Give Thanks to the Lord
By: Laura Ackley
Verse of the Week: “Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 100:4-5).
Extended Reading: Psalm 100
There really is always something to be thankful for. We know this. Do we always choose a thankful attitude? Of course not. But, most people are able to rattle off a list of blessings when presented with the challenge. We are commanded to “give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). Even in anxiousness, we are exhorted to expend our energy upon prayer and present our requests to God with thanksgiving in our hearts (Phil 4:6). Our thanksgiving, when focused upon God, magnifies His nature bringing glory to His name while simultaneously helping us to focus on that which is praise-worthy in our lives. Sometimes, our choosing of a thankful attitude is a sacrifice as we expend energy actively waging war upon our negative, self-pitying thoughts and making them obedient to a mindset that is pleasing to Christ in light of the many blessings He has bestowed upon us. God tells us even in the dark nights of our souls to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for [us]” (1 Thess. 5:18). Oh, how I pray that we come to believe that God only wills that which is best for His children; thankfulness is not without reward.
Since thankfulness pleases God, brings health to our hearts, and enhances our lives, it is no wonder that the enemy of our souls seeks to trap us with sinful patterns that steal our thankfulness. Namely, comparison, in its variety of forms, is a destroyer of a thankful heart. In terms of material possessions, the tenth commandment given to Moses for the benefit of God’s people warned against craving that which has not been given to us: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex. 20:17). As we fix our attention on what has been gifted to another, we are blinded to the beauty of our current situation. God gives different measures of possessions to different people for varying, sanctifying reasons. As the author of Hebrew writes, we are to keep our lives “free from the love of money and be content with what [we] have.” The reason why we are able to be content with our worldly situation is because God promises to “never leave or forsake [us]” (Heb. 13:5).
It is because of the steadfastness of our Good Shepherd’s presence with us that we are able to journey through life without wanting because Jesus will provide for our needs. When we feel as though we lack the material possessions we desire, our relationships aren’t up to our standards, or our jobs are proving unfruitful, we are beckoned to fix our eyes upon Jesus who has richly provided time and time again in our lives. Although wives, husbands, livestock, and houses are great things, they are not our ultimate treasure. They are not the source of our thankfulness. Let us continually “take care and be on [our] guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions” (Luke 12:15). On the contrary, Christ is our life. And He has poured out a plethora of gifts of His grace into our lives. A heart set upon the heavenly treasure, Jesus, is a heart that will endure in thankfulness and declare as Paul did in his afflictions “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil 4:12). The secret to contentment—to thankfulness, is the nearness of God (vs. 5), the peace of God (vs. 7), thinking upon things that where are excellent and praiseworthy (vs.8), and the strength of Jesus coursing through our veins (vs. 13).
Another certain hinderance to thankfulness is the comparison of accomplishments. Maybe we desire the honors, business success, or fame of another person. This temptation will even bleed into our ministry opportunities. At times we are tempted to covet another’s spiritual gifts, spiritual accomplishments, wisdom, ministry opportunities, and so on. In this case, we are challenged to remember that all spiritual gifts are distributed according to the will of God for the edification of the body: there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. Each member of the body of Christ is equal in value and importance but different in giftings and callings. Each person’s accomplishments are going to differ, but we know that all success is rooted in God and no one finds success apart from His divine providence. When we waste our lives classifying or comparing ourselves to others, we prove to be without understanding (2 Cor. 10.12). In the spirit of thankfulness, we are beckoned toward a Kingdom mindset. Instead of allowing ourselves to compare ministries, churches, accomplishments, and abilities, we should each seek to live in obedience to Christ in our specific lane. It is in doing the Lord’s work for His sake alone that thankfulness is cultivated.
Our thankful attitude might be distorted by pride—even if we are technically saying the right things, we live or die by our heart-posture. For example— the religious leader, “the Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed (aloud) thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). Is this a true example of thankfulness? He did attribute God with the credit for his superiority to the sinners in his midst. He even thanked God for his high-standing. But with his prayer was God truly pleased? By the Pharisee’s assessment, the religious leader was higher and better than others. We too are often tempted to think highly of ourselves, stealing a truly thankful heart posture. If our thankfulness in the spiritual department is rooted in how amazing we think we are, our thankfulness is misplaced. It is humility that truly fosters thankfulness.
In contrast to the self-righteous Pharisee, a tax collector stood far off and couldn’t even lift up his eyes due to his grief over his sin as he prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13)! About the repentant sinner, Jesus declares that “this man,” not the Pharisee, “went home justified” (Luke 8:14) We become thankful in a God-honoring, life-changing way when we come to terms with our spiritual poverty—the fact that we absolutely need Jesus’ righteousness, saving, and help in every aspect of life. This person is the one that finds true joy in knowing that their names are found written in the book of life. As we walk in obedience to Jesus and find blessings, success, and victory in life, we should say “we are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty” (Luke 17:10) as we recognize that apart from Christ, we are unworthy and unable to build His kingdom, but with Him—we are partnered with Christ for beautiful, miraculous work for the Kingdom of Heaven. To recognize that we are loved and used by the Creator of the universe who has need of nothing will produce an abundance of gratitude. It is a blessed thing to be a part of God’s business.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, as we gather with family and friends, we must remember that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jam. 1:17). Our attitudes of thanksgiving are not rooted in our circumstances, material goods, relationships, accomplishments. No, they are based upon something, Someone, eternal, infinite, and constant. Because of Jesus, we have gifts from God that can never be taken away or destroyed. In Him there is salvation, life everlasting, communion with God, and His help at all times. Is your heart heavy-burdened and filled with despair? Jesus says, “come.” Let your heart be filled with thanksgiving as you come to Jesus.