The Scriptures are full of admonitions for us to give thanks. During this time of year we hear them often in sermons, songs and personal conversations. It is safe to say that for Christians there is no shortage of thanksgiving reminders.
That is how the first century church at Colossae must have felt when they read the letter Paul sent them from prison. This little epistle reminds its readers about thanksgiving in every chapter. Colossians 1:12 tells them that they should be “Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” In Colossians 2:7 they are told, regarding their relationship with Christ, that they are to be “abounding in thanksgiving”. In Colossian 3:17 Paul gives a comprehensive command when he says “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.“ Finally in Colossians 4:2 he tells them us to “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
Clearly being thankful people is something that God has as a priority for us. We are though, constantly challenged in this area by life and life’s circumstances. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that in everything we are to “give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”. Sometimes this seems almost impossible. I mean really, we are in the midst of a nearly year long pandemic in which we’ve experienced so much loss and insecurity with no clear end in sight.
Is it possible to really give thanks in all things? Is it feasible to constantly give thanks over a long period of trails? Are we actually able to give thanks even in tremendous loss? Let’s look at someone who managed by the grace of God to be thankful in all things even a pandemic.
Martin Rinkart was a pastor in his hometown of Eilenberg in Germany beginning in 1617. He was just 31 years of age. This is when the thirty years war began in Europe. Eilenberg, as a walled city, became the fleeing place of many, many refugees. In addition, Pastor Rinkart’s home as well as many of the other homes in the city were forced to house and feed soldiers[DW1] . This went on for what seemed like an eternity.
Things got worse in 1637 as Eilenberg, fighting the Swiss Army and struggling with food shortages, was hit by the plague. This further devasted the town. 8000 people lost their lives. It took the life of the other four clergyman in town leaving Rinkart as the only Pastor. It took the lives of most of the town council, it took the life of Pastor Rinkart’s wife. That year he officiated at 4.480 funerals as the city’s lone pastor.
It was Pastor Rinkart himself who sought to negotiate a truce with the Swiss and after being initially rejected, through a fervent prayer meeting, was able to do so. Knowing the importance of giving thanks even in difficult circumstances he wrote a prayer for family meals. The prayer, “Now Thank We All Our God” became a national song of thanksgiving when the war ended.
Here is the prayer that became the song.
- Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
- Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And guard us through all ills in this world, till the next!
- All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son, and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven—
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
Here is the song performed by reawakenhymns.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ecqss2ZvN2c
And here is a contemporary version – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GvSMerBDUc
Pastor Martin Rinkart life is worthy example for us to follow when it comes to giving thanks. These are hard times. Very hard times. With the Lord’s help though you and I can truly give thanks even in in a pandemic.
Pastor Dave Watson