In Everything Give Thanks

person on bench holding an open Bible

To give thanks seems like such a simple matter. From the time they’re little, we teach our children to say “Thank you” to someone who gives them something or does something 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 from the Bible of giving thanks in all things, and how giving thanks is a crucial part of our Christian experience.

Paul exhorts us to give thanks

The Bible has a lot to say about giving thanks. The word thank appears in some form a multitude of times throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

In the New Testament alone, the apostle Paul wrote about giving thanks at least 46 times. Surely this indicates that giving thanks to God is something important.

Perhaps Paul’s most challenging charge to believers 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,” it’s easy for us to happily give thanks for the things the Lord has done for us or supplied us with. But it’s harder for us to thank Him when it seems as if the blessings have run out, or when our situation doesn’t look very positive. When confronted with difficulties, we may not feel thankful. Instead we may bemoan our situation and complain about it to God and to everyone else. 

Yet Paul says giving thanks in everything is God’s will for us. Was Paul speaking only in theory, or from his personal experience?

Paul’s experience

We know from reading the book of Acts that Paul’s life was far from being trouble free. He was imprisoned, persecuted, beaten, and shipwrecked. Yet even while suffering such difficult circumstances, Paul was full of thanks.

So when Paul said in everything give thanks, he wasn’t speaking theoretically; he was talking about something he actually practiced, even in the most awful of situations. He gave genuine thanks to the Lord amid the most trying conditions. 

How did Paul do it? Was he some kind of “super Christian”? Actually, from Ephesians 3:8, we know that Paul considered himself “less than the least of all saints.” So how was Paul able to give thanks in everything?

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Giving thanks in the name of the Lord

Paul’s secret for giving thanks in any situation can be found in a short phrase 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.”

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—this is the secret to giving thanks to God not only in good times but at all times, not only for good things but for all things.

Note 2 on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version helps us understand what this means: 

“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.

Now let’s also read Colossians 3:17, a sister verse to Ephesians 5:20:

“And whatever you do in word or in deed, do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

And note 1 on this verse says:

“The name denotes the person. The Lord’s person is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17a). To do things in the name of the Lord is to act in the Spirit. This is to live Christ.”

What it means to live Christ

In Philippians 1:21, Paul said:

“For to me, to live is Christ.”

Note 1 on this verse is extremely helpful in seeing what it means to live Christ:

“Paul’s life was to live Christ. To him, to live was Christ, not the law or circumcision. He would not live the law but would live Christ, not be found in the law but be found in Christ (3:9). Christ was not only his life but also his living. He lived Christ because Christ lived in him (Gal. 2:20). He was one with Christ in both life and living. He and Christ had one life and one living. They lived together as one person. Christ lived within Paul as Paul’s life, and Paul lived Christ without as Christ’s living. The normal experience of Christ is to live Him, and to live Him is to magnify Him always, regardless of the circumstances.”

In ourselves, we have no ability to genuinely thank God for everything, including the distressing, troubling, and unpleasant things. But when we live Christ, who lives in us, we can thank God for all things just like Paul did. This kind of living isn’t reserved for “super Christians”; it’s how God wants every believer to live.

We can give thanks in everything

Practically speaking, to live Christ we simply need to contact Him in our spirit by praying and calling on His name. When we contact Him in this way, we enjoy having one life and one living with Him. And spontaneously, our prayers will be filled with praise and thanks to God for all things.

If you live in the US, you can order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version here to read all the verses mentioned in this post, together with their eye-opening commentary.