It is November and in America we celebrate a holiday to give thanks to God for all that he does for us, for the harvest that has been completed, and for the blessing of living in a relatively safe country. Well, I should say some of us celebrate for those reason. Others think of Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday of each November, as a time for football bowl games and family fun. Often while the men are watching football games on the television the women go shopping to get the best bargains of the shopping season. How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year? I will most likely stay home and enjoy a quiet celebration with just my son. One year I cooked all his favorite foods, mac-n-cheese, biscuits, pizza, and fruit salad. I think I won’t be doing that this year. While I’m not sure what will be our menu this year I am sure of what we will be doing, we will be giving thanks to God for all the many blessings He has bestowed upon us this year. We have many reasons to be thankful. I hope you take time during the day to pause and give thanks to God for all your blessings as well. In preparation for Thanksgiving I want to do a quick study of what the Bible says about giving thanks. The Apostle Paul says it well at the end of his letter to the Thessalonians, take a look.
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15, (New International Version or NIV).
I love this passage because it doesn’t say that thankfulness is limited to only God and what He does in our lives. Paul speaks about being thankful and saying thanks to others for what they are doing for us, pastors, secretaries, teachers, janitors, and so forth. God is working through these people but we still need to show them appreciation for their time and effort. Acknowledgement is so important and such a part of graciousness and thankfulness, don’t you think? Because my circle of friends and family is so much smaller than it used to be, I seldom am acknowledged for what I do for others. Perhaps you also lack being acknowledged or appreciated for all you do. When that acknowledgement comes by way of a card or a word of thanks it really means a lot to me as I’m sure it does to you also. We should never neglect such kind acts of love toward one another.
This passage also tells us to live in peace with each other and to rejoice always and we can accomplish this by being in a continual attitude of prayer. Prayer keeps us humble, it keeps us grounded in the faith, and it reminds us that everything we have is given to us by God. When we understand that everything that happens to us is with our heavenly Father’s knowledge and permission then we can give thanks in all circumstances. Now think about that. If you have lived many years at all on this earth then you will have had some tough times to get through. I have dealt with chronic illness, death of loved ones, divorce, my child telling me they’re gay, betrayal, discrimination, and so much more that I consider tough to face. Yet Paul says to rejoice in the good and the bad times and to thank God in all circumstances! Wow! To tell you the truth I have struggled in the past with this teaching because my heart was so broken and I didn’t know how to give thanks to God. But as I am maturing in Christ I am beginning to understand that our God is the only constant in life. He never leaves us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5), He never forsakes us, He never stops loving us (Romans 8:39), not like some people do. This has been a tremendous blessing to me to know that God always has my best interest at heart and that if God allowed something I consider negative to happen to me then there will be good that comes from it. After all, this is one of the promises to Christians who are being obedient and faithful followers of Christ.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:26-30, (NIV).
This is certainly a promise worth thanking God for giving to us. Giving thanks to God is more than a command to me, it is more than a duty, giving thanks to God in every circumstance, and for every possible conceivable thing is a joy for me. Why? Because were it not for Jesus Christ and all that He has done for humanity by being born into this sin filled world, dying on the cross at Golgotha, and rising from the dead three days later victorious over Satan I would have no way to salvation and neither would most of you! Now that is a reason to give thanks! I leave you today with some of my favorite verses about giving thanks to God.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him, Colossians 3:17, (NIV).
Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or crude joking, which are out of character, but rather thanksgiving, Ephesians 5:4, (NIV).
Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, (NIV).
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus, Philippians 1:3-6, (NIV).
Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Your name forever. For Your lovingkindness toward me is great, And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol, Psalm 86, 11-13, (New American Standard Bible or NASB).
Then you will say on that day, “I will give thanks to You, O LORD; For although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, And You comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” Therefore you will joyously draw water From the springs of salvation. And in that day you will say, “Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.” Praise the LORD in song, for He has done excellent things; Let this be known throughout the earth. Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel, Isaiah 12, (NASB).