Some thoughts on giving thanks

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The Bible contains 77 instances of the phrase “Give thanks” (maybe a bit more or less, depending on which translation one uses) and some of the more well-known verses include;

Psalm 107:1 “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His mercy is everlasting.”

I Chronicles 16:8 “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; Make His deeds known among the peoples.”

Some other verses which contain a similar phrase are;

I Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 4:9: “And when the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever”

But a verse that REALLY stands out to me, even among all these others, is I Thessalonians 5:18, which says “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

Did you catch that?

We’re supposed to give thanks to God in EVERY situation. Even when we’re struggling financially. Even when we’re sick, or someone we love is in pain or even dying. Even when a recent election didn’t go the way we were hoping it would. Even when there are wars and rumors of wars swirling all about us, causing us terrible fear and anxiety.

The late, great Bible teacher Derek Prince, starting almost 40 years ago, began to warn us of this situation. He would often start by quoting II Timothy 3:1-5;

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power; avoid such people as these.”

He would then point out that “ungrateful” was listed right in the middle of that list of things which were prophesied to be part of why the human race was going to be in such big trouble in the season just before the return of Jesus Christ to this earth.

“You cannot be holy and remain ungrateful,” he said in one such message. “Since our God is a consuming fire (see, for example, Hebrews 12:29), He requires that we serve Him with holiness, which is appropriate. We also have to serve Him with gratitude. We must come to Him with thankfulness.”

I think there’s another example of this that comes to us from the story of the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt, which we commemorate every year at Passover. If you remember, in that story, there is a conspicuous mention of the fact that the Children of Israel “grumbled against God” in the wilderness. They even complained about the Mannah He gave them to eat, and told each other how much better off they’d been when they were slaves in Egypt.

We moderns read that and roll our eyes at the shallowness and silliness of those people but are we any better?

Most of the people reading this blog live in Western countries with a standard of living vastly higher than anything that has ever been available to anyone in the entire history of the human race. Even Roman Emporers and the crowned heads of Europe throughout the Middle Ages and the potentates who ruled the various empires which stretched over vast areas of the six inhabitable continents of the globe over the centuries didn’t have the luxuries that almost any middle-class family in Europe, North America, South Africa or Oceana has in their home in 2022.

But we complain because we don’t have the latest iPhone, or we’re bitter because one of our neighbors has a new car this year and we haven’t bought a new car in a long time. Or we’re angry because someone else got a promotion at work that we thought we deserved. Or we’re dejected because our favorite sports team doesn’t look like they’re going to the playoffs this year.

Or whatever. 

There are many things that cause us to be unhappy and/or discontented. There are all kinds of things that we don’t appreciate in our day-to-day lives that are actually really special and worthy of thanking God for. Nothing brings that home better or faster than losing something that we’ve long taken for granted.

A few years ago I woke up one morning with a dull, achy pain in my lower back. I didn’t think much of it, but it never went away. These days I feel that pain almost constantly. It gets worse when the weather changes and it also gets worse if I’m on my feet for a long period of time, but it also gets so bad sometimes in the middle of the night as I’m lying in bed that it wakes me up. Painkillers and anti-pain creams help, but I’ve grown to accept the fact that this pain is likely to be with me for the rest of my life.

If you’re not suffering from chronic pain of this kind, that’s something to give thanks for. it’s something I REALLY wish I’d been more mindful of before this back pain thing started.

If you have a bank account, even if it’s in overdraft, you’re wealthier than 75% of the other people on this planet. If you have someone in your life who loves you and who shares your daily struggles with, that’s something to give thanks for, even if they’re not as physically attractive as they once were or if they sometimes get on your nerves (you probably get on their nerves sometimes too.)

If you live in some kind of permanent structure where it’s warm at night as you sleep and you can sleep without worrying about being attacked by the elements or some other human being who wants to take your money or rape you or otherwise damage you, that’s something to be thankful for. If you don’t believe me, try going out and sleeping under a bridge or next to a dumpster or whatever.

There are SO MANY gifts that God gives us every day. If we fail to give thanks for these things, we are being disobedient to His teachings and we’re also being our own worst enemy. An “attitude of gratitude” is an absolute necessity for mental, emotional, and psychological health. Going around being bitter and ungrateful is a great way to set yourself up for failure.

So, this week when Americans and many others around the world celebrate the secular holiday of Thanksgiving (there doesn’t seem to be much controversy about that, which is odd considering all the controversy there is about other secular holidays, but that’s a topic for another blog) I would urge all my readers to take it seriously.

Remember that we are to be content and give thanks in ALL circumstances. Don’t think about what you don’t have, think about what you DO have, and give thanks to the One who is the source of it all. Don’t just do it because you’re supposed to, do it out of enlightened self-interest.

It might sound a little corny or hackneyed, but it’s absolutely true that giving thanks to God for the gifts He has given you is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

That’s what I’ve got for you this week brothers and sisters. I hope it blessed someone.

Happy Thanksgiving!