“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is THE WILL OF GOD for you in Christ Jesus.”
1st Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Thank you”. It's one of the first things we are taught to say. Not only one of the first but one of the most repeated lessons we must learn from our parents/guardians. As infants, we were not only unable to say it, but probably beyond our capacity to understand what thankfulness really is. After all, weren't we “entitled” to food, shelter, and clothing? Children must be reminded to express gratitude because it isn't natural to them. As cute and adorable as they are, they are also self-centered and sin naturally.
Are adults really any better though?
We rarely think of gratefulness as a spiritual discipline (if you think about how hard it is to be grateful at times, you'll agree that discipline is the right word!). But a life of thankfulness towards God is embedded in all of the Holy Scriptures. Whether it is the sacrifices of Abraham (Gen. 12:7, Gen. 14:18-20), the psalms of David (Psalm136), Jesus thanking God before breaking bread (Matt. 14:19) or the letters of Paul (like Thessalonians)- giving thanks to God is the natural expression of the God-centered life. When we forget to thank God, it's usually because we are too focused on self.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men... for although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God NOR GAVE THANKS to Him...”
-Romans 1:18-25 (read for context)
Yes, when God's wrath is poured out on humanity, it is in part because of their lack of gratitude towards Him. We often forget to thank Him because He's been so faithful that we come to expect good from His hands because of how good he's been over the years. That speaks to His love for us, but also, our human tendency to prioritize self over God.
Giving thanks for ALL circumstances seems difficult to imagine. But this IS the will of God for those who are in Christ. Think of Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament from a prison cell. He was even thankful for his imprisonment. Why? Because it reminded him that although he was locked up, the gospel was still unchained ( 2nd Timothy 2:8-10). The church could continue without him so he gave glory to God by encouraging the next generation of leaders like Timothy.
"I thank God this Thanksgiving Day for clarity", said Pastor Henry Gaston during our TNMBC Thanksgiving Day service. I thank God for clarity too. He has revealed His will with total simplicity so that we are not stumbling in the darkness. The will of God for you and I on this and EVERY day is to give Him thanks.