I was having a conversation with a good customer of mine this morning and after we finished with our business I asked him if he had any special plans for Thanksgiving. He stuttered around for a few seconds and said that holiday’s aren’t his favorite time of year. I was just going to wish him the best but before I could get it out of my mouth he said, “It’ll just be my wife and I…and that’s rarely a good thing.” I really didn’t know how to respond but again before I could spit something out he continued, “My life is really kind of a mess these day’s, in fact most of my family won’t talk to me and those that do are only looking for money.” Honestly, that was more information than I wanted and all I really wanted was to hang-up the phone.
There are people we know, or at least think we know, who are not going to be real thankful this Thursday. For some it’s all about these uncertain times, the lack of a job or the fear of losing the one they have. For others, the thought of getting together with family and friends only brings apprehension because they know the day won’t end without some degree of conflict, usually brought about by something said or done a long time ago. Then there are those whose life has left them virtually alone. Oh they may have lots of people around them on Thanksgiving, but they will be alone none-the-less. Life is not a Norman Rockwell painting and it never has been.
On the other hand, there will be a great number of people who will be truly thankful for what God has done in their life this Thanksgiving. Some are folks of means and others have very little in terms of worldly possessions or the means to provide for the bare necessities. In a word, it’s kind of mixed bag out there. So how can I be sure to be included in those that seem to be thankful regardless of their circumstances? Let’s take a look at Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, in search of some answers.
Paul begins the first chapter attempting to express his and his fellow disciple’s feelings toward those they had ministered to in the church at Thessalonica. He begins, “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers (vs.2).” Paul tells them that he “always” prays for them. How often do you put down your wish list and pray for others? When was last time you asked about what you may be able to pray for, on someone else’s behalf? How often have you told God how thankful you are to know someone, regardless of your current relationship with them? Be honest, when was the last time you actually prayed for your husband or wife?
Paul then says, “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (vs.3).” Now do you suppose that the recipients of this letter were all deserving of such praise? If true, the church in Thessalonica must have been heaven on earth. So why is Paul writing to them in this way? What he says about them in the verses that follow, is even more remarkable. We’ll explore Paul’s motives as we focus on being thankful, regardless of our circumstances, and how real joy is the end result.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:11