For the born-again believer, Thanksgiving should be much more than just a date on the calendar and an annual acknowledgement of God’s goodness. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., said, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is well nigh hopeless.” Charles Spurgeon would agree with Dr. Bob for he wrote: “Absence of gratitude is a sure token of an unrenewed heart.”
The Scriptures have much to say regarding thanks giving. I Thessalonians 1:18: “In EVERYTHING give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” What about “everything” do we not understand? I have identified three things that encompass the “everything” for which we should give continual thanks:
Thanks for what he gives that we ask for – answered prayer.
Thanks for what he withholds for our good and his glory.
Thanks for what he gives that we did not ask – learning to live thanks by raising our conscious awareness of God’s gifts.
What is the first or most important prayer God answered for you? I hope you said, “The sinner’s prayer for salvation.” Considering the price Jesus paid to ransom our hell-bound souls, should we not offer continual praise and thanksgiving for his “unspeakable gift?” (II Corinthians 9:15) Might it be possible to learn how to live our thanks? We who are so naturally ungrateful, could we learn how to live in a state of constant gratitude? The Apostle Paul makes the case in Philippians 4:11-12 when he wrote “For I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” The implication is that we can change from ingratitude to gratitude. We start by thanking God for answered prayer.
As we grow in our gratitude lifestyle, we then learn to thank God for what he withholds. Do not the Scriptures declare “no good thing will he withhold….?” (Psalm 84:11) We turn again to Paul in II Corinthians 12:7-10 who prayed three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed. What victory Paul experienced once he understood the purpose for the thorn was “that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” For me, God has chosen not to heal my cancer. But he has enabled me to thank him for the cancer and to experience him in ways I never would have except for this physical trial. The Lord has also seen fit to withhold remarriage from me. About two years after my husband died, I went through a time of great loneliness and desire for companionship. There were relationships, but they never developed. God taught me that he could use me much more effectively by being single. I have great freedom and flexibility that would not be mine otherwise. (Besides, it takes an awfully good man to beat none!) My heart is settled in the Lord and his plan for my life. I truly thank him for what he is withholding from me.
Where the greatest growth in gratitude and thankfulness occurs is in thanking God for what he gives that we did not ask. There is so much he gives that we just assume and take for granted. Seeing those gifts requires a heightened awareness of every good and perfect gift that has come and continues to come our way from a God who “daily loadeth us with benefits.” (Psalm 68:19) We achieve this by enumerating – listing – everything we recognize as God’s tokens of love to us. Psychologists say people who take the time daily to list at least five things for which they are thankful are 25% happier than most. My heart was opened to the idea of enumerating God’s gifts by Ann Voskamp in her book, “One Thousand Gifts.” Ann was challenged to make a list of 1,000 gifts from God. She carried a notebook with her everywhere she went as a reminder to be alert to even the smallest detail and see God in it. The miracle of that exercise was that she realized when she reached 1,000 gifts she had not even scratched the surface of God’s goodness and bounty of love towards her. But the intentionality of listing God’s gifts kept her in a constant state of awareness of the inexhaustible love God has for her. It is in this heightened awareness of God’s blessings and gifts to us that we are able to move from mere thanks giving to thanks living! When our first breath in the morning and our last thought at night is praise and thanks to God, when we thank him upon each recognition of his goodness and are aware of his presence with us each step we take during the day, then we can experience the ecstasy of thanks living!
May God challenge us to be truly aware of him. The Lord be praised!