“Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
I have this verse hanging up in my house. It’s a coffee cup verse. It’s so common that we almost think of it more as an inspirational quote rather than a command. In the whole of God’s Word, it’s an exceptionally clear-stated verse.
“Lord, what is your will for me?”
“I want you to give thanks in all circumstances. This is my will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Pretty clear. So we’re all done, right? Not quite. Let’s think through the implications of this verse.
Gratitude and Grace
“Give thanks” is one word in Greek, eucharisteo. It’s a fairly common word in the New Testament. It is formed from the words eu (good) and charis (grace). The simple definition of eucharisteo is “to give thanks” but could literally be rendered “to acknowledge or be thankful for God’s good grace.”1
If God wants us to give thanks in all circumstances, at bare minimum it means there is always something to be thankful about. In every circumstance – good or bad or mundane – there must be some measure of God’s good grace.
Maybe your circumstances are going quite well at the moment. Your health is good. Relationships are going well. Work isn’t stressful. You have plenty of food and a roof over your head. Thank God for all of that. Those are gracious gifts.
Maybe your circumstances aren’t going well. Perhaps you or someone you love is sick or in pain. Maybe work is stressful, a relationship isn’t working out, or you have financial struggles. Or everything is just fine but for some reason, you feel empty.
God still says to give thanks in the circumstance. Notice it doesn’t say give thanks for all circumstances but in all circumstances. Our gratitude does not arise from our circumstances but from God’s grace.
Grace in Many Forms
Depending on the circumstance, His grace may look different. Maybe the situation could be so much worse but it’s not. That’s grace. Thank God for that. Or maybe God is using your difficult circumstances to develop your character, strengthen your faith, witness to someone else, teach you a valuable life lesson, or show something of Himself to you. Give Him thanks for that.
Or maybe you can’t see anything in the circumstance to be grateful about. I believe that’s why this verse ends with … “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
In Christ, we always have a reason to give thanks. In Christ, you have…
- Complete forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7)
- A new family, the church (Galatians 3:26)
- The indwelling Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13–14)
- Love that never leaves (Romans 8:38–39)
- Hope that never fades (1 Peter 1:3-4)
- Grace that is all-sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)
- The promises of heaven and eternal life (John 3:16)
- And so many more great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4)
Our Response to God’s Grace
The proper response to God’s abundant grace is constant gratitude. The Lord commands us to give thanks because He has given us plenty of things to be thankful for. In fact, He’s given us everything.
- “He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:26)
- “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
To give thanks in all circumstances, we may just need to look more closely for God’s grace in our circumstances. Or we may need to remind ourselves of His gracious gifts to us: the blessings we have in Christ and the promises in His Word but also friends and family, kind words of encouragement, funny videos, good books, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and snacks and clothes and coffee and medicine and quiet nights and the beauty of His creation and more. It’s all grace. So give thanks.
Giving Thanks Even in Heaven
One final thought. The apostle John describes a scene in heaven with a great crowd and angels singing, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever!” (Revelation 7:12 NLT).
Heaven is a place of gratitude. Even in heaven, we will give thanks to God.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Gratitude may not be the entirety of His will, but it’s central to it. We have much to be thankful for. We will give Him thanks for all eternity, so let’s practice for it today.
Questions for Reflection:
What can you give thanks to God for today? (Be specific.)
Where do you see evidences of God’s grace in your circumstances?
What blessings in Christ are you thankful for today?
Spend a few minutes in prayer or writing out what you’re thankful for.
- See HELPS Word Studies, 2168, https://biblehub.com/greek/2168.htm.