When Mark Twain was the most well-known and respected writer in the United States, he was paid $5.00 for every word he wrote. Someone sent him a note which said, “Dear Mr. Twain, please send me your best word,” and enclosed a $5.00 bill in the envelope. Mark Twain sent back a one-word response…“Thanks!”
Thanks really was Mark Twain’s favorite word!
In today’s passage from I Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul encourages us to give thanks in all circumstances. Notice that Paul doesn’t say, “Give thanks for all circumstances!” The reason we give thanks is that God is with us in all circumstances! We give thanks that the same God who raised Jesus from the dead, and who guided us in the past, will guide us in the future. We give thanks that we are not alone in this challenging situation … God is with us! Even when we feel that God has abandoned us, and forgotten us… God is with us!
[tweetable] Once we internalize this reality, we start to become more thankful for the big things and the little things of life. In his book, Life Together, German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “we pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small, and yet not really small gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive the little things?” I have a dear friend who is a Jewish rabbi. The Rabbi urges his congregation to give thanks for 100 things EVERY DAY. And, with a twinkle in his eye, he tells them that if they can’t think of 100 things for which they are thankful, “OPEN YOUR EYES!” The rabbi is quite right. God is at work in all circumstances. But, we don’t see God at work because our focus is on the severity of the circumstances and not on God! When we ask God to open our eyes, and we start to see God at work, even in difficult circumstances, then we will have no problem giving thanks for 100 things! And, when that happens…thanks will become our favorite word, too!