"We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring." 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
The church at Thessalonica faced persecutions, trials, and turmoil, yet they continued to grow in their faith and in their love for one another. Paul thanked God for the church at Thessalonica even during these hard times. He encouraged the church to be thankful and to continue moving forward for God's glory. Paul understood that God worked in all circumstances, the good and the bad. He told the church in Rome in Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." James, the half brother of Jesus, said in James 1:2-3, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." Those two words, "perseverance" and "faith," seem to show up a lot with the words "joy" and "thanks" in the Bible.
Many times when we use the words "thanks" or "thanksgiving," we don't really associate them with the persecutions, trials, and turmoil in our lives. However, it is very clear in the Bible that God uses all circumstances in our lives to help us grow in faith and in love. We should be thankful to God for everything in our lives. Our children, our families, and our friends should find us giving God thanks even during the hard times. And like Paul, we should encourage those who are struggling through hard times with an attitude of thanks.
Over the next couple of Sundays, I will be preaching on Thanksgiving. This Sunday morning, November 17, I will preach a message, "Thankful in All Circumstances." I will share the struggle my wife and I went through when our daughter Hillary passed away with a brain tumor. God never gave up on us, even thought we tried to give up on Him. God placed people around us who were people of thanksgiving, people of compassion, and people of joy. The encouragement we received from these special people helped us move into an attitude of thanksgiving even during the struggle. I pray that you will be a person of thanksgiving even during the hard times, and I pray that you will encourage others during their hard times with an attitude of thanksgiving to God.