“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” Ecclesiastes 2:24-25
Twice in verses 24-25 Solomon speaks of “finding” satisfaction and “finding” enjoyment. He then informs us that while we are called to search, we will never find what we are looking for unless God gives it to us. This calls to mind the staccato commands of the apostle Paul: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 nasb). Someone has called these three commands “the standing orders of the gospel.” They are “standing orders” because they always apply to every Christian in every situation.
This is a great challenge, isn’t it? After all, we would have no problem if the text said:
“Give thanks when you feel like it.
That’s the way most of us live-on the “sometimes, occasionally, when you feel like it” plane of life. How do we rise to the higher level of “always,” “without ceasing,” and “everything"? Surely it relates to how we view the goodness of God.
I know one family living in a very difficult and sometimes dangerous area of the world. Yet the parents believe this is where God wants them to be. After recounting many of the setbacks and heartaches that are routine to missionary work, they included this telling paragraph. As much as anything else, it explains how a person can rise to the level of giving thanks in every situation:
Believers in our country frequently have a “Thanksgiving” offering, or even a special service. These offerings are usually given by grateful members of the congregation-even after a tragic event. Yes, in ALL things we are to give God our thanksgiving and gratitude. It is interesting that one of the standard greeting lines here is: Q: “How is the work?” A: “We thank God.”
I do not mean to suggest that this is easy, only that it is absolutely necessary. As hard as it may be to rejoice always, what is your alternative? To give in to despair and anger? If you refuse to give thanks in every situation, you are virtually saying that you know better than God how to run the universe. By giving thanks when we don’t feel like it, we are proclaiming that God’s wisdom is greater than ours. That simple act of giving thanks in the midst of sorrow and heartache is a testimony worth more than 10,000 words spoken when things are going well. Perhaps we should end this section with a prayer by George Herbert:
Gracious God, You have given so much to me. Give me one thing more-a grateful heart. Amen.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.