Giving Thanks

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

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Like me, you probably learned the common courtesy of saying thank you as a child.  If you have children you probably taught them also, and if you have grandchildren, you’re probably teaching them too. In fact, like me, you are probably annoyed when this common courtesy is neglected by children today, and especially adults.

As children, 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 on our receiving something.  It was always exciting to receive toys, gifts, goodies, and other items and rewards just for expressing gratitude. 

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… 

Also, saying, “Thank you” in response to compliments about our appearance or apparel was equally important but not equally grasped as a child. Children must be taught how to be thankful. 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 remembers 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.

But what about adults who never received the training? What happens when there’s a generation of ungrateful children and adults? Ungratefulness, leads to other sins of the heart, i.e., jealousy, envy, covetousness, resentment. 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 tangible items.  Consequently, workplaces, schools, homes and local churches are inundated with spirits of discontentment, murmuring, and complaining, which are the fruits produced by an ungrateful heart.

We’re in the last days that Paul cautioned Timothy (3:1-4) about— people would be ungrateful during (perilous) “stressful and troublesome times.”  He said 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. (FOOTNOTE: 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).

Like toddlers (early childhood), they must be taught/trained; disciplined until they learn the art of thanksgiving.  Experience is the greatest teacher in life.  In order to become skilled in gratefulness (i.e., learn the art of thanksgiving), we must face challenges and circumstances that teach us how to be thankful, i.e., a near death experience, can teach us how to be thankful for life… 

In Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica (5:18) he include in his final instructions: 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 at the hands of their own countrymen, (1 Thessalonians 2:14). In addition, the Jewish and Gentile believers had disagreements related to culturally diverse backgrounds (racism, prejudices, and discrimination).  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 model for 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 TRULY ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN CHRIST JESUS.  We have received an impartation through the Holy Spirit that empowers us to thank God no matter what the circumstances may be because we know that God’s will for us is to live for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12).  Confidence in God’s unconditional love and submission to God’s will are keys to learning how to be thankful in everything.

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.  However, when I do mess up, 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 to give thanks! 

Truth is His unconditional love should be like a restraint.  Secondly, being confident in God’s unconditional love pushes me 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 and 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! 

No doubt, as with me, some of the experiences and circumstances you have faced, and maybe facing now are challenging, to say the least, even dramatizing. 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 you love God?  Are you called according to HIS purpose?  If you answered yes to these questions, then in whatever circumstances you may find yourself there will be something for which you can express thanksgiving 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 to be thankful 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.

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

I’m grateful for each day regardless of the weather, Houston traffic or moody customer service personnel.  I seize the opportunity to express thanks to God first, and to others during the course of my day.  Not only is it a common courtesy; it’s the right thing to do—give thanks everyday even for small gestures!  Practice it; it can make the difference in your attitude toward others who are ungrateful.

Grateful

Happy Thanksgiving!

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3 thoughts on “Giving Thanks

    • Thanks for the comments, Frank! Your essay was a great read. I agree that sometimes our “deserving attitude” can lead us down the wrong path. At this stage in my life I’m most grateful for God’s unconditional love and providential care, not just my family, but for others as well. Happy Thanksgiving, Frank!

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  1. Pingback: Prayer of Thanksgiving « The Prayer Coach

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