And when we thank God consistently, faithfully, constantly in every situation, we're manifesting a Spirit-controlled life, nothing more wonderful than to maintain joyful, grateful attitude so that the people can see that God has truly transformed our lives. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. It's a wonderful time to reflect on God's goodness. Of course, for Christians, every day should be a day of thanks because of the profound blessings we have in Jesus Christ. And with that in mind, John MacArthur has a timely message today on Grace To You titled, In Everything Give Thanks, helping you see the many, many reasons you have to give thanks no matter what you're facing today or what you might face in the future. If you have your Bible handy, turn to the book of 1 Thessalonians and here is John MacArthur.
If you'll turn again in your Bible to 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 18, we're looking at just a couple of commands that are given to us in this very practical section. In everything, give thanks. In everything, give thanks.
Rejoice always in everything, give thanks for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. So we're talking here about this constant attitude of gratitude and this constant expression of thanks. If we have received Jesus as Lord, we ought to walk the way He walked, we read. Perhaps then we should turn to an illustration of the gratitude of Jesus Himself. Jesus was grateful for what God gave to Him, grateful for God's blessing given to Him. He accepted whatever it was that God gave Him with a grateful heart. He says in verse 26 of Matthew 11, "'Yes, Father, for thus it was well pleasing in Thy sight.
All things have been handed over to Me by My Father and no one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.'" Just reminding you that everything that Jesus had, everything that came His way, good and bad, even including the cross, was from the Father, was well pleasing in the Father's sight. Because of that, Jesus embraced it all and actually did so with a measure of gratitude no matter how difficult, how painful it was. When He prays to the Father in John 17, the tone is a tone of sorrow and yet a tone of trust. He has accomplished His task gladly, willingly and even thankfully and is ready to go back to the Father.
One verse kind of sums that attitude up, John 11, 41, "'Father, I thank Thee that Thou hurtest Me and I knew that Thou hurtest Me always because of the people standing around I set it that they may believe that Thou didst send Me. I thank Thee that Thou hurtest Me that always You hear Me.'" That was at the grave of Lazarus, as you remember. Jesus was thankful that the Father always heard His prayers. Jesus was thankful whatever the Father gave Him to do, even if it was to die on a cross, He said, "'Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done.'" When He was in the upper room at that Last Supper when He established the communion service, He took some bread and after He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them and said, "'This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.'" And there He was thanking God for the bread, which essentially was thanks to God for the privilege of suffering in the plan of God for sinners.
And so it is then, going back to our text, and we don't need to spend a lot of time on this because it's so clear enough to simply point you in the direction of its intentions. Going back to our text, in everything give thanks, Paul then adds, "'For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.'" Now that likely refers back to all three of the commands as the one in verse 16, rejoice always. The one in verse 17, pray without ceasing, which I'll comment on at the end. "'And in everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.'" God wants you always joyful, always prayerful, and always thankful. This is the will of God for those who are in Christ, those who belong to the Lord.
This is a very clear directive unmistakable. What hinders a thankful heart? Number one, doubt about God, doubt about God, doubt about God's wisdom, doubt about God's love, doubt about God's Word, doubt about God's immutability or changelessness, doubt about God's power. You're not thankful because you don't believe God can overrule the problems that you have to bring about His glory and your good.
Wherever there is ingratitude in your life, no matter what's going on, wherever there is a failure to thank God for His purpose unfolding in the situation, whatever it might be, there is a serious sin taking place because to doubt God is in a sense to say that you can't trust what He says about Himself and that borders on blasphemy. A second thing that hinders gratitude is selfishness. It's the inability to say, nevertheless your will be done. It's not being able to say what Jesus said, Father, if there is any way to get out of this, if there's any way that this cup could pass from me, I would like that. Nevertheless, your will be done. Selfishness says, I really don't care what your will is, this is what I want.
It's really a kind of a God complex. I want to be God and I want to call the shot. I want to make the choice. That will hinder your gratitude. Self-will, if it dominates you, is more important to you than God's will. What you want is far more important than what God wants, even though you have no clue as to what is best.
You have no right to define for Him what is best for you or what is best for Him. I think another thing that hinders thankfulness is worldliness. It's getting caught up in the pleasures and the people and the places and the possessions and the pursuits and the popularity and the prestige that define human life. God and Christ don't fill your vision. It's not like David in Psalm 16, I've set the Lord always before me, therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices.
I mean, he means by that his voice. As long as I set the Lord before me, I have constant joy and constant gratitude. As long as I have my focus on Him, as long as I set my affections on things above, as long as I have, you know what the old theologians used to call the beatific vision, as long as Christ is the object of everything, I'm going to be thankful. But when I get my eyes on the world and I begin to measure out my life in terms of what in the world I get or don't get, my gratitude disappears.
Another thing, and I think it's obvious, is a critical spirit...a critical spirit. If you are a negative person, if you're a bitter person, if you have a sour...generally a sour attitude in life, if it's unchecked, it will destroy a thankful heart. It will blind your vision. It will destroy your relationships.
It will make you really an ugly person to be with. And you'll become useless to people and useless to God. A critical attitude, judgmental attitude, a condemning attitude corrodes spirituality.
To say nothing of destroying love, and I don't care what you say or what you do, if you have not love, you're...what?...you're nothing, you're a banging gong and a clanging symbol. Judgmental attitude...judgmental attitude steals gratitude. Another thing, too, that will rob you of gratitude is impatience...impatience.
People don't give thanks because their perception is that God is not operating on their day-timer schedule. They've got it down for Thursday, but Thursday's come and gone. Come on, God, I don't have time to be dallying here, move. They want everything on their schedule, on their timetable. People do silly things like this. You know, Lord, show me by next Tuesday.
And if I don't...and if I don't get a no by Tuesday, I'm going. They want everything fixed in their timeframe. You know, I mean, the opposite of all these things ought to be obvious. What engenders a thankful heart is trust in God, not doubt. A servant attitude, unselfishness, absolute abdication of all your rights so that God's will is all that matters. A focus on Jesus Christ, being consumed with Him rather than the world. A loving attitude, forgiving, gracious, kind, tender-heartedness. And gratitude wells up in a heart that is marked by great patience.
I think there's just a couple of other practical things I could mention. Coldness...coldness or sort of spiritual lethargy or spiritual indifference really does kill gratitude. Where your love for God grows cold like the first love in the church at Ephesus, where there's a lack of zeal in service. Some of you people come to church and that's good.
You come, you come, you come. You don't serve. You don't give your life away. You don't spend your life on the kingdom of God.
You fiddle around with your life in here and there in things that are trivial and passing. You don't have a passion for the service of Christ. Lack of diligence in the study of Scripture, lack of passion in worship, neglect of the Bible, waste of time, leaving you really so caught up in the temporal that you have no cognizance of what's going on in the spiritual realm.
You know, one of the contributors to my own joy, obviously, is that I'm so engulfed and engaged in ministry that there's no end to the things that make me joyful, that make me thankful. And then I suppose we could say that another hindrance to gratitude is rebellion, just outright rebellion. You just do not like your lot in life. You're just plain angry with God at the way things have gone. All this is sin.
All this is defying the Spirit's command. Even though things are bad, it is not outside the plan of God, not outside the discipline of God, the perfecting of your life through difficulty and trial and suffering, as we saw. There were certain hindrances to joy and they're pretty much the same to gratitude.
Let's flip it around. We talked about motives for joy and rejoicing. What are the motives for gratitude? Well, really the same, God's character. God is almighty, He's working everything to your good. God is holy.
He is perfect. He never makes a mistake. There is no capability for God to err in what He thinks about something, the way He assesses something.
That's why Psalm 34, Psalm 30 verse 4 says, give thanks to His holy name. He's so holy, He can't make a mistake. He can't make a misjudgment. He can't wrongly assess something.
He can't interpret things inaccurately. Absolute perfection exists in His holy nature. Every determination is accurate.
Every assessment is accurate. Every decision, every choice, every move, every word. So again, be glad in the Lord, Psalm 97 verse 12, you righteous ones, and give thanks to His holy name. We're reminded to give thanks to the One whose name is holy.
Flawless judgment. And, of course, another motive to our gratitude is God's goodness and mercy. He's so merciful toward us and so gracious toward us and so good to us that we have every reason to believe that even in our pain and our suffering, He has good intentions. Listen to Psalm 106 verse 1, praise the Lord, oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His loving kindness, that's His mercy, His grace, is everlasting. You can give thanks to the Lord because He's good and that means everything He does is for our good. Back to Romans 8, 28. Psalm 107 verse 1 says the same thing, oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His loving kindness is everlasting.
He will be no other than the God who is good to His people. Again, Psalm 136 repeats the same thing over and over about giving thanks to God. We can certainly give thanks again, 2 Corinthians 9, 15, for the unspeakable gift of Christ. So we're thankful for God, for His character, for Christ. We're thankful for all the good gifts that the Lord gives us. Listen to 1 Timothy 4, 4, for everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude, for it is sanctified by means of the Word of God and prayer.
That is referring even to our food. Everything comes down from good...from a good God as a gift to His people. His mercies are new to us every morning, great is His faithfulness. And, of course, the Bible goes on to be thankful for divine guidance, to be thankful for victory over sin, to be thankful for victory over death, to be thankful, as Philippians 4 says, that my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus, to be thankful for the power of the Word of God. First Thessalonians might read that, 2, 13, for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you receive from us the Word of God's message, you accept that it not is the Word of men but for what it really is, the Word of God. How thankful we should be for the teaching of the Word of God.
And so it goes on and on and on. And when we thank God consistently, faithfully, constantly in every situation, we're manifesting a Spirit-controlled life. God is glorified, we're blessed, the church is built up and lost people are being reached. Nothing more wonderful than to maintain joyful, grateful attitude so that the people can see that God has truly transformed our lives. Well that's just a summary.
Go back to the text. Thrown in the middle of these verses, just a comment about this, is this statement, Pray without ceasing. And it strikes me as so characteristic of the amazing balance that you find in the Word of God.
Rejoice always. Why? Because everything is under the control of God. In everything give thanks.
Why? Because everything is under God's control. Everything is worked out. It's all working together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose because we have a sovereign God, because we have a sovereign Lord, because we have a sufficient Christ, because we have a powerful, resonant Holy Spirit, because we have all things that pertain to life and godliness, all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies, and on and on.
Because we have received from Him justification, sanctification, the promise of glorification because everything we need in this life is ours and all that He has promised us in the life to come, we will receive. We have an unassailable promise. We have an inheritance that is laid up for us that is incorruptible, that fadeth not away, that someday we will receive. Everything is planned.
Everything is settled. We have nothing to worry about, nothing to be anxious about. In everything we give thanks. And right in the middle of that, He says, and it almost seems completely out of place, pray without ceasing.
And the immediate response is, for what? I mean, the assumption here is that the reason we rejoice all the time and give thanks all the time is because all the bases are covered. What are we praying about here?
That's that marvelous balance again. We're rejoicing all the time because God is in control of it all. We're giving thanks all the time because He's in control of it all, and yet we relentlessly, unceasingly come before Him to pour out the petitions that are driving in our hearts.
Why? That too is a command. Well how do our prayers fit into God's plan? I mean, if He's already sovereign and it's all...how do they fit? I can't answer the question, I just know that God works His plan through the prayers of His people. Just finished going over this, a little book on prayer, kind of emphasizing the intimate personal aspects of prayer and pouring back over these things in my mind, looking for some kind of sort of resolution to that that I could fit perfectly into my little sort of analytical mind, just exactly the slot that unceasing prayer fits into the sovereign plan of God and it's elusive, I can't find it. All I know is this, that God is in absolute control of everything so that my joy is unhindered.
God is in control of everything so that my gratitude never ceases and at the same time prayer rises and pours out of my heart all the time. And there's no schizophrenia there because God affects His purposes through the prayers of His people. He can't be saved without believing even though God is the one who saves. Sinners can't be saved unless they hear the truth. They can't hear the truth unless they have a preacher, right? So God has an eternal plan to save a redeemed humanity but the plan works through the faithful preachers, through the witnesses.
That's why we're told to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And James says the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man affects much, produces much. I can't answer how God does anything.
I only know what He does and what He tells us to do. But just as God saves but not apart from a human instrument to give the message and God saves but not apart from a human repenting and believing, so God works His consummate plan but not apart from the intercession of His people. So just as He has determined that His eternal saving plan would be worked to its perfection through His beloved people taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, so His purpose also unfolds through the prayers, the intercession, the relentless petitions of His own beloved people. So I would suggest to you that you pray without ceasing, that you respond to the promptings of the Spirit of God. And if you have some kind of theology that stops your prayer life, you've got a bad theology.
It's incomplete. We have reason for unceasing joy, unceasing gratitude, and unceasing prayer. All three are God's will in Christ Jesus.
Let's pray. We have found that true spirituality is manifest joy, manifest gratitude. That sums up what it is to be filled with the Spirit. That sums up what it is to be dominated by divine truth. So make us people of joy, make us people of gratitude, not unsympathetic, not insensitive, not lacking compassion, always laughing with those that laugh and weeping with those that weep, understanding the toil and the tears of human life, but down below underneath all of that, people who know that because you are our sovereign God, all wise, all loving, all powerful, there is constant joy and gratitude as a reasonable response to everything that goes on in our lives. That's our desire. We pray in His name. Amen. That's John MacArthur, the featured speaker with grace to you since 1969.
He's also Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Today he showed you why you can always give thanks if you're a Christian, even in the most difficult times. John, we don't do this very often, but tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I think it would be appropriate if we asked you to take the next few minutes to lead our listeners in prayer and perhaps consecrate these next few days to the Lord as a genuine time of spiritual thanksgiving and gospel opportunity. So would you do that for us?
I'd be glad to do that. Pray with me. Our Father, we come to you first of all in anticipation of a day that is set apart for offering thanks to you. It's the vestiges of a past, long past era in our own country when people were thankful to you as the source of every gift they had, every good and perfect gift, because they all come down from you. And that reminds us of how far this country has gone in the wrong direction, how far away we are from having the belief even that you supply all our needs and that we should be thankful to you. But at the same time, Lord, we don't want to get caught up in the indifference of this world. We don't want to get caught up in the materialism of this world.
We don't want to get caught up in the disappointment of life. We want always to express our gratitude for you. You have supplied for us everything we need that pertains to life and godliness.
You held nothing back. You gave us Christ. You gave us the Spirit. You gave us new life. You regenerated us. You adopted us into your family. You converted us.
You transformed us. You gave us your precious word. You have placed us within the church, the body of Christ, so that we have mutual relationships with your children. We are joint heirs with them of the very inheritance of Christ himself. So Lord, in spite of the disappointments in the world around us, help us to understand that you never disappoint and you never will, and may we with full hearts of gratitude express our thanks to the one who never fails and who in the end will triumph, and we will triumph in him, even Christ, in whose name we pray.
Amen. Thanks, John. Some reminders there about the many amazing blessings we as Christians have to be thankful for. And friend, with thankfulness in mind, know that we are thankful for you and we'd love to hear from you.
If John's teaching helped you understand the gospel or showed you how to serve in your church or how to overcome sin, let us know. When you have a free moment, jot a note and send it our way. Our email address is letters at gty.org.
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Our email address one more time, letters at gty.org. Or you can reach us by regular mail at Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. And if I could make just one more request, if you're able to let the people at this radio station know that you tune in for Grace To You, that would be a big encouragement. A lot of people listen to Christian radio, but not everyone takes time to call or email their station and say thanks for airing teaching programs like Grace To You. So get this station's phone number or email address, find their website and thank them for airing Grace To You and other programs that have encouraged you. And now for John McArthur and the staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Keep in mind, Grace To You television this Sunday on DirecTV channel 378, or check your local listings. And then join us tomorrow for another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace To You.
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