“What are you thankful for?” This time of year, people often ask this question. I really love Thanksgiving because of this question. It gives me a chance to pause and reflect on how God has blessed me. Not to brag, but I have an amazing life. I have a wife who loves me, a daughter who is kind, and a church family that prays for me. I also have a good relationship with my parents (and in-laws) and siblings. God is providing financially for my family as well. I have plenty of food and clothes. I truly am blessed. But this can also hinder my ability to give thanks. Whenever I think, “Wow, look at what I’ve done,” God reminds me of His holiness and sovereignty. All that I have, all that I am, and all that I will be, is entirely because of God’s grace in my life. That is something to be thankful for.
During the month of November, you often see on social media the “30 days of Thanksgiving.” This is an abbreviated version. Scripture outlies eight things we are to be thankful for. Please share in the comments some practical ways you have shown thankfulness for these things.
First, we are to be thankful for all things. Ephesians 5:20 says “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is easy to thank God for the good stuff: family, friends, Nebraska finally winning a football game. It is harder to thank God for the bad stuff: a financial reversal, the death of a close friend, an estranged son or daughter, or the distance between spouses. How can we find good in any of those situations? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps we are having financial struggles to help us depend more on God. Perhaps a close friend dies because through their memorial, many will come to know Christ as their Savior. Perhaps our son our daughter is estranged because God is helping their faith become their own or waiting for us to repent of our sin. Perhaps there is distance between spouses because God is not at the center of the marriage and needs to be. I have no clue, but we are to be thankful. This is the hardest one of these “things” to discuss. Thank you God for all things.
Second, we are to be thankful for all people. 1 Timothy 2:1 says “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people…” Yes, even those people you don’t like. Especially those people you don’t like. Verse 2 adds “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quite lives in all godliness and holiness.” Wait a second, what if I disagree with that leader? Yes, be thankful for them. Not only that, but we are to petition God on their behalf! Yes, you need to pray for all people, and be thankful for them. In 2016, we are going to elect a new President of the United States. Why not pray and be thankful for the new President (the current President could use some prayer as well!) even today? And not just because the new President is replacing the old… You could also be thankful for that neighbor who annoys you. Be thankful for all people.
Third, we are to be thankful for God. Revelation 7:12 is a picture of the coming kingdom where we see heaven worshiping God by saying “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Why not get started today and express thanksgiving to God? Not just for what He has blessed you with, but for who He is. Some of the most enriching times in my prayer life is when I focus on His attributes: Holiness, independence, unchangeableness, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, wise, faithful, good, loving, merciful, peaceful, righteous, omnipotent, perfect, glorious, and beautiful. And this isn’t even the complete list! Thank you God!
Fourth, we are to be thankful for believers. 1 Thessalonians 3:9 says “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?” Paul was writing to the believers in Thessalonica. We should be thankful for other believers as well. Your faith family is there to love, support, and encourage you. When was the last time you said thank you to the person you sit next to on Sunday? Not thank you for something they did for you, but thank you for who they are as a brother or sister in Christ? A fun activity is to look at all 31 of the “one another” commands in Scripture and write a thank you note to someone in your church for each one. Give thanks!
Fifth, we are to be thankful for all God has created for us. 1 Timothy 3:4 says “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” In Colorado, it is easy to see the beauty of God’s creation all around. Every time I look at Pike’s Peak, I see the beauty and majesty of the creator God. When I see a big plate of sushi or a perfectly cooked pizza, I’m reminded of how much God loves me. When I see my daughter hug my wife, or overhear them talking, I am reminded of how much God has blessed me, and I am thankful. I have more difficulty being thankful for God’s creation when I see a spider or a snake. God has created this world for us to explore and enjoy as faithful stewards. So often we forget the stewardship aspect. Part of being a steward is recognizing whose property it is. This all belongs to God and one day we will give an account for our stewardship. Being thankful today for what God has created will remind us of our responsibility. Be thankful for all God has created for us.
Sixth, we are to be thankful for victory over death. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have victory over death because Christ defeated death on the cross. In 2 Timothy 1, we see that Christ has “destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” This victory is ours if we believe in what Christ has done. Be thankful for Christ’s victory over death.
Seventh, we are to be thankful for victory in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” This is very similar to the previous item. In Christ, we have victory over death, and victory over sin. Sin is what holds us captive before faith in Christ sets us free. What sin has Christ given you victory over that you need to be thankful for? What sin do you have victory over but have failed to grasp that victory? Give thanks!
Finally, we are to be thankful for God’s indescribable gift of His son. 2 Corinthians 9:15 says “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” That indescribable gift is Jesus. John 3:16-18 describes the giving of this gift and the consequence of not opening the gift: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Words can’t begin to explain all the ways God blessed us by sending Jesus. Thank you God for Jesus!
The song, “Give Thanks” is an appropriate close to this blog. May this be our heart’s cry this year. “Give thanks with a grateful heart/Give thanks to the Holy One/Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son/And now let the weak say, ‘I am strong’/Let the poor say, ‘I am rich’/Because of what the Lord has done for us.”
This blog contains material from Motivating with Scripture by John Regier. Used with permission. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.