Sober and Thankful Christians

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
—I Thessalonians 5:18

IN THE UNITED STATES, Thursday, November 27 this year, is set aside as a day of national thanksgiving. It is eminently proper that all the people should give thanks to the Lord for the bounties which he showers upon them. Jesus reminded us that the Creator causes the rain to fall, and the sun to shine, upon “the just” and upon “the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45) It is true that due to man’s fall into sin and death the generous provisions of the Lord are not always equally distributed, resulting in hardship to some and an overabundance to others; but, properly speaking, the Lord cannot be blamed for this.

Christians, even more than others, have reason to be thankful to the Lord for his bounteous provisions. Together with the world they share and enjoy the temporal good things which daily come to them. In addition to this, and of greater importance, are the rich spiritual blessings which our present Lord Jesus is so abundantly supplying us. To us, every day is one of thanksgiving and praise to the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect gift.”—James 1:17

‘In every thing give thanks,’ wrote Paul in our text, and he adds, ‘This is the will of God … concerning you.’ A consecrated follower of the Master who gives serious consideration to all that the Lord is doing for him from day to day should spontaneously give thanks for all the blessings of Divine grace. The fact that Paul admonishes the giving of thanks might indicate that in his experience and observation the Lord’s people are not as appreciative of the Lord’s goodness to them as they should be.

The context in which Paul’s admonition to thankfulness is found is very interesting and revealing, and suggests a special application at this end of the age, the time in which we are now living. The first four verses of the chapter contain a prophecy concerning the “day of the Lord,” explaining that it would come upon the unbelieving world “as a thief in the night.” “But ye, brethren,” Paul writes, “are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” Paul continues, “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (vss. 5,6) In the eighth verse the apostle writes further, “Let us, who are of the day, be sober.”

Twice in these admonitions Paul uses the word ‘sober.’ The thought in the Greek text is to be discreet and watchful, spiritually on the alert. There has probably never been a time throughout the entire age when this admonition was more needed. Jesus said to the first disciples, “I have chosen you out of the world,” and we are admonished to keep separate from the world and its spirit. This is more difficult today than ever before.—John 15:19

The intoxicating spirit of worldliness is rampant everywhere, and today it is manifested in ways unthought of and unknown earlier in the age. Many characteristics of the world now are the same as they were in the days of the Early Church. However, there have doubtless been worldly characteristics peculiar to each part of the age, allurements and temptations with which the brethren in each part of the age had to contend.

It is so now! One aspect of the ‘world’ today is a pleasure madness in which the masses endeavor to bury their fears and troubles. This frenzied rush for pleasure is in most cases an endeavor to escape the hard realities of life by losing one’s self in a whirl of excitement and fun. While the Lord’s people may not be in grave danger of becoming ensnared by this intoxicating spirit of the twenty-first century world, they are surrounded by these influences, and can almost imperceptibly be affected by what nearly everyone else is doing.


We are acquainted with the manner in which the prophetic increase of knowledge of these last days, which eventually will lead to rich blessings for the world, is first of all making possible “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1,4) From another standpoint this increase of knowledge is awakening the people to their rights, real and fancied. This is contributing to the “distress of nations, with perplexity.”—Luke 21:25,26

As Christians, we rejoice in the liberty which will eventually come to mankind as a whole, particularly that promised liberty from the bondage of sin and death. But the spirit of liberty now abroad in the world, which as yet is distorted and misused, should not be permitted to taint our thinking, causing us to be more independent and self-assertive than the expressed will of God allows. This is one of the modern characteristics of the world against which every Christian must give battle in his own heart and life.

Carrying this thought further, we are reminded of Paul’s prophecy of the “last days,” in which he says that men shall be “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God,” adding that they would be “heady,” and “highminded.” He also states that in these last days children would be “disobedient to parents.” (II Tim. 3:1-4) In outlining this prophecy to Timothy, Paul must have reasoned that it would be of assistance to the Lord’s people when the ‘last days’ actually arrived.

Paul’s graphic description of conditions which we see all about us in the world today strengthens our faith concerning the importance of the time in which we are living, but even more than this, it should put us on guard against the spirit of lawlessness which he describes. Some years ago, it will be remembered, parents quite generally throughout many parts of the world adopted and practiced the idea of allowing their children to do just about as they pleased. The theory was that the children should be allowed to express themselves, and should not be restricted or disciplined.

Today the horrible harvest of this mistaken notion is being reaped, not only in the maddening increase of juvenile delinquency, but in the general attitude of the younger generation that they are more brilliant and more capable than their seniors. Here is another characteristic of the modern world against which all the Lord’s people need to be on guard.

“One is your Master, even Christ,” Jesus said, “and all ye are brethren.” (Matt. 23:8) As brethren, awake and sober, Paul admonishes us, “Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another.” (I Thess. 5:11) That this might be done effectively, orderly, and to the glory of the Lord, the Scriptures reveal a certain order and law for the New Creation, by the formation of ‘ekklesias’ (English: ‘ecclesias’).

In these ecclesias various servants are elected who are spoken of as elders and deacons—the elders serving the spiritual interests of the group, and the deacons caring for the various material needs. Our observation is that the brethren everywhere who adhere to these simple arrangements are being richly blessed by the Lord. But even here, we suggest, it is possible that the spirit of anarchy which is abroad in the world could, to some extent, influence our thinking and lead to something less than the full peace and tranquility which should be enjoyed by every group of the Lord’s consecrated people.

Possibly it is this danger that Paul had in mind in his further exhortation to be awake and sober, saying, “We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”—vss. 12-15


In giving us a summary of what constitutes a sober and watchful Christian, Paul exhorts that we “Rejoice evermore.” (vs. 16) At no time in the experience of the Christian church has there been more reason to rejoice than now. Despite this, however, there is need to be on guard lest the fretful, bickering, fault-finding spirit of the present unbalanced world take possession of us and we lose sight of all the causes for rejoicing with which the Lord daily strews our pathway.

“Pray without ceasing,” Paul continues. (vs. 17) Prayer properly belongs in every aspect of the Christian life. To ‘pray without ceasing’ means to have a continuous habit of prayer, a habitual inclination to go to the Lord in prayer in every time of need. The lesson Jesus drew from his parable of the Importunate Widow was that “men [the disciples to whom he was speaking] ought always to pray, and not to faint.” (Luke 18:1) Frequently we find ourselves in situations which might well cause us to ‘faint,’ but we should always pray rather than faint—‘pray without ceasing.’

It is immediately following this admonition to pray without ceasing that we have the words in our text, ‘In every’thing give thanks,’ as though to emphasize that in large measure our prayers should be those of thanksgiving. To give thanks for everything means that we will recognize the value of our trials as well as our joys and therefore will thank him for the sunshine and the rain, and also for the sorrow and the pain.


Above all, we should be thankful for the Truth—thankful that we are “not in darkness,” and therefore that the “day” of the Lord has not overtaken us as a “thief” in the night. (I Thess. 5:4) Having been favored by the Lord as “children of light” (vs. 5), our appreciation should be manifested by our faithfulness in the use of all the provisions of grace by which the Lord keeps us from falling. This means that we will watch and be sober, that we will keep our hearts and minds fixed upon the Lord and upon the “exceeding great and precious promises” whereby we are being made “partakers of the divine nature.”—II Pet. 1:4

Those who do not watch, and therefore are not sober are referred to by Paul as those who “sleep.” (II Thess. 5:6,7) If we are spiritually asleep it means that we are not appreciative of the Truth, and the blessings of the Truth, which the Lord has so graciously permitted us to enjoy. If we are asleep, we are not thankful. Those most widely awake spiritually will spontaneously be giving thanks in all things, and will be praying without ceasing.

In verse eight of the chapter, Paul writes, “Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.” Paul also admonishes us to “Put on the whole armour of God.” (Eph. 6:11) He identifies the various parts of the armor, and then adds, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”—vss. 13-18

The truth of God’s Word constitutes the various parts of the Christian’s ‘armour’ of protection against all the “wiles of the devil” (vs. 11), as well as against the flesh and the world. Prayers of supplication and thanksgiving keep our armor bright, and enable us to use it properly, and to the glory of the Lord.

The Scriptures also say, “Quench not the Spirit.” (I Thess. 5:19) To whatever extent we permit worldliness of any sort to influence our thoughts, words, and actions, the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit is proportionately quenched and our spiritual growth thereby retarded. Let us make sure, then, that we are thankful for God’s grace so abundantly manifested toward us through present Truth, and that we do not in any way resist its sanctifying power in our lives.

“Despise not prophesyings,” continues Paul. (vs. 20) Here the thought is of public speaking, as in exhortations and instructions. This ministry of the Truth is designed by God to keep our pure minds stirred up by way of remembrance. It is one of the ways by which we comfort ourselves “together, and edify one another.” (vs. 11) If we are spiritually sober, we will gladly avail ourselves of all the means of Divine grace which have been so abundantly provided, and be thankful for them. Paul further wrote, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (vs. 21) This is a lesson which we should learn and apply very early in our Christian experience. Regardless of how much confidence we may have in those whom the Lord uses as teachers in the church, our faith will continue to rest on an insecure foundation until we have proved it by the Word of God. One of our greatest causes for thankfulness should be the conviction that our faith in present Truth does not rest upon the shifting sands of human theory and speculation.

“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (vs. 22) The thought here is, “every form of evil.” (Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott) In some instances it would be proper to abstain from the ‘appearance of evil,’ but in other cases, it would not be proper. Every form of evil is to be avoided, including worldliness, spiritual intoxication, headiness, bickerings—everything, in fact, which would ‘quench’ the free operation of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Then Paul expresses a prayer for the brethren—“The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body [of the church, not individuals] be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (vs. 23) Jesus prayed for his church, and here Paul does the same. What strength it should give us to realize that both these two faithful servants of God prayed for us; and how thankful we should be that they did!

Concluding, Paul writes, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (vs. 24) It is because we have been called by God that we are no longer children of the night, but of the day, therefore, that the day of the Lord has not overtaken us as a thief in the night. He who called us is abundantly able to accomplish the work of sanctification in our hearts and lives which he has designed, if we continue to yield ourselves fully to him.

If we allow ourselves to become intoxicated with the spirit of the world, wanting our own way, deciding that the arrangements the Lord has made for us are not the best, he will not continue to work in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. However, if in the spirit of thankfulness, we accept his appointments, and recognize the value of his providences in our lives, we can be assured that no evil shall befall us. Through Christ, our Heavenly Father will bring us off more than conquerors, giving us an abundant entrance “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”—II Pet. 1:11

Dawn Bible Students Association
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