Ephesians 5:17, 18b, 20
“Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is… be filled with the Spirit…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
This last week we had opportunity as a people to celebrate Thanksgiving – remembering God’s faithfulness in our past and petitioning His grace for the future.
Today I would like us to reflect on why such feasts are fitting – and the reason they are fitting is that they express the will of God for us. Paul exhorts us in Ephesians that we are not to be “unwise” but are to understand the will of the Lord. So what is the Lord’s will? The Lord’s will is that we be filled with the Spirit. And what does it look like to be filled with the Spirit? Part of the answer that Paul gives is that when we are filled with the Spirit we will be giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Note carefully Paul’s words.
Paul writes that we are to be giving thanks always. He excludes no times – we are always to give thanks. When the car starts right away in the morning, when the car won’t start at all; when there are six inches of snow on the ground, when it fails to snow at all; when we’re feeling robust and well, when we have the stomach flu; when work is going well, when we have trouble with employees; when our children obey, when they disobey. We are always to give thanks.
How is this possible? Because the One to whom we are giving thanks, God the Father, is Sovereign over all. Nothing happens apart from His will. No one and no thing can say to him, “What have you done? Or why has your hand determined thus?” Our God is in the heavens – he does whatever he pleases. So if there is calamity in the city, will not our Lord have done it? God is the Lord – He raises up and He puts down. And so our calling as the people of God is to render thanks to Him – precisely because this One who is Sovereign, who is God, is also our Father – He cares for us and works on our behalf. So we can give thanks always. Our demeanor should be one of grateful acknowledgment of the wisdom of our Father – not just when it appears wise to us but when it is in fact wise, namely, always.
But not only are we always to give thanks, we are also to give thanks for all things. All things, we ask? Surely Paul didn’t mean to say it quite that way. But I’m afraid he did. For all things that enter our lives come from the hand of our loving Father who has orchestrated them for our good and for His glory. Thanking Him – for the kind and the hard providences – is the key to glorifying him in the midst of both. And this, to some extent, explains why we are to give thanks “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” – for he too gave thanks to God while suffering. So do we thank the Father for the hard providences, the failure of the crops, the loss of our job, the rebellion of a child, the loneliness of singleness, the frustration of working at a job we don’t enjoy? According to Paul we ought to. Why? Because God is the one who has brought this into our lives for a very good, distinct, and just reason. Therefore, we are to abound in thanksgiving.
And so, reminded that rather than abound in thanksgiving we frequently complain and grumble, let us kneel and confess that we are an unthankful people.
We have failed to be thankful for the gifts and graces which you have freely bestowed upon us. You have treated us much more graciously than we deserve – and yet we grumble and complain at your graces. Not only do we refuse to thank you in hard times, we forget to thank you in good ones. So too our culture. We refuse to give you thanks. We act as though we are entitled to the things we receive; we demand more; insist that what You have given is not enough. Forgive us for the sake of Christ and enable us to abound always in thanksgiving in all things.