To give thanks seems like such a simple matter. We teach our children to say, “Thank you,” when something is given to or done for them. Yet at certain times in our lives, giving thanks to the Lord can be hard for us. In this post, we’ll see the secret to giving thanks in all things and how giving thanks is a crucial part of our experience of Christ.
Paul exhorts us to give thanks
The Bible has a lot to say about giving thanks; the word “thank” appears in some form numerous times in the Bible. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote about giving thanks at least 46 times. Surely he was touching something particular regarding this matter.
Throughout his epistles, Paul encouraged us to give thanks. But perhaps his most challenging charge is in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
“In everything”—this is the challenge. When we count our blessings, we’re grateful for things the Lord has done for us and supplied us with. So we happily give thanks. That’s pretty easy to do. But we have a harder time thanking Him when we seem to have run out of blessings and our situation doesn’t look very positive. Yet Paul says giving thanks in everything is God’s will for us. Was Paul speaking in theory or by personal experience?
We know from verses like Acts 16:24-25 and Acts 27:35 that Paul’s life wasn’t a trouble-free life of ease. He was shipwrecked, imprisoned, persecuted, and beaten, and yet he was full of thanks in all his circumstances.
So when Paul said “in everything give thanks,” he wasn’t speaking theoretically; he was speaking of something he actually experienced, even in the most awful of situations. His life shows us that giving genuine thanks to the Lord in the midst of trying conditions is possible. But how did he do it? And how can we do it? What was Paul’s secret?
Paul gives us the secret to a life of thanks in three little words in Ephesians 5:20:
“Giving thanks at all times for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father.”
The secret to giving thanks to God not only in good times but also at all times, not only for good things but also for all things is to give thanks “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“The reality of the name of the Lord is His person. To be in the Lord’s name is to be in His person, in Himself. This implies that we should be one with the Lord in giving thanks to God.”
“The name denotes the person. The Lord’s person is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:17). To do things in the name of the Lord is to act in the Spirit. This is to live Christ.”
Being able to give thanks in everything isn’t a matter of philosophy, discipline, or even a happy disposition. The secret to living a life of thanks is for us to live the person of thanks—Jesus Christ—who is now the Spirit in our spirit.
Jesus Christ lived a life of giving thanks in everything, and He now lives in us. In ourselves, we have no way to genuinely thank God for everything, including the distressing, troubling, and unpleasant things. In order to thank God for these things, for all things, we have to live by a new person, by Christ in us.
The thanking person of Jesus
In the Gospels, we see wonderful examples of Jesus giving thanks. We often see Him give thanks to the Father for the basic provision of food and for hearing His prayers.
But the Gospels also record how Jesus offered thanks and praise in even the most adverse situations. For instance, in Matthew 11 the Lord Jesus speaks of how He had been rejected repeatedly by cities He’d visited. In this rejection, Jesus suffered the slander of the very people He had come to save. But what was His response? Jesus didn’t complain, bemoan His terrible situation, or feel sorry for Himself. No. In verses 25-26, He instead prayed this prayer:
“I extol You, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for thus it has been well-pleasing in Your sight.”
How wonderful Jesus is! Here we see Jesus actually extolling the Father, acknowledging His will in all things, including the rejection and slandering. He gave thanks to the Father in all situations and for all things.
We can give thanks in everything
Paul could give thanks in everything because he was one with this wonderful Jesus who was living in him and who lived a thanking life in all situations. And because Paul knew that all believers have Christ in them, he was confident in exhorting us to do the same. We too can give thanks in everything by being one with the Lord who lives in us, giving thanks in His name, in His person.
In ourselves, we may be unthankful, bemoan our situation, and complain to God and to everyone else. But as we contact the thankful One, the Lord Jesus Himself who lives in our spirit, we are joined to Him practically. We’re in Him, not in our old, complaining person. We then experience His person being our person, and His thanking life being our life. We live and act in the person of Christ in our spirit and enjoy His life in us. And spontaneously our prayers are filled with praise and thanks to Him for all things.