Pastor Mary Ivanov
Cedar Springs United Methodist Church
140 S. Main St., Cedar Springs
“Thanks!” I say this word more times than I can count in one day. I write it on notes and type it many times as I finish an E-mail message. It’s become a standard “sign-off” for us, but I was struck by some verses from First Thessalonians 5:16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (New International Version)
16 Always be joyful. 17Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (New Living Translation)
16-18Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (The Message)
These verses come from the end of a letter to the early church, probably one of the earliest writings in the New Testament (50’s AD). The apostle Paul is writing to a congregation that he formed on his missionary journey to Thessalonica, and these words come at the close of his letter—advice from a church leader to other followers of Jesus Christ.
The call to be joyful, pray, and give thanks is not so surprising. These are a part of Christian character and practice, but the instructions on how and how often are powerful! We can’t just be joyful in the Lord when we feel like it—when life is going great for us. Our joy is deeper than our circumstances. We don’t pray just when we “need to,”when there’s a specific situation that drives us to ask God for help. Prayer is a gift of God that keeps us connected to God and to people around us. And we don’t just give thanks on one particular Thursday in November. Giving thanks is a way to live “in all circumstances.”
Perhaps you’ve heard verse 18 misquoted before. I’ve heard it read: “give thanks for all circumstances…” but that’s not the right word or the spirit of the Scripture! That small word makes a big difference! God’s Word doesn’t call us to give thanks for the difficulties we face or the struggles we have, but to give thanks and recognize God’s presence in the midst of all of life.
So whatever you might be doing this Thanksgiving Day—whether sitting around a large table with family or friends, cooking for one or two, recovering from surgery or illness, grieving losses and missing loved ones, feeling overwhelmed with blessings, or not quite in the holiday spirit—know that the call to “give thanks” isn’t limited to one day. It’s a call on our life to show our faith in God who walks with us on every step of the journey. Giving thanks in all circumstances is a powerful witness to God’s presence and power in our lives and in the world!
If you don’t have a church home or have been away for a while, every day is the perfect time to get reconnected! Consider getting back to church or trying it out for the first time during this season of Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas. I invite you to worship with us this Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. We also have a special Bible study beginning this Sunday, November 27 at 10:15 a.m. called “The Journey” where we’ll learn more about the people and places surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. We share the love and hope of Jesus Christ!