Probably this coming Thursday many will sit around a table of abundance with family and friends and will give thanks for God’s gracious provisions. Thankfulness is a marked characteristic of those with a Christian foundation and a biblical worldview. An atheist or agnostic may have feelings of gratitude, but whom does he thank? We read in James’ epistle: “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (Jas. 1:17). As believers we need to acknowledge that continually, so need to have an attitude of gratitude to the Giver of all good things.
In his letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul gave a list of our duties as Christians such as esteeming those who minister to us spiritually, encouraging those who are troubled, not seeking revenge, always rejoicing, always being in communication with God AND, “In Everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thes. 5:14-18). Not everything that takes place in our lives is something for which we are thankful, but, because God is sovereign and has a purpose for everything that comes our way to help conform us to the image of Christ (Ro. 8:29), we can “KNOW that God causes ALL things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Ro. 8:28). Therefore we can “IN everything give thanks” (I Thes. 5:18).
The Apostle Paul set a great example for us. He was sitting in a damp, dark dungeon in Rome awaiting execution for his faith. But, as with his previous imprisonments, his faith was not shaken and he continued to praise God and give thanks. Paul undoubtedly had time to reflect on his lifetime of memories from his years of ministry since his conversion on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians. He begins his final letter to his understudy, Timothy, with a word of gratitude: “…to Timothy, my beloved son, grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, …as I constantly remember you in my prayers, night and day, longing to see you…” ( II Tim. 1:2-4). The phrase “I thank God” in Greek literally means, “I am having gratitude to God.” Gratitude was Paul’s mindset, as we also see in (I Thes. 5:18).
It is interesting to observe that as a society falls away from following the Lord Jesus Christ, they also become less grateful. So, a lack of thankfulness is a symptom of spiritual decline, in a society and in an individual. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul speaks of those who suppress the truth about God (Ro. 1:18-20). They no longer “honor Him as God or give thanks” (v. 21). When we individually or as a nation lose sight of who God is and what He means to us and what He does for us, we lose our attitude of gratitude. We become critical, divisive, and immoral. We enter a downward spiral of depravity. When you look at the conditions in our nation today, it is pretty clear where we are. Read Ro. 1:18-32 and you see a very detailed description of our society. It all began with suppressing the truth about God as evidenced in His creation and conscience and soon we become ungrateful and our “foolish heart is darkened and professing to be wise, we become fools.”
The only solution is to repent and to return to God, to worship Him and Him alone, acknowledging that He is good and that He is the Giver of all good gifts. We need to “Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psa. 100:3-5).