Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
We have been talking about the Christian duty to give thanks in everything. But someone may ask, “Well, what about when trouble comes?” And the above verse is Paul’s response.
It is normal to have problems arise that threaten to create anxiety. But Paul says, “Don’t be anxious. Instead, start praying about it. Be thankful in the process. Make your requests in the context of gratitude.”
In fact, as we saw in the previous post, gratitude is foundational to the Spirit-filled person’s life.
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. (Colossians 2:6-7)
Paul presents this as a command. Those in Christ are instructed to walk in Him, being characterized by growth in faith and overflow of gratitude. Our gratitude is to be, as indicated here, an overflowing, gushing kind of gratitude. This is characteristic of one who is spiritually mature.
But then a dire situation arises. You are suddenly faced with a great need, and you are distraught over the circumstances of your life. In this situation, you are called to offer supplication to the Lord — to plead to Him for help. But even in this moment, thanksgiving shouldn’t be thrown out the window. Paul instructs us to pray in these moments “with thanksgiving.”
Even in the midst of difficulty, we never forget our duty to be thankful in everything. Even in the midst of suffering and struggle, thanksgiving bubbles up. Gratitude can’t help but flow from the Spirit-filled person, because their heart is a fundamentally thankful one.
An illustration of this is Paul and Silas in Acts 16, while they were in the Philippian jail. In the midst of imprisonment, they were praying and singing hymns of praise to God. Gratitude was pouring out of them in the midst of terrible suffering.
Our Lord Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example of this unwavering gratitude. We are called to walk in His pattern, and He offers us a clear pattern of thankfulness in the midst of trouble. Consider His prayer in Matthew:
I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.
All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Matthew 11:25-27)
Jesus was grateful for what God gave to Him. He accepted all of it with a grateful heart. Everything He encountered on Earth, both good and bad — including the cross — was from the Father. And because of that, Jesus embraced it all. His words in another prayer sum up this attitude:
Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me. (John 11:41-42)
Remember, this prayer was offered at the grave of His friend Lazarus. Within this moment, Jesus is thanking the Father for always hearing His prayers. And later, during the Last Supper, this happens:
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19)
Jesus gives thanks over the very bread that symbolizes His coming death. When we are called in Christ to “in everything give thanks,” this is the pattern we are following. And we follow this pattern because “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
God wants you to be always joyful, always prayerful, and always thankful. This is His will for those who are in Christ. Of course, it isn’t always easy. And so next time, I want to wrap up this series by presenting some practical thoughts on cultivating gratitude.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 2002, titled “In Everything Give Thanks.”
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