A pale Indian wobbled down the gangplank from a lurching deck onto firm land. For the next three years, he and other Indian youths were taught English after being kidnapped from their native America. At first he found the new tongue awkward, but eventually he surprised himself: “My name is Squanto. I have come from America.” Squanto and the other youths were then sent back to America as expedition guides. But after returning to the home he loved, he was shortly seized again by Spanish slave traders. Amazingly, while on the auction block, a gentle monk bought him, fed and nourished him, and gave him back his freedom. Though Squanto knew no Spanish, he understood. This man of God’s love for Jesus had prompted him to buy Indian slaves and teach them the Christian faith. He began to love this Jesus, too. After returning to America once again, he found his entire family gone, killed by a strange sickness. His grief was overwhelming. A few months later, he saw more ships approaching the shores. They appeared friendly, and had women and children with them. Though the men were fearful when they saw Squanto, the minute he spoke to them in perfect English they were amazed and friendly. From that time, Squanto adopted these Pilgrims as his new family. He taught them how to survive in their new home. His knowledge was invaluable to them, and he shared it freely. They were thankful as they saw how the hand of God had provided Squanto’s help in establishing their new colony. When Squanto lay dying, he turned over in his mind the events of his strange life. It almost seemed that a plan had led him. The first time he was captured he learned English. The second time, he was freed by gentle Christians who taught him to trust in Jesus. And though his own people had died of sickness, God had sent him to a new people who built their colony where his old village once stood. He asked the governor of the colony to pray for him as he breathed his last breath. He died in November 1622, gone from the New World, but entering a heavenly one.

In many ways, Squanto’s story is tragic. He was kidnapped as a boy, taken from his home, and trained to help his captors scout his own land for their gain. Not once, but twice. He finally arrives home the second time only to find a grave yard and some empty round houses. All that he hoped for was gone. What a tragedy, especially if that was the whole story; but it’s not. No, one of the final paragraphs in the story summarizes it perfectly; Squanto’s strange life was part of a plan, every event. It was through unfair circumstances beyond his control he learned a language and met a Savior. He would have been totally incapable of being God’s special instrument in the lives of the pilgrims had he not been allowed to go through such heartache. Because of his sacrifice, his story is being told to and by folks of all ages during the Thanksgiving holiday.

God’s Word has much to say about Thanksgiving. Throughout its pages, our Lord has given us instructions on how vitally important it is for us to give thanks in the good times and the difficult ones, especially the difficult ones. In his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul articulates how God desires for his children to conduct themselves in chapter 5:12-18:

Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

In verses 16 through 18 we see three essential lessons for the Christian life. However, at first glance, most would agree they aren’t simple to achieve. “When people deliberately attack my character, how can I be joyful always?” “When the responsibilities of everyday life are staring me in the face, how can I pray continually?” “Or when I lose someone so precious to me, how in the world can I give thanks?” For most of us, those three questions come very close to describing our thoughts when we read these verses, and rightfully so. In our own strength, we come up short every time. That is why we must allow His strength to be made perfect in our weakness as we look to Him through His Word. Let’s look at a few verses that support our text:

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

cara, chara {khar-ah’} 1) joy, gladness 1a) the joy received from you 1b) the cause or occasion of joy 1b1) of persons who are one’s joy

1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

avgallia,w agalliao {ag-al-lee-ah’-o} 1) to exult, rejoice exceedingly, be exceeding glad.

In observing these verses, we see joy and suffering oddly connected. Christ suffered the pain of the cross for the joy set before Him and as His partakers, we are encouraged to do the same. The key is looking unto Him, for He is the Author and Finisher of the story.

Luke 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

Ephesians 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

proseu,comai proseuchomai {pros-yoo’-khom-ahee} 1) to offer prayers, to pray

proseuch, proseuche {pros-yoo-khay’} 1) prayer addressed to God 2) a place set apart or suited for the offering of prayer 2a) a synagogue 2b) a place in the open air where the Jews were wont to pray, outside the cities, where they had no synagogue 2b1) such places were situated upon the bank of a stream or the shore of a sea, where there was a supply of water for washing the hands before prayer

Jesus taught the disciples the importance of praying at all times. Prayer is our direct line of communication to God. Prayer reveals what we believe about God. When God is the source for your life, you depend on him like a deer depends on the stream. He is your life’s supply. When we pray, we obey His plans concerning our lives. How do we know this? Because Jesus instructs us to do so and when we do, we are walking in obedience to His command. He doesn’t require us to know the outcome, He instructs us to pray.

Mark 14:23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.

euvcariste,w eucharisteo {yoo-khar-is-teh’-o} 1) to be grateful, feel thankful 2) give thanks

We see in this passage Jesus giving thanks to the Father as He shares His cup with His disciples. When we look at the meaning of cup in this text, it illuminates a valuable lesson in giving thanks. The word cup here is the Greek word poterion {pot-ay’-ree-on}. It metaphorically speaks of one’s lot or experience, joyous or adverse; divine appointments, whether favorable or unfavorable. It is likened to a cup which God presents one to drink – equally of prosperity and adversity. In Mark 14:36, Jesus is having a difficult time partaking of the cup that His Father presents.

Mark 14:36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup

from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus is saying, “Daddy, You can take this portion away, I know You can. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to go through this. Nevertheless, I’ll drink this cup, for You know best.” Though it was hard, in the 23rd verse of this chapter, Jesus had already illustrated the proper response when facing difficult circumstances: Give thanks. In verse 18 of our text (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), Paul says “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ” God’s will is that we give thanks, no matter what. And He’ll take care of the circumstances.

When Fran lost her husband before her 40th birthday, she learned first hand what it was like to drink a bitter cup. With two little ones to raise and a farm to tend to, giving thanks was the furthest thing from her mind. Fran believed in God, but little did she know, God was about to reveal Himself to her in ways she’d never dreamed. Nothing came easy, but through the years, one by one, she began to collect the stories of how He proved His love for her in the midst of the storms. Like the year the “green bugs” destroyed most of the crops in the county. Fran had no money for spray, so she just prayed. The next day when she checked her crop, there were no bugs to be found. The kids are all gone and the grand kids are becoming greats’ and Fran is still on the farm. Now, most of the day to day is handled by her son-in-law and grandson, but everyone knows who runs Fran’s farm; Jesus Christ. Yes, with every heartache, He was there to hold her hand and walk her through to the very end. He’s been faithful. No doubt, it was a sad day when young Fran lost her husband, but like Squanto, the Indian, as she looks back she sees the evidence of a masterful plan guiding her every step of the way. This is her cup.In the familiar story of Job, we see in the second chapter another example of the wonderful plan in the circumstances we endure. In Job 2:1-10, after the Lord exonerates Job’s life of integrity, Satan gets permission from God to strike his health. Covered with open sores from his head to his feet, Job’s wife says, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Why don’t you curse God and die?” And Job responds, “You are talking like a foolish woman! Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” Job’s trusting, righteous life was exemplifying itself in the very midst of adverse moments. To top off his ability to remain steadfast, he tells his critical friends in chapter 13, basically, know matter what happens to me, I will praise Him! How the Lord must have reveled in His servant’s heart during those moments!

In a fitting verse concerning Squanto, Fran, Job, really all of us, God tells us in Isaiah 55:8 that His thoughts are not are thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. How reassuring to know that those “thoughts” and “higher ways” He has concerning us are for peace and not for evil, to give us a future and a hope!

Today, let us give thanks for the cup we have been given. No matter what we’ve been through or are presently enduring, God’s Word can be trusted. He loves you dearly; He’ll never leave; and He knows best.

Give Thanks
I Thessalonians 5:12-18
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