Since the Thanksgiving holiday a few weeks ago, I have been doing a lot of thinking about giving thanks to God (and have been seeking to practice giving thanks more consistently). The following verses have driven me:
(Be filled with the Spirit) giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Ephesians 5:20
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him.Colossians 3:17
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5:18
As Christians, we know that the Lord calls us to pray without ceasing (Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, etc.), but I imagine I am not alone in that I have not often thought about the fact that the Lord also calls us to give thanks without ceasing… always and for everything, in every circumstance in our lives.
So what keeps us from giving thanks to God? First and foremost, our pride. Giving thanks involves getting outside of me and giving glory to another. Our sin has hardwired us to want the glory for ourselves. But not only our sinful pride, also our feelings. We don’t always feel thankful, and because we are often driven by our feelings and not by God’s word we don’t give thanks. But the good news of the commands above are that none of them require us to feel a certain way. You can feel as ungrateful as a spoiled toddler, yet still give thanks to God. In fact, that is a part of the grace of the commands of God… as we obey, we discipline our emotions.
Speaking of discipline, it is impossible to give thanks in all circumstances without the Holy Spirit’s intervention, and apart from a disciplined effort on our part to do so. This is the first way we see that giving thanks is warfare. A soldier will not be prepared for battle unless he is rigorously disciplined.
APPLICATION: Start each morning with 10 minutes of thanksgiving to God. On day 1 list everything you could possibly give thanks for… include the difficulties and trials of your life (give thanks in all circumstances). Even in the hard times we can give thanks for God’s sovereign control and provision. On subsequent days dig down into each item on the list and spend 10 minutes being more specific. For example, if I thanked God for family on Day 1 I can thank Him for each member of my family (one today, one tomorrow, etc) and be specific. Perhaps doing so will help cultivate an instinct for and habit of thanksgiving in your life.
Thanksgiving is warfare. We see this not only in that it requires disciplined training, but also when we consider the power of thanksgiving in our fight against sin. During a recent Sunday school lesson I had the class list as many sins as we could think of that giving thanks to God helps combat. The list was impressive: lust, discontentment, greed, anxiety, anger, envy, jealousy, impatience, grumbling and complaining, pride, apathy, bitterness, and more. Giving thanks to God is one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal. And the inverse is true as well. Not to give thanks is a surefire way to let sin flourish in our lives. Romans 1 says this very thing:
18 The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, THEY DID NOT HONOR HIM AS GOD OR GIVE THANKS TO HIM, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened… 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lust of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature, and the men likewise…Romans 1: 18 and following
Romans 1 lists all kinds of sins that are present in a culture that God is opposing, among which are sexual immorality, homosexuality, murder, and the inventing of new kinds of evil. But the interesting thing is that if we follow the logic of the passage, these are the fruit sins not the root sins. The root sins are described in v21 and v25 as a refusal to honor God, worship God, and give thanks to God. And because the godless refuse to honor, worship and thank God, He turns them over to their sinful passions to “do what ought not to be done” (v28). Now, this passage in Romans is referencing the non-Christian’s refusal to thank God at all, but there is also application for the Christian life as well. Again, it is not only true that giving thanks to God is one of the most powerful weapons in the Christian arsenal, it is also true that NOT to give thanks to God is to invite all kinds of sin to flourish in our lives. So be filled with the Spirit and give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.