“In everything give thanks”
Study 2: Give thanks to God though the going is tough
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Discuss times when it’s difficult to give thanks to God. Notice that the text doesn’t say “give thanks for all circumstances”, but “in all circumstances”.
The hymn, Now thank we all our God was originally written by Martin Rinkart as a table prayer to be sung before or after a meal. [E Ryden, The Story of Christian Hymnody, 95; Ingetraut Ludolphy, The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church, 2065] What’s remarkable is that the hymn was published as the Thirty Years’ War raged. In 1617, the year before the War began, Martin, aged 31, became pastor of the church in the city of his birth. Because it was a walled city, it became a place of refuge for thousands of people who had lost everything in the War. In the year 1637 a plague swept through the city. The other two pastors of the city had died, so Rinkart had to minister to the people alone. He buried 4,480 victims of the epidemic, among them his own wife. Now thank we all our God was possibly written the year before, but it was first published in the year of the plague. In a time of great anguish, through faith in Jesus who bore the cross for us, Rinkart was yet able to give glory to God for the wonderful things he’s done and for his countless gifts of love.
In difficult and sad times, we too can give thanks to God who has made us and has saved us eternally. Psalm 137 tells about the Jews weeping in Babylon because of the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 or 586BC. Yet that sorrowful psalm is sandwiched between two psalms of thanks, 136 and 138. Psalm 138, a psalm of David, doesn’t follow Psalm 137 chronologically. David lived 400 years before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Yet his psalm is like an answer to the sorrows of Psalm 137. Read especially Psalm 138:3-8.
Psalm 138 has us pray in verse 7, Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life … your right hand delivers me. It assures us that our heavenly Father cares about the lives of each one of us. He cares about us in minute detail, as Jesus affirms in Matthew 10:28-31.
It’s good to follow a pattern of prayer each day so that, when trouble comes, we continue to give thanks to God. Are members of your fellowship familiar with the daily prayers given in section two of the Small Catechism? Do any use them each day?
Both morning and evening prayer begin with a reminder of our baptism the sign of the cross, and the words “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” – God’s name into whom we’ve been baptised (Matthew 28:19). Then follow the Apostles’ Creed and the Our Father, also prayed at one’s baptism. In other words, we come before God as his beloved children and heirs of eternal, resurrection life (1 Peter 1:3-5). Finally there’s a brief prayer that begins with a word of thanks; in the morning: “I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have kept me this night from all harm and danger …”; in the evening: “I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have graciously kept me this day …” For that matter, as we pray in the Our Father, “Give us today our daily bread”, don’t we need to make it a prayer of thanks that he’s done just that?
As well, the Divine Service leads us to thank God who has saved us. As we saw in the previous study, it has us pray “We give thanks to you for your great glory” in preparation for the hearing of God’s Word read and preached. Words of thanks are again given both before and after the holy Supper. Our Lord Jesus gave thanks to his Father at mealtime (Matthew 14:19; John 6:11; Matthew 15:36; Luke 22:17 – here the Passover meal). He did the same at the last supper in connection with both the bread and the cup that he declared to be his body and blood, given and poured out for all for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19,20). The order of Service likewise leads us to give thanks to the Father, before and after the holy Supper, for what he gives us through his Son. Should such words of thanks be omitted by us for whatever reason?
We thank God not only by our prayers but also by our actions. Pastor David Kuske has written:
“‘Whatever you do,’ Paul writes in Colossians 3:17, ‘whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’ The Christian mother, who cares for her children, cleans the house, cooks meals, and mends clothes, is expressing her thanks to God in all these actions. Since she does them as a child of God who rejoices in her Saviour, her simplest task is an act of faith, which God looks on as an expression of true gratitude. That’s how it is with the simplest actions of every Christian, whether a labourer, farmer, business-person, clerk, police officer, or secretary. Whether we eat or drink – whatever we do – God wants us to do it all to his glory. That is how we ‘give thanks in all circumstances.’” [I & II Thessalonians, Concordia 2005, p 63]
Do you have anything further to discuss?
A prayer to speak or sing:
Now thank we all our God
with hearts and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.