In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the apostle Paul reminded the church in Thessalonica, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (5:18). This is one of four times in which Scripture clearly tells us what the will of God is. I call these the four universal wills of God, and I have written about them extensively in my book, The Four Wills of God, and how our following these four universal wills of God can lead to learning His unique will for us in our individual lives.
But what does it mean to give thanks “in everything”? Hopefully we are quick to praise God when we get a promotion at work, when a healthy baby is born, or when the cancer appears to have gone in remission, but certainly God doesn’t expect us to also give thanks when we are fired from a job, when our child is born with a disability, or when the cancer spreads . . . right?
Paul was clear: “In everything, give thanks.” When we offer God thanks for His goodness in the midst of pain, God calls this a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Psalm 50:23 says, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me.”
One e-mailer was recently introduced to the idea of a sacrifice of thanksgiving after reading The 4 Wills of God and wrote me to share about his first opportunity to give it a try:
I have been knee deep in everything concerning your new book The 4 Wills of God of late, as I was immediately fascinated with the topic upon first seeing it. All four of the wills have been constantly on my mind this week. Even my wife is reading the book now as well. Anyways, yesterday morning after some time reading Scripture (I have been reading through Habakkuk every day this month), I felt nudged to close my time by thinking through my schedule and workload for the day and pray through it all, specifically being intentional about being thankful for every last bit of it. One of the things I had written on my calendar for yesterday was that a townhouse that we own as a rental property was having the air conditioning checked for its regularly scheduled maintenance.
In our own house, we have just had to replace the entire downstairs unit, as well as pay for a major repair to the upstairs AC. So with that in mind, I prayed that there would be nothing major found wrong with our rental property’s AC, but I followed that up by thanking God for the blessing of having this property to rent, the money that we believe it will provide for us when we sell it to help with our kids’ college, as well as a savings account God has faithfully provided for us to cover all these AC repairs we’ve been having, including if something shows itself wrong with the townhouse AC during the maintenance check.
Well, unfortunately, yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from the technician who was checking out the AC at the townhouse, and he claimed that there was a thousand-dollar repair needed for this unit. This was bad enough as it was, but then he added that even if we made the repair, he suspected something else was majorly wrong with the compressor because it had been working so hard to make up for the repair needed, and we probably need to just replace the entire unit—a few thousand dollars! His recommendation was to not even waste money on the repair and go straight to replacing the unit, as it was thirteen years old already.
After scheduling a time to meet him at the townhouse this morning to discuss the options, I got off the phone and immediately thought of my earlier prayer concerning the AC. Even though it appeared that despite my prayer we would be dishing out thousands of dollars for a new AC, I knew I had a choice to make. Would I still offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving, even though my prayer for no AC problems was not answered the way I had hoped?
With the 4 Wills heavily on my mind, I offered up to God that sacrifice of thanksgiving, and reiterated how thankful I am that we have had such great tenants in this property, how we still have the money in savings to buy a new AC, and again how this property will be a gigantic blessing when it came to paying for college in a few years. It felt a little weird to express this thanks, considering the bad news I had just been given, but I knew it was sincere.
But as President Reagan used to say, “Trust but verify.” So a wonderful neighbor referred me to her AC guy who also lives in our neighborhood, and by chance he was able to meet me at the townhouse after all his appointments last night. He knew I was calling him to possibly give me his own quote for replacing the unit, so that I had a second estimate in hand when the other AC company gave me an estimate this morning. But he went ahead and did a few quick tests on the supposedly “broken” AC, did a couple of things, and told me there is no way he could justify replacing this unit. He did a minor repair for $160, cleaned it, and said it should be fine for another few years at least. I could not believe it, and of course I rushed home to tell my wife all about it. What a blessing to not have to replace yet another AC unit this year!
I know that offering up a sacrifice of thanksgiving will not always turn out this way. But this time, by the grace of God, it did, teaching me a great deal about all that I truly have to be thankful for, even when it looks as though God isn’t answering my prayer the way I had hoped. As I am reading so much Habbakuk this month, I can’t help but think of 3:17-18: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Thanks again for the message of the 4 Wills. It has been a real blessing in my life, having this word from God in my arsenal.
The e-mailer is right: offering up a sacrifice of thanksgiving will not always turn out like this. Many times the money still needs to be spent, or worse, the cancer only gets worse. Yet, as Habakkuk learned when God told him about the Babylonian invasion about to come upon the Israelites, we can still “rejoice in the Lord . . . in God my Savior.”
Certainly it will likely feel weird to give thanks to God in your dire situation, but I challenge you to give it a try today. Offer to God that sacrifice of thanksgiving, in obedience to His universal will found in 1 Thessalonians 5, and experience how doing so can affect His unique will for your life!