The One-Word Difference
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
I overheard someone speak the familiar phrase "in all things give thanks." I had heard it before, and I was fairly certain I had read it in my Bible. Something about that phrase sank deep within my spirit. Is it "in all things give thanks" or "for all things give thanks"? I was determined to locate that Scripture because a one-word difference could completely change how I looked at my life and God.
I located the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Verse 18 is where the actual phrase is listed, but the context is made most clear with the preceding verses:
16Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (emphasis mine).
There it is: "give thanks in all circumstances." The NASB and the New King James Version translate it as "in everything give thanks." Either way, the main dispute in my mind was settled.
Why is this so important? Does one silly preposition make a difference?
Obviously, it is good to thank God for His good gifts. In Psalms it says, "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good." We thank Him all the time for His love and grace and mercy. We thank Him for our promotions, our children, our health, and our eternal life. We thank Him for who He is and for what He does. This is appropriate and good.
But should we thank Him for death or for tragedy or for slander or for poverty? Should we thank Him for our illnesses or for divorce or for teen pregnancies? If this verse had been written "be thankful for all circumstances" then we would have to give God praise for the bad stuff, too. Does God honestly want us to thank Him for something that He did not originally intend?
Here we come back to the issue of God's goodness. What do we know of that? Jesus said that He came to give us life and give it abundantly. In James 1:17, it says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” In Matthew 7:11, Jesus told the disciples, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
Thus, once again we know that God is the giver of blessing, not cursing.
Even in the case of Job, God was not the author of tragedy. He was not the instigator of ill doing. If you read the first twelve verses in Job chapter 1, you will see that the devil was questioning Job's loyalty to the Lord. Satan believed that Job only praised God because he was safe and secure and had not experienced tragedy.
In Job 1: 9-11, Satan asked God, "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."
God's response comes in verse 12: "The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger. Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD."
What do we learn from this passage? God didn't bring the curse on Job. God simply allowed Job to suffer for his faith so that his righteousness would be made sure.
God can use suffering for His glory. He can work in trying situations. We are thankful in all circumstances, in all things -- sick or well, rich or poor, sad or happy, loved or hated, or just when things are mediocre-- because we know Who is sustaining us, Who is providing for us, Who is healing us, Who is rescuing us, Who is making a way where there is no way, and Who ultimately has the victory in our lives. The focus is not on our circumstances or on what is wrong, but on the fact that our security is in the Lord. He is our Redeemer, our Shelter, our Tower, our Refuge, our Comforter.
Visualize the word "in." What do you think when you hear the word "in"? I think of inside, at the core, in the thick of things, in the trenches, permeating, filling. That is the same position that God needs to be in our lives. We know that we have God within us if we have professed faith in Jesus Christ. And the Spirit of God who lives in us is the One who enables us to give Him thanks in our circumstances.
So, in the midst of very trying times, remember that our all-sufficient God is there, and for that, we can give thanks. Though every circumstance in our lives will not always be good, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, emphasis mine).
All verses taken from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, unless otherwise noted.
Laura J. Bagby is producer of the Health and Finance channels. She writes inspirational, humor, singles, and health articles.
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