“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1Th 5:18).”
Giving thanks in all things is something that is tremendously difficult for people to do. I, myself, have to be reminded of the fact that the posture of the follower of Christ Jesus is to be one of perpetual thankfulness toward my Creator and Redeemer. Still, the battle is real.
Most of us do not think of the lack of gratitude and thankfulness toward God as being something that is and of itself sinful. But to take this issue lightly is to reveal a heart that does not truly understand the God of the Bible, and our created purpose before Him. The fact is that within the pages of Scripture, the word thanks and its various forms is used well over a hundred times revealing to us the importance of a thankful heart.
Our predisposition as fallen mankind is to immediately see the negative in all situations. This is something that is made readily apparent by the nation of Israel who, even though they had been freed from Egyptian bondage, were miraculously provided with food and water, and were guided by the Lord both day and night were never at a loss for words of complaint against Moses, Aaron, and ultimately God Himself. We are no different so much of the time.
If we are honest, an unthankful heart is an idolatrous heart. It is a heart that covets that which it thinks it needs at the expense of others. More importantly it comes at the expense of our glorifying the God who made us, provides for us, and grants to us salvation through Christ. The unthankful heart is a heart that forsakes an interest in understanding the provisions of our God to us, and contents itself with self-interest and self-promotion. The unthankful heart steals away the joy of our salvation and leads us into temptations of all sorts.
What about those hard things in life that we must endure? What about sickness? What about poverty? What about persecution? The list could go on. The thankful heart is one that sees the goodness of God even in the “dark” providences. The thankful heart is one that is stayed upon Jehovah and contents itself in His eternally wise and good purpose.
The phrase “O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endures forever” is used eight times in the Psalms. When we study the history of those who wrote the Psalms, we quickly find that these men were men who endured incredible hardship, and yet because they had thankful hearts toward the Lord, they were able to write such words because they were contented in Him.
Fast forward to the New Testament and we find very quickly that the instruction we find concerning a thankful heart before the cross of Christ continues after. When the apostles wrote to the First Century churches, they often wrote of hard times on the horizon, and yet their instruction was to be thankful in all things. Sickness, persecution, livelihoods, and death did not negate their righteous call to be thankful in all things.
In the light of God’s glory and grace a thankful heart makes sense to the believer. Having been granted eyes to see the gospel of Christ and ears to hear the great truths of Scripture, the saint is granted the ability to see God’s goodness in all the happenings of this life. We see hard things as good because we understand that God is working out all things according to His purpose and for His glory. If this is true, and we have been redeemed to our created purpose of giving Him glory, then we understand that what glorifies Him is necessarily for our good.
A godly and thankful heart must always be one that begins with God’s glory first. To begin at any other point necessarily leads us down a path of discontent, murmuring, and complaining. To begin at any other place in our thinking as it relates to our existence in this world leads us away from an ability to say with the psalmist “O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endures forever.”
There is no doubt that this year has been one fraught with difficulties, trials, and sorrows. But it is during times of difficulty that we must be reminded that thankfulness is to be a supremely evident Christian virtue. And so as we come to the time of year in which we have thankfulness on the mind, let us be a people who take thankfulness seriously and exercise our thankfulness in a way that exalts our Creator and Redeemer.