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A Thessalonian Thanksgiving
Andy Bustanoby
(C) October 29, 2005

   Thanksgiving, as an American holiday, traditionally derives from the
   first thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims.  It celebrates the
   material blessings God has given us.

   The Bible speaks of another kind of thanksgiving.  I call it a
   Thessalonian Thanksgiving.  "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this
   is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:18 NIV).  Amazing!
   Thanksgiving in all circumstances?

   To understand the significance of this kind of thanksgiving we need to
   know a little of the historical background.  When the Apostle Paul
   preached the gospel in the Greek city of Thessalonica, he made a great
   impact on the city--so much so that the Jews of the city became angry.
   According to Acts 17, they gathered a crowd of hoodlums and broke into
   the house of Jason, hoping to find Paul.  Not finding him, they dragged
   Jason and some other Thessalonian believers out of the house in a fury
   and carted them off to accuse them of sedition.

   The uproar forced Paul to leave Thessalonica for Corinth.  But he sent
   Timothy back to find out how the church was doing.  Timothy reported
   that they were going through difficult times.

   Paul was being slandered.  His enemies were spreading the story that
   Paul was making a racket out of his ministry--that he was in it for the
   money.  What is more, they said that his sudden departure from the city
   was evidence that he had something to hide.

   The morality of the Thessalonian Christians was also being tested by
   the culture.  Idolatry continually beckoned them to come back.
   Especially enticing were the opportunities for fornication with
   prostitutes in the pagan temples where it was done in the name of

   Lastly, some of the Thessalonian believers were grieving over the loss
   of loved ones.  Their grief was heightened by the mistaken notion that
   the dead would miss out on the rapture of the church (4:13-18).

   On the basis of Timothy's report, Paul writes the Thessalonians and
   tells them to give thanks in every circumstance!  Is Paul crazy?  He is
   being slandered.  The Thessalonian Christians have to raise their
   children in a morally depraved society.  They were being tempted by
   prostitutes.  And now, with the death of loved ones, some believed that
   the dead would miss out on the rapture.

   But the reason Paul can say this is powerful:  "For this is the will of
   God for you in Christ Jesus."  God is not asleep.  What is happening is
   either His directive or permissive will.  The Thessalonians had to
   confront the issue that we confront today.  Either our God is God of
   all, or He's not God at all!

   It's the story of Job all over again.  Yes, godly people go through
   hard times, and they hurt!  We don't have to know why.  All we need to
   know is that God knows what He is doing.

   This concept is reinforced by Romans 5:1-11.  We are called on to
   rejoice in our sufferings!  But why?  Because suffering produces
   spiritual growth!  This is why it's significant that Paul says to the
   Thessalonians that their suffering is "God's will for you in Christ
   Jesus."  But why does he say, "in Christ Jesus?"

   The Romans passage makes it clear.  Our peace with God is founded on
   our standing in Jesus Christ!  Because of peace with God through Jesus
   Christ, we can be sure that our suffering is not evidence that
   something is wrong!  It's evidence that something is right!  People who
   are at peace with God through Jesus Christ now are in a position to be
   at peace even in suffering.

   Our suffering is God's way of giving us more than just a position of
   salvation (from sin) and sanctification (holiness, sainthood).  When by
   faith we accept our suffering as God's will in Christ Jesus, faith in
   our position of holiness in Christ translates into our experience of
   holiness in the here and now where we live.  Likewise, faith in our
   position of salvation in Christ will one day translate into the
   experience of meeting Him in heaven.

   Is this year's Thanksgiving going to be a Thessalonian Thanksgiving for
   you?  Let me join with you in giving thanks in all circumstances--God's
   will for us in Christ Jesus.

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