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Thessalonians 5 v 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Please read Matthew 11

The 4 elements of Public Worship that can be clearly identified in the verses that appear towards the end of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.

1. We should be Joyful Christians in worship v 16
2. We should be Prayerful Christians in worship v 17
3. We should be thankful Christians in worship v 18
4. We should be attentive Christians in Worship v 19 – 22

Over the past 2 weeks we have considered the first 2 of these worship imperatives from the Apostle Paul. And this morning we arrive at the Third –

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

3. We should be thankful Christians in worship v 18.

As before we will not only think of thankfulness and thanksgiving in our worship, but also what it is to be thankful Christians in daily life too.

1. Thankfulness in Worship.

One of the things that remind my wife and I of our years of childrearing is to notice how similar are the themes that have to be taken up by our children as they bring up their children. Indeed it is not only our grandchildren that need constant reminders about certain things – but all children in every family require reminders about saying certain things and having a certain attitude.

The themes words and attitudes have to do with being thankful. A child is given food or a sweet or some present. The instinct is to grab and devour or in the case of a present to tear off the paper to see what is inside. What happens next? Someone says “What do you say?”

Why is that said? It is said because it is part of normal training to ensure that a child responds to a gift or the supply of something with gratitude. It is right to give thanks when something is received.

Some would say that this is social convention. Some would argue that this is mere good manners that help a society to run smoothly and bring respect and honour amongst human beings.

I would argue that gratitude, and giving of thanks, is far more than this. Thanksgiving is Biblical! It has its roots in God’s word the scriptures.

The Apostle Paul was so bold as to identify a lack of gratitude as a particular mark of heathen ungodly and sinful people.

Romans 1 v 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. A thankless heart is a dark heart!

The Lord Jesus Christ clearly stated that all men without exception receive all kinds of blessings from the Lord God in what is called common grace –

Matthew 5 v 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Luke 6 v 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

Paul found himself amongst such heathen and unthankful people when he preached the Gospel with Barnabas in Lystra in Asia Minor. Paul had healed a crippled man. But these superstitious people believed that Paul and Barnabas were gods come from heaven. Paul they called Mercury and Barnabas they called Jupiter. The people began to worship the two Christian missionaries – here is what Luke said in Acts 14 v 14

Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, 15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: 16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

Someone has said that “though there are indeed blessings that are common, gratitude in return for them is not!”

It is characteristic of a post Christian culture to be thankless. It was characteristic of the pre Christian culture that Paul went to with the Gospel as we noted from Romans 1 v 21. But by way of warning see what Paul writes to Timothy –

2 Timothy 3 v 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

Does this not describe increasingly our society today? A society that does not know how to say Thank You! Car drivers cannot be bothered to wave in thanks when you let them out in front of you. People in queues often are the same along with those whom you offer to pass in front of you when there is only room for one – not a hint of gratitude. Social graces disappear when God and His word are left out of the picture.

But it also describes every child born into every family – Christian families included. Children who inherit our fallen natures left to themselves will become expert sinners and utterly unthankful. So they in the first instance need to be trained to SAY “thank you”. And then they need to see the need by God’s grace to BE THANKFUL for all of God’s mercies.

It should therefore be a most natural thing for the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ to be a thankful person. And even more that the collection of Christian people, the church, should be corporately thankful in their worship.

So the Apostle says to the Thessalonians

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Our forebears of the 17th Century Reformation made their position very plain when in the Book of Common Prayer they directed words to help God’s people to be thankful. There is a section in the prayer Book called Thanksgivings starting with what is called the General Thanksgiving. Notice how the words are put together –

“Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give Thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and lovingkindness to us and all men. We bless Thee for our creation, our preservation and all the blessings of this life. But above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace and for the hope of glory. And we beseech Thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we show forth Thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to Thy service, and by walking before Thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

The priorities of thanksgiving are superb and reflect the Christian’s duty to give thanks to God – so what are the areas that we should thank God for in our Worship, both Public and Private? We can make a list.

1. Creation. It should be natural for intelligent creatures to return thanks to the creator. He it is that has given them life, and breath and their very being. Paul states this in Acts 17 v 24

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord,

Do we thank our creator for our life?

2. God Himself. Once we have thanked God that we exist it follows that we thank Him for His being – eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient – and the One who loves us and provides for us, protects us and keeps us in preservation according to His good purpose and will. Do we thank God for Himself?

3. Salvation in General – that is the blessings of God’s kindness in redeeming His elect children from the curse of the fall and rescuing them from the terrors of hell and judgement. Do we thank God for this merciful kindness and the plan of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ?

4. For Personal Salvation – salvation in particular to us as individual believers. We should thank God for the forgiveness of sins.

Thank you Lord for saving my soul,
Thank you Lord for making me whole,
Thank you Lord for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and free!

Do we thank God for His pardon and forgiveness? Do we thank Him for personally revealing Himself to us? Do we thank Him for taking away our sins and their penalty? Do we thank Him for helping us to meet and master our temptations to sin? Do we thank Him for the glorious hope of heaven?

5. The Scriptures. We owe the Lord so much for revealing Himself in His word and for preserving the Bible miraculously down 2000 years so that we may have authority for our belief in Him. Last Wednesday a little boy here in this church asked why there are so many religions. With this Bible in my hand I told him and the 90 or so other children here that our true Faith in God is rooted and grounded in God’s word alone and not in human imagination – which is the origin of all other religions. Let us thank the Lord God for His inspired word and for the gift of understanding through the Holy Spirit that he has given us to read and believe His word!

Do we thank God for His Holy Word to us?

6. Spiritual Protection and Keeping. In heaven we may look back and observe the many dangers, toils and snares through which we came during life. All the while a loving hand of protection was guarding us – God’s hand. His angels keep us even though we do not see them. We should thank the Lord God for His protective love – do we?

7. Temporal Blessings.

Lamentations 3 v 22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Blessings and provisions are called Compassions by the Prophet Jeremiah. They are a Bible word for the many providences that are ours from God. What are they? Any list we construct could be huge – here are some things to thank the Lord for –

Answered prayer; Health and strength; strength and courage in bearing pain; the blessings of the family; the blessings of the Church community; provision of food and clothing and so many more. Are we careful to thank the Lord for the little as well as big provisions in our lives?

I was fascinated to look at some of the prayers of Thanksgiving listed in the Prayer Book –

Thanksgiving for rain; for fair weather; for plenty following a famine; for peace and deliverance from our enemies; for restoration of public peace at home; and for deliverance from the plague and other sicknesses.

And although we use extemporary prayers in Church and in our Family worship, the printed prayers in the Puritan’s Prayer Book kept the believer reminded of the many blessings that we receive as Christians, and which should not be forgotten in our prayers – publicly and privately.

We must move on – but before we do there is a hymn that aids us to give thanks to God if we find the expression of thanks difficult –

O LORD of heaven, and earth, and sea,
To Thee all praise and glory be;
How shall we show our love to Thee,
Who givest all?

The golden sunshine, vernal air,
Sweet flowers and fruits, Thy love declare;
Where harvests ripen, Thou art there,
Who givest all.

For peaceful homes and healthful days,
For all the blessings earth displays,
We owe Thee thankfulness and praise,
Who givest all.

Thou didst not spare Thine only Son,
But gav'st Him for a world undone,
And freely with that blessèd One
Thou givest all.

Thou giv'st the Spirit's blessèd dower,
Spirit of life, and love, and power,
And dost His sevenfold graces shower
Upon us all.

For souls redeemed, for sins forgiven,
For means of grace and hopes of heaven,
Father, what can to Thee be given,
Who givest all?

To Thee, from whom we all derive
Our life, our gifts, our power to give!
O may we ever with Thee live,
Who givest all!

Christopher Wordsworth,

May God make us thankful and grateful in our Public Worship always.

2. Our Great example in Thanksgiving – the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

The Greek word for giving thanks in this verse is EUCHARISTEO. You may recognise that word as sounding like the term for a Communion service in some other churches called The Eucharist. EUCHARISTEO means “to give thanks well”. It is used 5 times in the 2 letters to the Thessalonians. And thanksgiving was a characteristic of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ. He knew how to give thanks! In Matthew 15 v 36 he gave thanks before multiplying the loaves and fishes to give to the crowds of hungry people. At the graveside of His friend Lazarus he thanked God the Father that he had heard Him when he called to Him – John 11 v 41; and before distributing the bread and the wine at the last supper with his disciples He gave thanks – which incidentally is why a communion service is called a Eucharist – it is a remembrance service focussing on thanksgiving for what the Lord Jesus Christ did on the cross in giving Himself for us His people. We assemble to thank Him – well.

The thing about thankfulness is that often we find it easier to thank God or anyone else when things are going very well and when everything in our garden is rosy!

But notice now the circumstances of the Lord Jesus Christ giving thanks at the Supper – it was with a view to His sufferings and death.

With thankfulness he broke the bread – knowing that it was to become the symbol of his death.

With thankfulness He blessed the cup – knowing that it was to become the symbol of His shed blood.

Would we be able to be this thankful if we knew such significance in our thanksgiving?

There is another example of the Lord Jesus’ thankfulness in adversity and sorrow. We read from Matthew 11 earlier and I invite you to turn back there.

20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

These are serious words which were His response to those cities, and the people in them, who rejected Him and the gospel message. But later he uttered the words of verse 25 – 26

I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.

So the Thanksgiving of the Lord Jesus arose not from congenial circumstances but out of something far more important – that we as His followers need to take a firm grip upon – and it is this – Jesus thanked His Father out of His knowledge that through his adversities the will of His father was being accomplished. Jesus ever desired that His Father’s will be done, even if it meant it may be contrary to His own will –

Luke 22 v 42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

What a wonderful saviour He is! How He leads us by example into thanksgiving to God who is sovereign, and does all thing well after the counsel of His own will. Are we prepared to follow Him in this and be a thankful and grateful people?

Does He ask us to thank Him FOR everything in life?
Can a grieving widow thank the Lord for the pain and grief that she feels?
Can the disappointed parent thank God for that child off the rails?
Can the man who has just received news of a deadly disease in His body thank God for this turn of events?

My friends this verse does not say FOR EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS! Notice what it does say – IN everything give thanks – in every circumstance – give thanks to God the creator and the God who saves our souls. We cannot possibly give thanks for every evil or displeasing circumstance in life – be we can and should thank Him IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES – whatever happens. Pray that the Lord will help us to be thankful “whatever betides!”

Is there something further to help us in this, seeing gratitude doesn’t come naturally to our fallen human natures?

Yes there is – and it is found in the second half of our text this morning –

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

3. Thanksgiving is Christ’s will for us.

What is the will of God for you today?
What is the will of God for me today?
What is the will of God for us all in life everyday?

To give thanks in everything! That’s it! To give thanks in everything!

It means very practically, that each of us says AMEN to the will of God as revealed in His word!

It means saying Hallelujah, Praise the Lord – for the will of God as revealed in the circumstances of our lives.

W.E. Vine suggests that “thanksgiving is the expression of Joy towards God; and like joy it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer.” The Lord Jesus Christ rejoiced and gave thanks in the same breath –

Luke 10 v 21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.

What is the will of God for us?

To do the will of God is to yield ourselves to the plans and designs that He has for us, by obeying Him in all that He has revealed to us. However we have neither the power nor the desire to do the will of God in our human souls occurring naturally. We are rebels by nature – we are not disposed to doing God’s will by nature.

It is God that works in us to do His will –

Philippians 2 v 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

What God the Holy Spirit does for us when we are converted is this. He lays upon us the responsibility to do the will of God. At the same time He reveals the will of God to us.

Ephesians 5 v 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

The Lord Jesus Christ promised that willing, converted believers could and would know His will through the Holy Spirit –

John 7 v 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

And as they seek to do God’s will they will enter more and more into intimate friendship with the Lord Himself –

Matthew 12 v 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

There are those people who say that they love the Lord and call Him Lord – but there is a problem. Such are not prepared to do His will.

Those who do the will of God shall enter the Kingdom of heaven –

Matthew 7 v 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Those who do the will of God will have eternal life!

1 John 2 v 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

The implications of this phrase “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,” are twofold.

1. You have no hope of doing the will of God unless you are converted – born again.

God’s character is Holiness and righteousness. His will is that His human creatures should be holy –

1 Peter 1 v 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Have you a natural ability to be holy my friend? No you do not – if you are honest. You may think you have – but it is not true – and if you do think it then the author of that thought is the devil – the liar – who has lied to you!

We follow by nature the desires of the flesh and of the mind – which actually make us in opposition to the Lord God.

We need the new birth – desperately. We need that spiritual revolution that brings us to the position where we delight to do God’s will – not forced kicking and screaming against our will – but to have the will of God as our all consuming desire. Your will agreeing with His will instead of opposing His will.

Has this happened to you yet my friend?

You need to be born again to have any hope of truly rejoicing, praying or giving thanks to the Lord God.

You need to be saved from your sins. You need to have God’s pardon in your soul, and to have your guilt taken away completely. Then you will be set free to do His sovereign will – and be glad to do so!

Change your will my friend – go to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and seek His pardon asking for His mercy. He never turns any away who honestly comes with a sincere desire to be His child!

A second implication is this.

2. Knowing and doing the will of God is a lifelong discipline for the believer which has to be learned over many years.

So many Christians find God’s will for their lives very difficult. They come to circumstances, decisions or choices with great fear. On the one hand they want what God wants, but they are not sure of what he wants.

Mostly the problem is this – that the child of God is not obeying the will of God in one area and yet wants to know the will of God in another. We cannot be double minded about the will of God. I once heard a wise preacher say this – “God will only reveal His will to those whom He knows are ready to do His will.”

What a good principle that is! And really the whole area deserves a sermon on its own – and our time is gone! To conclude then –

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

The will of God concerning us His people is not only the giving of thanks. Paul appends this phrase to all three areas of Worship and walk with the Lord –

Rejoice ever more – for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Pray without ceasing – for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
In every thing give thanks – for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

We may not always feel like praising, praying or giving thanks to God. Circumstances may be prevailing that makes us want to do these things the least!

Yet we are to do so all the same!

Because it is God’s will for us in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We can never say from this morning on that we do not know what the will of God is for us! It is here in front of us.

And we close with Paul’s words in Romans 12

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.



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