As we approach this Fall’s Thanksgiving weekend it is appropriate to think about the nature of giving thanks. Regardless of your disposition toward the civic side of Thanksgiving, and the associated excesses of feasting and football, ‘thanks giving’ is without question a key mark for which Christians ought to be known. Here are some thoughts regarding the who, what, where, when, and whys of Christian thanksgiving.
1) It is the will of God
Paul covers ‘why’ and ‘when’ in one verse: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).” Note that we give thanks in all circumstances, and not necessarily for all circumstances.
2) We give thanks to God
A ministry friend of mine likes to point out to people that in today’s world it is “not that we have nothing to be thankful for, but that we have no one to be thankful to.” Psalm 118 starts, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” In all circumstances we give thanks to the Lord because he is always worthy of our thanks and praise: his attributes, such as his goodness and love, are never ending!
3) It is a natural by-product of true faith
Paul writes, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6, bold added for emphasis)” We bring our requests to God with thanksgiving because we already trust him to work all things in our lives according to his good pleasure (see Philippians 2:13).
4) We return thanks for what he has, or will, do
James tells us that every perfect gift comes from the Father above, and so it is natural to return thanks for his good gifts (past, present, and future) to us. “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).”
5) A humble heart is a thankful heart
In Romans 1:21-32, Paul outlines a vicious downward spiral toward dark thinking and dark behaviour that starts with a lack of thankfulness: “For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21).” We all have various tendencies toward pride; thankfulness is the outward sign of an inward recognition of who God is, and our desperate need of him.
6) Follow Christ’s example!
Jesus modeled thankfulness throughout his life. He thanked the Father openly that others would follow his example of gratitude. He gave thanks for provision (Luke 24:30), for listening to him (John 11:41), for the opportunity to minister to others (Matthew 14:19; 15:36), and even for his sacrificial death (Mt 26:26-27).
I encourage you to cultivate a thankful heart everyday!