Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
It is no accident the Apostle Paul combined these three qualities of joy, prayer and thankfulness in the closing section of his first letter to the Church in Thessalonica. Indeed, each depends on the other to some degree. Certainly we may pray even when we are down in the dumps or struggling with the sin of unthankfulness; in fact that is a good time to pray, asking for the joy of the Lord and His strength. Yet, there is no joy in a thankless heart and the one who will not give thanks will find it nearly impossible to pray until he learns to give thanks in all circumstances.
As I mentioned in an earlier article, the symptoms of an unthankful heart include grumbling, complaining and lack of faith. In fact, the unthankful heart is akin to the foolish in that both act as if there is no God. Since this is the case it is easy to see how the thankless Christian cannot do the work of the kingdom effectively.
According to the Bible, the kingdom of God is the rule of Jesus Christ in the hearts and lives of His people. The kingdom is not limited to issues of personal piety but is manifest in all areas of life as the people of God bring their arena of activity under the lordship of Jesus. This activity of dominion is impossible for the thankless Christian.
When we give thanks in every circumstance we are not dissuaded from our responsibility to obey the Lord by difficulty. In fact, the thankful heart will, count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). In other words, the thankful Christian will find joy in hardship and thank the Lord that He is willing to take the time to lead him through difficulty in order to shape him into the image of Jesus Christ.
The thankful Christian will continue to put forth maximum effort to serve his Lord no matter what problem or disappointment he may encounter. In fact, any disappointment will be transitory as the thankful Believer embraces the circumstance with joy, recognizing the situation as an opportunity to better serve Christ. There is no more powerful witness to the unsaved than the Christian who gives thanks in the midst of hardship and continues to express the joy of the Lord.
How can it be otherwise? Believers live in the knowledge that all things work for their good – to make them more like Jesus Christ. They strive to obey the Lord, knowing all they encounter in this life is used by Him to prepare them for eternity. The only appropriate attitude is thankfulness. God is in control of all things and all things ultimately bring glory to His name and benefit His children.
We have much to be thankful for. We have food to eat, clothes to wear, homes to live in, friends and relatives who love and support us and we are free to worship our Father in heaven as he commands. Furthermore, to the degree we are lacking these things we still have reason to be thankful. In Christ our sins are forgiven, we are reckoned as righteous, we are heirs to the covenant promises, our eternal salvation is secure and any hardship we encounter in this life is designed to enhance our relationship with the Lord, now and in eternity.