By Ed Jordan
When do people most frequently give thanks to God? Is it when their pocketbooks are full, when everything in life is going great, and when it is obvious that all these things come as a blessing from God? Or are people more prone to express gratitude when the well is running dry, they are living from hand to mouth and they are not sure how next month’s groceries will be provided?
Or is it when they have just what they need, with an added surprise bonus here and there? In which of these three scenarios are you most likely to express gratitude to God?
A question related to this, is what are the catalysts in our lives that motivate us to give thanks to God? Is it material things that cause us to break out in appreciative song? Are we only grateful for a new car? Or are we grateful for a car that works? Are we grateful only when we have perfect health, or are we grateful for the absence of serious medical problems? Should things like our medical condition, financial condition, stress level, or family relationships, be the basis for us giving thanks to God?
In other words, is giving thanks and gratitude to God always something related to our own state or condition of ease and blessing? Or are thanksgiving and gratitude supposed to arise from a totally different starting point or focus, and manifest itself regardless of our current circumstances?
Thanksgiving Day is approaching, so perhaps this year we ought to give a little more thought to the whole subject of giving thanks. In our American tradition, Thanksgiving Day is a day set aside to celebrate God and the bounty that He has so freely provided for us.
Bounty is a relative term by the way, and what is bounty to one person may be considered lack by another; and what is lack to one person is considered bounty by another. So giving thanks to God is not so much based upon the amount of blessings received or possessed, but rather it is celebrating the fact of God’s care, provision, and blessings extended to us.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) Paul shares three ongoing attitudes that make up God’s will for each believer’s life: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Implied is the command to give thanks “to God.”
God is connected to all three of these verbs being manifested in our life. God is the source of joy, and the reason for joy. God enables us to pray continually as we dialogue with God throughout each event of every day. And we are to give thanks to God in every _____________. The “blank” can be filled with a variety of words like: “event, circumstance, happening, situation, or scenario.”
Thus the catalyst for giving thanks is our relationship with God, which is made possible by Jesus. We are to give thanks for God’s provision of our physical life, spiritual life, intellectual life, creative life, and relational life. We are to thank God for all that He has bestowed upon us, and continues to supply to us in life.
Give thanks to God for His love, His sacrifice that brought the forgiveness of our sins, the restoration of a relationship with God made possible by this forgiveness, His indwelling Spirit who provides everything needed for life and godliness, as well as for His comfort, companionship, wisdom and guidance. Give thanks to God that He invites us to participate in life with Him, and to be empowered by Him to touch the lives of others.
Remember who wrote this passage. In 2 Corinthians 6:3-10, Paul listed some of the things He went through because of His commitment to Christ.
A paraphrase of situations in which Paul gave thanks to God would include: In times of trouble, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, when imprisoned or attacked by crowds, in every difficult assignment, in sleepless nights, in days of hunger, in good times and great experiences of God’s working, in times of lack and times of plenty, in days of recognition and days of being a non-entity, when people say good things about you, or when they make up lies to destroy you.
Give thanks on days that you feel you will die, and on days in which you have never felt so alive. His last two phrases in verse 10 (NIV) are rather poignant: “As poor, yet making rich; having nothing and yet possessing everything.”
As believers in Jesus we are to give thanks to God no matter what our circumstances, health conditions, financial status, difficulties or pleasantries. May your Thanksgiving celebration be full of joy and gratitude!