Remember that two weeks ago I mentioned that both 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and Philippians 4:4-7 are commands, not suggestions? They are in the imperative case, for you grammar people. That means that we are being told to give thanks.
I don’t think God is concerned with how we feel about obeying; He just tells us to obey. It’s kind of like being in the military. A general holds a higher rank than a corporal. If a general tells a corporal to do something, nothing changes if the corporal doesn’t want to do it.
Besides, the good news is that God is not commanding us to feel thankful; He says to give thanks.
What’s the difference? Feeling thankful is an act of our emotions; giving thanks is an act of our will.
Being able to give thanks is not dependent on our feelings, but it is dependent upon God’s character. When we give thanks to God, we are in essence recognizing that:
- God is good.
“No one is good but One, that is, God.” (Jesus in Matthew 19:17, NKJV)
- He’s in control.
. . . God who is the Blessed Controller of all things. (I Timothy 6:15, Phillips)
- He loves me.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (I John 4:10, NKJV)
If any of these aspects were not true of God, you couldn’t trust Him nor honestly thank Him.
I have a confession to make. There have been many circumstances in which I didn’t want to give thanks, even knowing that I didn’t have to feel thankful to do it, even after reminding myself about these verses and these qualities of God. In fact, I’ve been a bit like Fonzie. (Anyone remember Fonzie from Happy Days, a sitcom from the 1970s?) When trying to say he’d been wrong, he’d say, “I was w…w…w…w…” several times. Except I say, “Th…th…th…th…” sometimes when trying to thank God for something for which I don’t feel thankful.
It was in going through this process once that I came to realize that, for me, saying “thank you” was a “sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips . . . ” (Hebrews 13:15) You see, a sacrifice is giving something that costs us. When we are going through things that we do not like, the act of obeying by giving thanks can cost us.
How? By giving thanks we are submitting to God, giving up our desires, telling Him that we are willing to have His will in our lives, and even recognizing that what He has for us is for our best. In short, we are trusting God.
After all, wouldn’t you agree that, if God has a goal for us, it must be good? He is using these things that we have a hard time thanking Him for to conform us to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:28-29)
And that’s good.