November 18, 2022
If you’ve ever sat in church on the Sunday before Thanksgiving there’s a good chance you’ve heard a preacher say something like this: “We shouldn’t just be giving thanks around Thanksgiving time, we should be thanking God all throughout the year.” Does that sound familiar to you?
The truth is, for believers, this is not a controversial statement. Just about all of us would agree giving thanks to God should be a consistent part of our daily lives. However, if we’re being completely honest about it, just about all of us would also have admit we still have plenty of room to grow in this area. It’s not that we never thank God - many of us probably thank Him for things every day. But can any of us honestly say we measure up to the Biblical standard of thanksgiving?
“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
“… giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ …”
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
(Bold print added for emphasis)
Do you give thanks in all circumstances? Are you thanking God always and for everything? Would the people who know you best describe you as someone who is abounding in thanksgiving?
These verses (along with many others, especially throughout the book of Psalms) show us that the Bible takes thanksgiving seriously. However, it’s also important to note that the Bible takes the lack of thankfulness seriously. In both Romans and II Timothy we see that unthankfulness is a characteristic of unrighteous people who are opposed to God (Romans 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:2). So we should never act as if this is a small matter to God.
I’ll admit, I’ve had the tendency to think of myself as a relatively thankful person. However, (like so many other spiritual disciplines) the more I study about thankfulness and thanksgiving in Scripture, the more obvious it becomes to me just how far I fall short. And I don’t think I’m alone in this area. As believers, we need to grow from being people who are sometimes thankful for some of the things in our lives to people who are truly characterized by thanksgiving.
How do we do this? Let me share three ideas I believe will help us move more in that direction.
First, we need to know what the Bible says about giving thanks to God. And as we learn what it says, we should compare it to what we see in our own lives. We need to be honest in doing this. If we struggle with thanksgiving, let’s not pretend as if we don’t. You’re not going to convince God that you are something that you are not, and you’re unlikely to grow in an area where you deny your need for growth. So when you see a lack of thankfulness in your life, confess it to Him, experience His forgiveness, and ask Him for help in this area.
Second, we need to frequently remind ourselves to give thanks to God. Those preachers are right - many of us don’t focus much on giving thanks outside of the month of November - so we need to actively take steps to change this. Committing to thankful prayer at set times of the day, memorizing passages from Psalms, placing reminders around your home and in your vehicle, and starting a thankfulness journal are just a few ideas that could help remind you to give thanks.
Finally, we need to continually reset our focus on the right things. Colossians 3:1-2 says this:
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth."
Many of us are so caught up with all the issues of our day to day lives and all the brokenness of the world around us that we lose sight of the bigger picture. We get bogged down by the “things of this world” rather than thinking about what is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and commendable and excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Instead, we need to continually preach the gospel to ourselves and remember that we have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). If this is our focus, then giving thanks to God will be the natural result.