Being a person who makes his living by communication, I may more than the average person be a little more “tuned in” to the choice of words that are used to communicate. Have you ever played with how a sentence, a statement or a comment can turn drastically on a single word? Our reading and comprehension of written things, even the Bible can hinge greatly on reading and understanding the importance of every single word no matter how big or small.
Here is a verse of scripture that I find many people read but often do not read correctly and unfortunately have a misunderstanding of what is being said: 1 Thes. 5:18 (NKJV) “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
One of the most important words in this verse is the first word. “In everything give thanks …” is what it says. I find many people misreading this verse in this way: “For everything give thanks …” which is not what the verse says and certainly does not mean.
What is the difference between two very small words? A lot. Paul the Apostle, the writer of this verse is instructing us to be thankful “in” a situation, if not “for” the situation. Are we commanded to be thankful for a tragedy or an injury or other misfortune? No. God is not the author of such things. Can we find the ability to be thankful in those same situations? Yes. What can we be thankful for in the situation? We can be thankful that God has not abandoned us. We can be thankful that He sends others to help us. We can be thankful that God and others still love us in spite of the pain or suffering we may be experiencing.
Well doesn’t the same verse tell us that “… this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”? Again, the importance of words comes into play here. To what is the word “this” referring to? If the verse said we should be thankful for the situation, the word this would be referring to the situation being God’s will for us and that we should be thankful no matter how difficult and confusing it would be.
Since the verse tells us to be thankful in every thing, the word this refers to it being God’s will for us to be thankful in every thing, not for everything. The difference is huge.
To further illustrate, the Bible tells us two more important things to know about being thankful in every thing: James 1:17 (NKJV) “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
So, every “good and perfect gift” is what comes from God. Not tragedies or calamities. The other greatly important thing for us to be thankful in every situation is: Romans 8:28 (NKJV) “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
“All things” means bad things and good things. God can work even things that are not His will, bad things, tragedies, for something good to come from it. This is incredible hope for us to be thankful in every thing.
Can’t you look back upon your life and remember a difficult time or challenging situation that ultimately became something good? God can use even your most difficult moments for the ultimate good for yourself and others if we remain thankful. This closing verse from the opening verses of 2 Corinthians sheds a little light on how this can happen: 2 Cor. 1:3-4 (NKJV) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
God can use the comfort we receive from Him in the midst of our difficulties to comfort others who are also experiencing difficult times. The key? Remain thankful in your situation. God will turn it to something good if we do not give up.
Rev. Stephen Brown is minister at Kenai New Life Assembly of God, 209 Princess Street in Kenai.