No doubt many of you are recovering from a great time of food, friends, and family, as we just celebrated Thanksgiving. I trust also that you were able to express to those loved ones what you are most thankful for this year, that it was a time of reflection, and, most importantly, of giving thanks to our Creator and Redeemer. Those reasons for gratitude should flow off Christians’ tongues as they think about all that the Lord has done, is doing, and will do for those who are His. Thanksgiving is a natural outpouring from a heart that has been redeemed. It is a part of the Christian’s DNA. Think with me: What do we have that God hasn’t given us? Nothing! God has been so kind to us that praise, adoration, and thankfulness become the heart attitude of every born-again Christian.
Yet, I propose to you that this is not just a one-time event on a day in November. No, it is to be an everyday aspect of the Christian life. In the good and even in what we see as bad we are to give thanks to Him. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 that the Christian’s heart and approach to life should be to “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that, beloved? It is God’s will that we give thanks! In all things! In every situation, there is cause to rejoice, whether things seem good or bad. Christian, thankfulness is a part of what defines you.
The question is why? Why does God desire His redeemed to give Him praise? I think one of the answers is that God wants you turn from yourself, turn to Him, and acknowledge and affirm His goodness to a world that is steeped in selfishness. It is safe to say that thankfulness strips all selfishness from your heart, because you are exhorting and rejoicing in someone else. A thankful heart makes you think of others, and, in the case of the believer, it makes you grateful to God.
No doubt, we all struggle to some degree with giving God thanks in all things. We often grumble. We complain about our current situation and wonder why God isn’t doing something about it. Ingratitude is an attack on the character of God. It puts you at the center of your wants and wishes, which is foreign to your new nature in Christ. So, the question is, how do I fight my selfishness and live a life that freely gives God thanks in all things? How do I nurture a thankful heart?
Let me outline three disciplines that will help us in this endeavor. First, we need to remember that giving thanks requires practice. If it is a part of who we are as Christians, then we need to regularly give thanks for the “God things” in our lives. We need to recognize His provision and moving in our lives. Thankfulness, not criticism, is to be our default setting when we open our mouths. We must make it a habit to see this life and the next through the grid of the Word of God. Second, in our desire to discipline our lives toward thankfulness we need to give thanks to God in all circumstances, the good and the bad. Beloved, when our perspective sees situations as bad, we must remember that God is not sleeping or taking a day off. He is just as sovereign in those situations as He is in all the good things that we experience. It is vital that we recognize that our great God will even use the hard things in our lives for His good. Third, we need to remember to give God thanks even in the good times, when things are going well. Now, it might seem silly for me to give this advice, but it’s important. To be people who give God thanks, we have to learn not to take Him for granted. Remember, beloved, that He sustains you, protects you, and does many other things in every believer’s life, but not always in ways that we expect.
It is simple: In order to nurture a thankful heart, we are called to constantly look for ways to thank God no matter what the situation. We must have a heart for gratitude, for there is much that the Lord Jesus has given us that we have not earned or deserved. Let me leave you with a simple quote from Helen Keller that will humble us as we look at our lives. With all the physical challenges that Miss Keller had, she is quoted as saying, “So much has been given to me that I have no time to ponder that which I don’t have.” So, get going, Christian. Rise up and give thanks!