Matthew Henry was a well-known, British Bible scholar and Preacher who lived from 1662 to 1714. His commentaries on the Old and New Testament are still in print today.
One day Dr. Henry was riding his horse on the way to a church meeting where he was the guest speaker. As he journeyed through the dense forest a masked bandit suddenly appeared with a gun. He demanded that Henry dismount and hand over all of his money. Fearing for his life, he quickly complied as the robber returned into the woods.
As he continued his journey, now penniless, he thought about God’s command to “give thanks in all circumstances.” How do you give thanks when you’re robbed? As he reflected, the answer came to him. That night Matthew Henry concluded his message by telling the story of what happened and how he could be thankful.
“First,” he said, “I am thankful I have never been robbed before. Second, I am thankful he took my money and not my life. Third, I am thankful he did not take more; he could have taken my horse and my clothes as well. Next, I am thankful that what I had stolen from me really did not amount to very much. Then I am grateful that what I lost, in time, could be replaced. But, finally, and most importantly, I am thankful that I was the one robbed and not the robber!”
This story reminds me of a short, but profoundly important passage of scripture. 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Paul commanded, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”
There are three essential lessons for us in this verse.
(1) Give thanks.
The spirit of thankfulness should characterize all Christians. It emanates from within us. Our heart. Our soul. Our mind. The British preacher John Henry Jowett once wrote, “Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”
People appreciate a simple, sincere “thank you.” From the customer to the clerk, from the child to the parent, and from the passing stranger who opens a door for us, those two words express an attitude that speaks volumes about our character. Slow down. Look around. And see that you have much to be thankful for. Not just from others, but ultimately from our good and gracious God from whom all blessings flow.
(2) In everything.
The ESV renders this “give thanks in all circumstances.” Not all of the situations in which we find ourselves are pleasant. However, even when we face adversity, problems, and challenges, like Matthew Henry, there is something for which we can give thanks.
Thanksgiving is not dependant on a certain set of circumstances, but a certain set of attitudes. We may not be happy about the situation we are in, but we can still be thankful while enduring it. Paul is a good example of this. He was beaten. Imprisoned. Run out of town. Shipwrecked. Persecuted by his enemies. Betrayed by his friends. Suffered without life’s necessities. And was pained by a continual thorn of the flesh. All of which occurred while faithfully serving the Lord and preaching the gospel of Christ. Yet, he found much for which to be thankful. So can we.
(3) It is the will of God.
It is good to be reminded that thankfulness is not just a suggestion. Or an admirable quality. It is God’s will for us. He desires it and commands it. It is a virtue, like all others, that he expects us to develop and grow in.
As we approach our national day of Thanksgiving, let us not take for granted God’s goodness. While not every circumstance may be exactly to our choosing, look for the good. Count your blessings. See the light of God’s love shining even in darkness. Appreciate your family, friends, and brethren who make a difference in your life.
Finally, be assured of this. God loves you. Cares about you. And knows you. He’s provided for you all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. And He’s prepared heaven for you to dwell eternally.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman