The Art of Thanksgiving

Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].

I Thessalonians 5:18 AMP

I learned the common courtesy of saying thank you during early childhood, and I continued that training with my children.  No doubt, many of you reading this article received the same training. If you have children and/or grandchildren, it’s  probably traditional teaching within your family as well.  In fact, like me, you are probably annoyed when this common courtesy is neglected by children today, and especially adults.

It may have taken some of us awhile to develop the habit. And some may have learned quickly in fear of the consequences if they showed signs of ungratefulness or forgetfulness. 

 However, the circumstances surrounding our expression of thanks as children usually centered around our receiving something—gifts, compliments, etc.  It was always exciting to receive toys, gifts, goodies, and other items.  Oh, remember the birthday presents, and the Christmas gifts? I vividly recall the exchange of gifts at Christmastime. The room reverberated with excitement as the rippling and crumpling of wrapping paper mixed with unrehearsed but harmonizing expressions of gratitude sent exhilaration off the chart. The atmosphere reeked with gratitude because everyone had received the gifts they desired. Our hearts were overjoyed and giving thanks was easy, to say the least. 

 Saying thank you after receiving compliments about our appearance or apparel was equally important but not equally grasped; not then or now. Occasionally, while in the market I hear the same training technique used years ago especially among African Americans. If the child does not respond immediately after a compliment, the mother mediates by asking the child, “What do you say?”  She may have to ask the question again before the child remembered what to say, but not really knowing why he should say it because he’s accustomed to saying thank you only when he receives something tangible.

 Unfortunately for many people, especially Christians, this is a roadblock to having abundant life in Jesus Christ because they never grasped the importance of developing an attitude of gratitude. They are still immature when it comes to giving thanks. They can only associate being thankful with receiving tangibles items.  Consequently, workplaces, schools, homes and local churches are inundated with spirits of discontentment, and murmuring, which results from an ungrateful heart.

 Paul admonished Timothy (3:1-4) that people would be ungrateful during the stressful and troublesome (perilous) times.  Of course the reason for this behavior, along with other ungodly characteristics, is their denial and rejection of the power available to them through faith in Jesus Christ.  Moreover, when someone denies the need for change and the power to change, or rejects the One who can bring change, there will be no change. This explains how people can attend bible study weekly, hear the word of God each Sunday, and not grow spiritually—no change in their character, conduct or conversations.

There is hope!  Like the little children they are mentally, they must be trained until they learn the art of thanksgiving.  Experience is the greatest teacher in life.  In order to learn the art of thanksgiving, we must face challenges and circumstances that teach us how to be thankful. 

In Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica ( 5:18) he instructs them to thank God in everything, no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus, the Revealer and Mediator of that will. Now, here’s the scoop.  The Christians at Thessalonica faced some difficult times of persecution. In addition, the Jewish and Gentile believers had disagreements related to culturally diverse backgrounds.  However, they had demonstrated works of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Overall, they exemplified courageous behavior, and Paul commended them.  During Paul’s brief time with them, they quickly comprehended and received his teaching. They became a pattern to all the believers through Paul’s spiritual impartation (I Thessalonians 1:7). 

So, when he says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” that power (ability) had already been imparted into them.  So it is with all who are IN Christ Jesus.  We have received an impartation through the Holy Spirit that empowers us to thank God, and we are assured of His faithfulness regardless of the circumstances knowing that God’s will for us is to live for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12).  Hence, we learn the principle for powerful living—the key to learning the art of being thankful in everything is confidence in the assurance of God’s unconditional love and submission to God’s will. 

Personally, it’s something about knowing that God loves me no matter how I mess up or how many times I mess up. Although confidence in His unconditional love should not be justification for messing up continuously, when I do, there’s peace in knowing I can repent, ask for His forgiveness and continue without fearing His rejection of me. That in itself is reason for thankfulness.  Truth is, it is His unconditional love that restrains me. Secondly, being confident in God’s unconditional love pushes me further and further into submission of His will.  If I’m certain of his unconditional love, then submission to His will for my life comes easier. Knowing that God always work out all things in my life for my best interest and His purpose empowers me to trust Him totally with my life. Having ultimate trust in His omnipotence and omniscience I surrender  my will (my life) into His loving care.  After all, He knows everything about me, and  has a purposeful plan for my life designed to give Him glory.  Do you think God wants to shame Himself?  I don’t think so!  Oh sure! Some of the  experiences and circumstances I’ve faced were challenging, even traumatic. Yet, Romans 8:28 declares that, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  Do I love God? Yes. Am I called according to His purpose? Yes. What about you? Do you love God? Are you the called according to His purpose? If yes, then in whatever circumstances you may find yourself there will be something for which you can express thankfulness to God. 

In life, I have observed that out of tragedy comes triumph and purpose. Out of despair hope is restored, and from hurt healing comes.  So often, the courses in  life are changed when we can look for something (no matter how small) and give thanks to God. 

Learning the art of thanksgiving comes through experiences and circumstances that force us to place our confidence in the unconditional love of our heavenly Father, and trust the Sovereignty of our Creator, the eternal God Almighty.

I am convinced that if I had not been taught the valuable lesson of thanksgiving in early childhood, I would be weighed down with a heart of stone engraved with “ungrateful”, which would be evident by my attitude and actions.

           Happy Thanksgiving!

Queen E. F. Phillips

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