At one time or another, most of us have probably heard at least one sermon preached on the famous verse of 1st Thessalonians 5:18. This well-known verse says that we are supposed to “give thanks in all things.” It’s a tough pill to swallow for many people – not because the instruction itself is difficult, but rather because our interpretation of it makes it harder than it actually is.
You see, what I was taught long ago, and what many people still believe today, is that this famous verse says that we must “give thanks for all things”, when in-fact it doesn’t say that at all. And what I want to share with you today, is what this verse actually is saying, and why this in itself is a testament to Jesus Christ and your relationship with Him.
Now as I have mentioned, most people (including myself in earlier years) were trained and taught that this verse is telling us to give thanks for all things. But as we read the verse today, I want you to read it with open eyes and a fresh perspective to see what the scripture is actually saying – apart from man’s ideas and man-made doctrines. So let’s read the verse now, in the context of the surrounding verses… 1st Thessalonians 5:16-21:
“Rejoice ever more.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Quench not the Spirit.
Despise not prophesyings.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
Examining these verses, we can see right away that verses 16 and 17 also contain some instructions that seem rather “extreme” and difficult: We see, Rejoice ever more (meaning at all times, or always), and Pray without ceasing (meaning without stopping, or constantly). We haven’t even gotten to our main verse about Giving Thanks Always yet, and already we’ve hit a wall regarding our behaviors it seems! Or so it appears to anyone who does not understand what these terms mean.
I have spoken with a person, who told me that he really doesn’t enjoy prayer, because it’s so inconvenient to get into an appropriate “prayer posture” or to find a secluded area to pray, in daily life. To him, prayer was more of a ritual, with carefully crafted rules and guided behaviors, instead of what it actually is. That may seem strange as I describe it to you now, but you may be surprised how many people actually hold the very same view of prayer… secretly in their heart, even if they won’t admit it openly.
In reality, prayer is nothing so formal or complicated. Prayer is simply communication with God. You talk to God, about anything or any subject; He responds. It’s that simple. We have in large part turned prayer into something magical or mystical. We have made it more about form and ritual, rather than function and relationship. We have stripped it of its essence. And it’s the same for everything that we read in these verses.
Take for example, verse 16 which says, Rejoice ever more (or always). What does it actually mean to rejoice? Do we even really know what rejoicing is? As it turns out, the simple Greek definition for the word rejoice, used in verse 16 is to be glad and to thrive. That realization alone, may have just opened-up your entire world – because rather than seeing this verse as giving you an impossible task to fulfill, you can now look at it with fresh new lenses in Christ and see that indeed, in Christ Jesus today, you already have great reasons to be glad (Psalm 32:10-11), and He always causes you to thrive in Him (Jeremiah 29:11, 3rd John 1:2) and of-course, the well-known Psalm 23 testifies to both of these facts as well.
So as you are beginning to see, our common idea and interpretation of the things being spoken here in these verses of 1st Thessalonians 5, isn’t really what these things are actually speaking of. We have made things much more complicated and convoluted than God actually intended. Good wants us to simply trust and rest in Him, and we are twisting and turning the whole thing around into some kind of work of ourselves, and we are struggling and striving instead of resting and thriving.
This now brings us to our main verse today, of 1st Thessalonians 5:18, let’s read it again with fresh eyes and understanding:
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Now, as I have already mentioned twice today, most people upon hearing this verse, instinctively think it to mean that we should give thanks and be thankful for all things. I have seen people desperately confused and struggling trying to thank God for great tragedies, sicknesses, all manner of evil being done – and these precious people, because they have been mis-informed, mis-taught and in some cases flat-out taken advantage of, they somehow think that all of the evil being done and all of the sicknesses ravaging their body, or the body of their loved one, is somehow the will of God and that they should be thankful for it.
And I am here today to tell you, my dear friend, that nothing could be further from the truth! This lie is from the very pit of hell itself, that all of the evil upon the world and all of this sickness is somehow the will of God and that we should just consent to it, accept it, and even be thankful for it all; it is deadly and disgusting.
I have prayed for people, who have told me that they didn’t want to be healed of the disease eating their body and sapping their strength, because they were thankful for it… they saw it as a tool that God was using to teach them something, or make them more holy.
After informing them that Jesus’ sacrifice was more than sufficient to make them holy, and telling them that they wouldn’t learn anything by letting the disease kill them. I then proceeded to show them that God Himself calls sickness and disease curses in Deuteronomy 28, and in verse 22, He states the singular purpose of sickness and disease… it is not to improve you in any way, or to teach you lessons, but to pursue you until you perish! That is the purpose of sickness and disease. These are not tools for God to use to improve your life, or bring you closer to Him… sickness and disease are enemies – they are curses, which Jesus suffered and died to free you from as Galatians 3:13 makes clear.
So returning to our verse in 1st Thessalonians 5:18, and the recounting of my tale about the precious people I have talked to who were thanking God for their curses, instead of standing against them and resisting them in Jesus Christ; I want to draw your attention to a simple fact regarding 1st Thessalonians 5:18… The verse simply does not say to be thankful for all things!
Nope! It doesn’t say that!
Instead, it says In every thing, give thanks. Do you see the difference? This, just as with the other verses, should be a real eye-opener, because it has been completely misunderstood by many.
This verse is not telling you to be thankful for every manner of evil that comes into your life, and just roll-over and accept it and be happy for it… no! Not at all!
What it is saying, is that In every circumstance (even as you are going through it) you can still be thankful – not for the evil – but because you have a God who has already guaranteed you the victory over whatever it is that you are in at that moment.
That’s a world of difference, and this perspective shift will change your life if you simply let it.
The very next verse says to not quench the Spirit. And I find it extremely interesting that this verse immediately follows the one speaking about giving thanks in all things, because the moment somebody accepts a curse into their life, or assumes it to be God’s will for them to be cursed, even after Jesus paid to free them, then the Spirit has already begun to be quenched.
I assure you that I have grace to say that today, because I have seen a lot of people’s lives destroyed because they accepted their situation, instead of standing against it in faith in Christ, dear people whom Jesus died for, who had been lied to, and accepted the lie instead of the truth. And again, I am here today to tell you that it needs to stop.
This is exactly why verses 20 and 21 are there in your Bible. Because I know I have stepped on a few religious toes today because of my words. And there are people who grew up and all their lives have believed a certain way, and what I have shown today is challenging that perception and religious tradition.
If you find yourself in that situation today, don’t despise it. Because if you test it, if you check it… if you pray about it, and ask God about what I have said, honestly… the Holy Spirit will testify about every single thing I have said, because God Himself wants you to be made free with the truth of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t want even one more person to be held in bondage for another day with the deception of religion. But to be free in His Son.
I encourage you today, You can live a true life of honest thankfulness – not rolling-over and offering false thankfulness for curses which are not from God… but true thankfulness, because you know that Jesus has made you an overcomer and given you the victory, both in this life, and into eternity.