by: DALE NESSMITH
“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Here is a “nutshell” verse from God’s Holy Word which contains the answers to two of the most sought after questions every serious, genuine Christian asks. First, “What is my purpose in being saved?” The answer: To give thanks. Second, “What is God’s will for me?” The answer: To give thanks! This verse is also easier to read than it is to do.
Giving thanks is a lot like loving someone with the kind of love God wants us to love with - unconditional love. That’s how God loves us. There is nothing you or I can do that will make God stop loving us. And, God’s love never changes, His love is like Himself; the same yesterday today and forever! You might say then that thanksgiving, just like love, should be unconditional. The verse does say it pretty plainly, “In everything give thanks.”
Giving thanks is like a wheel which makes moving things and ourselves much easier. Even though we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we may need to be reminded why God saved us and what His will for our lives is. When you are spiritually stagnant or maybe feel a case of the “mullygrubs” coming on, try giving thanks. And you don’t have to feel like being thankful to give thanks, just like unconditional love is not about feelings, it’s about facts. The fact is we have so much to give thanks for and have received so much from God, that if we are not giving thanks, we are living in sin. I don’t think a person could be genuinely thankful and disobey God at the same time. You can’t worry about something and be thankful. It’s either worry or it’s thanksgiving.
The hub of the thanksgiving wheel is the sovereignty of God. God is above all and controls all and therefore in everything we can and ought to give thanks. God will never command us to do something He doesn’t enable us to do. That’s enough to be thankful for in itself. We could not believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, rose from the grave and right now is alive and interceding for us, without the indwelling Holy Spirit to reveal that to us. We could not and would not repent with godly sorrow for our sins unless God prompted and stimulated our spirit man with guilt and conviction as a result of His writing His law upon our hearts. Likewise we could not and would not be thankful enough to give thanks unless God’s grace made us aware of His goodness and His providence put us in a position to be sensitive of our need of His redemption and our weakness and failures.
God has done so much for all of us. His love has never failed us in any way, even in spite of our sins and failures. God’s goodness and grace is like the ocean sending waves of mercy that are new every day and giving us strength for our way. His sea of rich blessings will be forever full because in Him our fullness dwells.
“All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.” Ecclesiastes 1:7
This is a lesson that teaches us about gratitude. Although the ocean is a great receiver, it is also a generous giver. The rivers bring the water to the ocean, but the ocean continually gives it back to the earth and the overflow fills the streams which in turn head back to the source of it all. The ocean returns the water to the earth in the form of clouds and rain which the sun draws up via evaporation and the winds redistribute it to the appointed place to sustain the earth So, if we just take God’s blessings and don’t give thanks in return, we are out of harmony with the universe and out of fellowship with the creator of the universe. Actually giving thanks means we are sowing seeds for ourselves. There will be a return for the good steward who is willing to give back to the Lord and His people. It is true, you can’t out give the Lord. The more effectively we monitor and manage our lives with thanks, the better spiritual stewards we will be and the Lord will entrust even more with us.
A question we all need to ponder in our hearts is: Are we giving thanks to God according to the benefits and blessings He has given us? We should not let selfishness squash and squander our giving thanks to God. When you think about it, giving God thanks is about all we can give Him. Giving thanks to God is not something he needs, but it’s something we need. Suppose the ocean kept all the water hoarded up for itself. That would mean drought and destruction to all the earth and us. No one should live for himself nor should we live to please ourselves. Jesus did not live to please Himself. Yet all fullness dwells in Him, but hasn’t He graciously shared His fullness with us?
“And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” John 1:16
Think of all we have received from God (can we even comprehend it all?). How much are we giving back to God and to others? Really, God’s mercy washes out what seems to be life’s unfairness. Be thankful that you are not in hell today. Although life is often hard and times get tough, God always provides a stream of grace to renew and refresh us. We may not be able to give our money nor our time to God, we may run out of both. We may not preach or sing or pray in public, but we can and should give thanks. Give thanks every day for every way, for every person, place or thing.
Giving thanks assures a healthy spiritual life. One of the best godly exercises is giving thanks. Giving thanks is like a stairway of sanctifying grace; the higher we climb in thanksgiving, the closer we are to God and to each other. The Bible says that if we draw near to God, He will come closer to us. Giving thanks is the bucket which we let down in the wells of salvation to draw out grace to serve God and to be content with life’s circumstances. Giving thanks and being humble may be like the two hands we fold in prayer or lift up in praise to the one true and living God. And as an object is hard to grasp without hands, so is the reality of our life in Christ without thanksgiving and humility. To embrace the abundant life the Lord Jesus Christ has given us we must give thanks. Failure to give thanks will weaken our walk of faith and may result in our inability to get along with God, others or ourselves. So, wherever you are on your spiritual journey, even if you feel stranded and off course, you can get back on the right track by giving thanks. Giving thanks always points in the right direction - God! Sometimes we get on the wrong road because we’re not looking where we are going. We miss a sign or an intersection. And I know for sure that even GPS can be wrong. We would all be happier if we noticed God more in our every day life, because if we noticed Him, we would thank Him. We would be better, godlier believers if we spent less time trying to do good works, planning worship services, or even giving to charity and spent more time giving thanks.
If we give thanks to God, we are going to do it needfully. That is, we depend on Him to help us do it. There is a Christian song entitled, “I Can’t Even Walk Without Him Holding My Hand.” That is a powerful song full of much truth revealing the inadequacy of man and his dependence on his maker. We need God every moment of every day, not just on Sunday or during surgery. The Apostle Paul was not ashamed of giving thanks needfully. In Romans chapter seven, the Apostle acknowledged the reality and struggle of spiritual warfare. The victory though was not in a creed or a book; it was in Christ alone by faith alone.
“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord...” Romans 7:24-25A
God has, does, and will meet your every need. God also knows our every need even before we know we have a need. We ought to be so confident that God will meet our future needs that we should give Him thanks in advance. I remember receiving a letter once from a person asking me for a favor. That person closed the letter with the salutation: “Thanking you in advance.” The psychology worked. I promptly granted the person’s request. Maybe we should give God thanks in advance too! It would be okay to give God thanks for unknown blessings already on their way don’t you think? God’s promises are sure and not one will fail to develop according to His almighty will and purpose. Thankfulness to God is a recognition that we are totally dependent upon Him; that all that we are and have comes from Him. We breathe His air, we read His Word, we have the sweet privilege to be a part of the body of Christ in His church. We enjoy and appreciate special friends, and children He gave us. The food we eat, the appetite to enjoy and the organs to digest the food are worthy of the greatest thanksgiving.
One thing that confuses us though regarding God meeting our needs, is that he sometimes meets our needs without changing our circumstances. What we must get to is that we need God more than we need deliverance from an adverse circumstance. Again, the Apostle Paul gives the critical clue for giving thanks needfully. He closes out the letter to the church at Philippi with these words from Holy inspiration.
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
Oh, I forgot to mention that Paul wrote that while in prison! If you really look for God in your circumstance today, no matter how tough times are, you will find your needs are being met. We may wish things were different or better, or had never happened, yet deep down we know that God is with us and somehow, someway, some day, He will bring good out of it all. No matter if it’s COVID, cancer or cocaine. We can and ought to give God thanks for He meets our needs when no one else can.
To do something notably means that you do it particularly, distinctly, uncommonly or extraordinarily. Probably, there is no greater witness of our Christian faith than giving thanks. Going to church when we can is really an act of thanksgiving. Thankfulness to God takes note that God in His goodness and faithfulness has provided for us and cared for us, both physically and spiritually. Giving thanks acknowledges God’s goodness.
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” Psalm 100: 4-5
It is true that if you’re happy and you know it then your life will surely show it. Likewise, if you’re thankful and you know it, then your life will surely show it. The searching question is, “Do you know you are thankful?” The gospel of Luke records a case in chapter seventeen where ten lepers were cleansed (all cleansed completely and the same way) by the Lord Jesus, but only one knew that he was thankful. And he showed it by notably going out of his way to give thanks to the one who helped him.
“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.” Luke 17: 15-16
Note, the thankful man went out of his way, not with a whisper, but with a loud voice, and did something extraordinarily in getting down on his hands and knees and bowing his face to give thanks. What a powerful posture for giving thanks!
Notice too, that Jesus noticed this thanksgiving as well. In the very next verse Jesus said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” We should realize that Jesus notices our giving thanks. And if Jesus notices thanksgiving, we ought to do the same. Since Jesus went out of His way to go to the cross for us, and die there in our place, then most surely we should not shy away, nor be too busy to give thanks notably.
Here is a good definition of thanksgiving I recently came across in my study: Thanksgiving is a normal result of a vital union with Christ and a direct measure of the extent to which we are experiencing the reality of that union in our daily lives. Really, to give thanks naturally may be better described as giving thanks supernaturally. Once God recreates us, gives us a new nature and His spirit, we then have the supernatural capacity to respond to His touch of grace with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving stimulates our faith by increasing our trust and confidence in God. And, once we are born again, the world begins losing its grip on us and our natural response of gratitude promotes contentment in salvation, in material things, in position and in providence. With all due respect (maybe disrespect would best describe it) to our fleshly nature, the Christian can give thanks for everything in life, the good and the bad, knowing that some were blessings and some were lessons. Remember, our situation is never so desperate that it is not fitting to give thanks to God. Even in secular life, giving thanks is a natural response for benefits received. Probably you said thank you to the server when they brought your last Chick-fil-A order to your car. Not long ago I told my dental hygienist “thank you” for cleaning my teeth. In a much greater way, regarding our spiritual life and salvation, we supernaturally respond with gratitude knowing how much we are blessed to have a Savior like Jesus. Jesus Christ gives us peace and He is the only one who can do that.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.” John 14:2
Now, since Jesus gives us peace, it ought to come naturally (rather supernaturally) to give Him thanks.
While good works do not earn our salvation nor obligate God to make us happy, they do display outwardly what God has done to us in- wardly. Really, if you appreciate something, then you will give thanks to the one from whom you received it.
The best time to give thanks is right now! We should give thanks while we are struggling in pains and sorrow—not just when it’s over and we are delivered. Daniel prayed three times a day thanking God, even though he was headed to the Lion’s den. If we are going to nip our sin in the bud and put God first in our lives we must begin with giving God thanks. To fail to give thanks to God is a most grievous and serious sin and should be dealt with promptly. Unthankfulness is the moral downfall of mankind and brings on the judgement of Almighty God.
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, nei- ther were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their fool- ish heart was darkened.” Romans 1:21
We need God now more than ever. May we give Him thanks for
being forgiven now, not later on. Thank God too, right now, for the strength to keep going. Life is measured not in years, months, nor days, but in moments. There is an old proverb that says a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Likewise, a Christian’s walk of faith on Earth and in Heaven begins with a sacred moment of thanksgiving. In good times - praise God, in difficult times - seek God, in quiet moments - worship God, when life hurts - trust God, in every moment - give God thanks.