praise God in everything, rejoicing always: 1. The explicit commands in the Bible. Even if it did not make sense, simple unquestioning obedience is our duty. But like all God’s commands, we are the gainers by obedience; his yoke is easy, God’s law is more precious than money, sweeter than honey. Satan tries to sell us on the opposite. 2. Praise, thanksgiving is our best service to God. “God inhabits the praise of his people.” 3. It shows faith. Nobody hates Santa Claus. “What a man sees, why hope?” (Romans 8) 4. We simply do not know what IS good and what is bad for us. How then can we pick out certain things for praise, when they may be the very “worst”? 5. Praise is all or nothing; if not for all, it’s not at all. 6. In order to get Satan off our back. Nothing makes him quit afflicting quicker than when we praise God for it. He is not crazy! 7. To enable God to work. God cannot “use” the bad things for our good unless we play our part by being in the right attitude toward them. Think for Joseph in Egypt; of Israel in Wilderness. Billheimer (“Destined for the Throne”) says that the current “charismatic” movement is being prospered because of its strong emphasis upon praise in all!
So, how to be thankful, rejoicing in everything: 1. Be a positive person. Some people can see bad in the best; others see good in the worst. “Bumper crops are hard on the soil.” 2. Look for God’s pleasant purposes; make a divine detective game of it. It is all right to ask, “Why, Lord?” if one looks forward and not back. 3. Express joy, praise, especially verbally. James 5:13, Eph 5:18-20. Say it to others; say it to God. Say it to yourself! (Ps 103:1,2)