The words of this Bible verse are an excellent life motto. Many of God’s children have lived after that and left a blessing. Do you also want your life to be a blessing to others? Then live out this verse!
Do you know what is written in Ephesians 5:20? Most certainly we have read this verse often. It is worth looking at this verse more closely, because if it is applied to our life, it may change it completely – naturally for the better. Paul writes: “Give thanks always to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ for all things.” Just a moment – this is too easy to read or to read over. To live according to this verse is another challenge altogether, especially if one is on the other side of 50 years. Is this not true? Do we not have reasons to be thankful?
In the past years, I have visited many older brothers and sisters. I can still remember the effect many of these visits had on me. The Ephesians 5:20 sisters and brothers pass before me in my thoughts. I must say that these people definitely impacted my life. Later, I held the funerals for some. These people are long gone, but the blessings they gave remain with me.
What kind of people are these Ephesian 5:20 sisters and brothers? Surely we imagine that these people, compared to us, led a problem-free life and therefore could be thankful. It is generally accepted that problems and thankfulness are not often spoken of together. That was not the case with them. Often it was just the opposite – they carried heavy loads, but, in spite of that, they had thankful hearts. They were people who surely lived according to Ephesians 5:20.
You might think: “If only you knew how I am doing and what I am going through. How could I even think about being thankful?” That difficult situations exist is surely true, and that some people experience more hardships than others is also true. That temptations and challenges are part of life cannot be denied. If one thinks of these difficult situations in light of Ephesians 5:20 (“and thank God, the Father, every time and for everything in the name of Jesus Christ”), then the following question naturally arises: Is it possible to live according to Ephesians 5:20 in difficult times, or is it not?
Let us think about the writer of this verse. He introduces himself at the beginning of the letter (Ephesians 1:1) as “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” The letter to the Ephesians is one of the so-called “prison letters” (Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians). That means that at the time of writing these letters, Paul was a prisoner in Rome. Paul mentions this two times in Ephesians. In chapter 3:1, we read: “For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus” and in chapter 4:1, he begins with the following words: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you.” For the sake of Jesus, he had given up his freedom. Part of his time was spent in prison and part of it under house arrest in his own house. As a prisoner, he lived under the most primitive conditions where he experienced “hunger and thirst” and also “frost and a lack of necessary clothing” (1 Corinthians 11:27), and much more. This sorely-tested Paul, “the prisoner of Christ Jesus,” is not only an example of a thankful man, but he also demands that we be thankful at all times and for everything. Ephesians 5:20 is not the only place where this occurs. He also writes to the Colossians (2:7): “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” To the Philippian church, he writes: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). The challenge to be thankful is a common thread throughout all of his letters and throughout the Bible.
Is it not odd that we must be told to be thankful? With small children, it is understandable that they need to be reminded to say thank you after they have received a candy. Oh, that it would not be necessary for us to be reminded to be thankful! It would be better to say as Paul said again and again in his letters: “I thank my God.”
Through my thanking either by words or by my internal character and my thoughts, I acknowledge God as the Giver of all things. Think about this. If God in heaven had not sent His Son to us humans to rescue us from our guilt, shame, and sin, we would have been hopelessly lost. Aging without hope is hardly imaginable. And should not one be thankful for that? How often has God raised us up through His living and powerful Word? That would certainly be a reason for thankfulness. Answered prayers are another pointer to the need for thankfulness. If I were to mention all the blessings I have received, I would almost need to write a book. Have we eaten a meal today? You answer: three – breakfast, lunch, and supper. We also have a roof over our head. We have a comfortable bed, and we most certainly have more comfort than Paul had. Good, we agree that we should be thankful – probably more thankful than we tend to be.
More difficult are the words “for everything.” Why are these words so difficult? The reason is that we humans have a limited vision. We do not understand many things and very seldom find an answer to our “Why?” If we are unable to find answers, our life becomes difficult. At times like these, we express our thankfulness by completely trusting in the Lord, because He knows what He is doing, even though we do not understand. Everything that happens to us must first pass by Him. Without His permission, nothing happens. He holds the “reins” of all happenings in the world in His hands. My thankfulness is my acknowledgment and understanding that this is true and that I trust His ways and leading. If I believe the words of Jesus that without His will not even one hair falls from my head (Luke 21:18), then I should not find being thankful difficult, should I?
Through thankfulness, I honor God. I proclaim before my children, my grandchildren, the church, and the whole world that God is good, and I trust Him because He does everything right. We can hardly imagine what an impact such a stand would have on future generations. From another angle, thankfulness is an encouragement for my spiritual brothers and sisters to trust God. It is an example for the youth and shows them the value of following and serving God. And – thanking helps us the most. Thanking gives us new courage and confidence. Thanking lifts us up and spurs us on to endure to the end. Thanking directs my thoughts into a positive path. Thanking brings me closer to God and furthers contentment.
Should I become depressed and words of thankfulness hardly cross my lips, I am able to speak to the Lord about my situation and leave it with Him. Such a soul-searching talk causes the dark clouds to vanish and encourages and allows us to become thankful people again.
Would you like to be recognized as an Ephesians 5:20 sister or brother? Renew your resolve today to be thankful. Should negativity raise its head, do not forget that our motto is Ephesians 5:20. Do we want to try this? I wonder if the people around us will notice the changes we have made. I hope so. May God bless you.
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