The Life of Thanksgiving

everything_give_thanks_wall_decal_singleThanksgiving is a huge part of the Christian life. The Old Testament and the New Testament are so full of thanks given to God that to ignore it would be to ignore massive portions of the Bible (not too mention a direct teaching from the Bible). One might argue well that thanksgiving defines the Christian life so that the apostle Paul writes:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17, ESV)

To show how intricate thanksgiving is to the Christian life, our Lord gives thanks on the night when He was betrayed when He broke the bread and when He gave the cup of the new testament in His blood: “When He had given thanks…” When He fed the five and four thousands He gave thanks to His Father in heaven and so blessed the bread and fish which He multiplied and satisfied the hunger of so many. Giving thanks is part and parcel of our Lord blessing others, blessing His disciples, and blessing creation. So we, when we are gathered at the Lord’s gathering, His divine service to us, bless the Lord by giving thanks to Him: “P/ Let us bless the Lord. R/ Thanks be to God.”

The sum of the Christian life is one of thanksgiving to God for all things, especially for sending His only-begotten Son into the flesh that He would redeem us from sin, death, and the power of the devil; that He would give us eternal life and that we should be called the children of God, and so we are, adopted by grace and held steadfast by His eternal Spirit. Truly this is worthy of thanksgiving!

But so, too, is our daily bread well worthy of thanksgiving. So too are our spouses, children, jobs, homes, cars, and so forth, well worthy of thanksgiving. As the apostle teachings, give thanks in all things. Everything is a gift of your heavenly Father. Now someone might object a bit and ask whether or not adversaries and adversities are gifts of our heavenly Father. Yes, they are. They are gifts because the Lord teaches (disciplines) those He loves (Hebrews 12:6-11; Revelation 3:19). Moreover, what are these adversities but opportunities to defy the devil and give glory to God? To do as our Lord did in the dessert of temptation and rely not on what we see or feel (our Lord saw stones and felt hunger), but to rely on the word of the Lord, which is the blessing of our Father in heaven and by which we know His promises and comfort.

We should remember that despite the worldly teaching that sometimes it’s hard to give thanks, it’s actually easy to give thanks, for the yoke of Christ is easy and His burden is light, and He, before any of us, gives thanks to His heavenly Father. So the apostle again teaches that we give thanks in Christ Jesus. It is easy to give thanks when the Spirit reminds us that our heavenly Father cares for us and that all things are a gift from Him to us, something our Lord teaches when He says that, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” All things belong to Christ for from Him and through Him and for Him are all things (Colossians 1:16), so we give thanks for and in all things.

I cannot know the circumstances of your life, except that I share this flesh and live in this broken world with you. I know temptation and I know loss. I know suffering and I know joy. As do you, as do we all. So I also know that whatever your precise circumstances are there is thanksgiving to give and there is rejoicing to have. Even when we suffer the evils of betrayal, when those we love have left the faith and abandon Christ, still we give thanks. Not that they have apostatized, but that we have been shown mercy and they, even in such circumstances, are still cared for by their heavenly Father who feeds them and clothes them and gives them all they need to support this body and life. We might even given thanks for their unbelief so that the glory of God might be shown for He has consigned all to disobedience that He might have mercy on all (cf. Romans 11:31-32).

A final word: thanksgiving does not equal happiness or constant happiness. Happiness is an emotion that comes and goes. Thanksgiving is a state of being that finds contentment in whatever comes our way. So the apostle teaches that, “There is great gain in godliness in contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6; see also, 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 4:11). We don’t need to walk around being happy all the time. Jesus wasn’t always happy. Sometimes He was angry, sometimes sad, sometimes frustrated. But always thankful. Meditate on this; consider your ways in relation to the faith God gives and the promises He fulfills in Christ Jesus and consider if thanksgiving isn’t a fruit of faith, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit which is the streams of living water that flows from the hearts of the faithful (cf. John 7:38).

Who know but that your giving thanks for all things, even the so-called evils of this world, will not lead others, your unbelieving husbands and wives, sons and daughters, and friends, to consider their lack of thanksgiving; that in giving thanks you will draw them closer to God so that they will begin to give thanks, and so begin to go from darkness to light. By giving thanks your light shines before others that they would see your good works (thanksgiving) and will give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Then we might pray all the more fervently our Lord’s words that to the one who has more will be given so that they might grow in thanksgiving, one day giving thanks to God with you for the salvation won by Christ for all men, rejoicing in the Lord and giving thanks to God with a pure heart (Matthew 5:8; cf. 1 Peter 1:22).

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