“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
A few years ago at the Hope Centre Bible Study we were discussing the ways in which Joseph demonstrated his faith by the decisions he made and the attitude he demonstrated throughout his life. His whole character seemed to be marked by a trusting in the providence of God. Even as he discussed the betrayal which he had suffered at the hands of his brothers, a betrayal which had in many ways defined his life, he did so with a deep trust in God’s leading. “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) At its heart what Joseph demonstrated was the radical thankfulness which is at the heart of the Christian life.
This weekend we celebrate Thanksgiving. For one weekend we remind ourselves that we need to be thankful for all of the blessings which God has given to us. Being Thankful is really something much deeper than this. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 that it is in fact the will of God for us. It is the character which He has designed us to live in. As Paul puts it here we are to become people who are walking into a lifestyle which is constantly joyful, prayerful, and thankful. When it comes to the word Paul uses for thankful we find that it is defined as “properly acknowledging that God’s grace works well. It works towards our eternal gain and His glory. We are called to be thankful for God’s good grace.” (According to Helps Wordstudies) Later in the verse Paul adds this provision for all of the traits he has been discussing, “for this is God’s gracious design for you.” This is, in other words, what God has designed for you to be. The circumstances you experience in your life are moving you towards this design.
Joseph understood this. He knew that God had been moving him through a lifetime of experiences towards the man he had become. He was strong in faith, and therefore submissive to God. In all of his circumstances Joseph was seeing God at work. So too do we see God at work in our circumstances. In God’s providence we find ourselves being led into the very places where we meet God in all of his graciousness. Eventually we find ourselves responding to His leading with trusting praise because we are beginning to discover that He is in fact a trustworthy God who is displaying His matchless grace in our lives.
Bruce Theilman in a sermon on the book of Ruth tells a story about his Mother who went through a whole series of great difficulties in her life as a young woman. These experiences were painful but they led her to a place where she would meet a godly young man who would become Theilman’s Father. In due time her experiences led to her conversion and marriage. Theilman told this story to demonstrate how she was in fact walking into the purposes of God just as Ruth had done. Years later Bruce Theilman was attempting to define expository preaching and he said this, “There is no special honor in preaching, there is only special pain. The pulpit calls those anointed to it as the sea calls its sailors. And like the sea, it batters and bruises and does not rest.” Such is the life of service we are called to as believers. God is transforming us into this image of Christ. Like Joseph we are learning to rejoice in His leading because we know that it is leading us into something wonderful. Be continually thankful!