Thanksgiving (not the holiday)
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Few things are more important than thanksgiving in the life of a believer, not the holiday, but an attitude of thankfulness.
Nothing will go further in refreshing our spirits and renewing our hearts than giving thanks.
At the conclusion of his letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul says,
...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV)
“Give thanks in all circumstances” is also translated “In everything give thanks.” This command is strengthened by the phrase that follows, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Let’s consider a few other places where the Apostle Paul includes thanksgiving in his writings.
...giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20 ESV)
...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6 ESV)
And 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)
In Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, when he is giving instructions on how to live the Christian life, Paul says, “Give thanks.” And in the passage above from Colossians, he says three times in three verses, “Give thanks.” Give thanks. Give thanks. Give thanks.
Few things are more important than thanksgiving or thankfulness in the life of a believer. If we are going to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, thanksgiving must be a part of our daily lives. We must give thanks in every circumstance - from moment to moment. I am going to give you two solid reasons for giving thanks.
First, let’s refer back to 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Which says:
... give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV)
The reason for giving thanks according to this verse is:
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
The will of God for us is good. Romans 12:2 calls it “good and acceptable and perfect.” Psalm 34:8 challenges us, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!”
If the fact that it is God’s will and He commands it is not enough to convince us to give thanks, there is another strong reason for giving thanks.
Let’s start our look at this second reason with a look at Romans 1:21. Romans 1:21 says:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21 ESV
When this verse talks about those who knew God, it is talking about all humanity. We can refer back to the Tower of Babel when humanity was united and felt confident that they could do anything. We can reference the modern age where humanity is confident that we can do anything. In either case, not honoring God as God or giving thanks to Him leads to futile thinking.
As an example of futile thinking, I want to quote for you a passage from Isaiah.
To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move. (Isaiah 40:18-20 ESV)
They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, "Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?" He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" (Isaiah 44:18-20 ESV)
Some nations still have idols made of wood and stone, and some people consider themselves above such nonsense. However, according to Romans 1, modern secular people have progressed two steps further into futility than idols. According to Romans 1 the steps of futility are:
- Idols (Romans 1:21-23)
- Serving lust or desires (Romans 1:24-25)
- Perverted passions (Romans 1:26-27)
We are well into perverted passions. We have lost our moorings and do not know what or who we are. And it all started with not honoring God as God and giving thanks.
All that is good comes from God. James 1:17 reminds us that every good and every perfect gift comes from God. God is the source of life. He is the source of light. He is the source of truth and goodness and justice. When we forget these facts, we turn to futility and foolishness.
The command of God and our need are two strong reasons to practice thanksgiving.
What we have not talked about yet are the benefits. This is a series about refreshing, renewing and revitalizing our lives. Thanksgiving is vital to our spiritual life. Thanksgiving is a crucial part of our joy and it is foundational to our praise.
We have already talked about peace. Philippians 4:6-7 makes it clear that thanksgiving is a vital part of our peace. Without acknowledging God with gratitude, we cannot enjoy peace.
The word in Philippians 4:6 that is used for “thanksgiving” is “εὐχαριστίας” (eucharistias). This compound word is made by combining “eu”, which means “good”, with “charis”, which means “grace”. In other words, thanksgiving is recognizing or remembering God’s good grace.
We have an example of thanksgiving in the New Testament that shows how we ought to give thanks and also how rare it is for us to give thanks. The account is found in Luke 17.
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:11-19 ESV)
How is it that only one of the ten came back to give thanks?
As scandalous as this is, it is the norm. How many of us give thanks daily for the great salvation we enjoy - the forgiveness of our sins, our adoption as God’s children, our inheritance as saints?
How many of us give thanks daily for the mercies of God which are new every morning?
Have you ever wondered how we are to praise God? What does it mean to praise God?
Notice how the Samaritan leper praised God by thanking Him for what He had done.
Praising God is more than repeating the words “praise God, praise God, praise God.” This is not wrong nor would I stop doing it, but it can become meaningless repetition if it is not connected to a heart of thanksgiving.
We praise God by telling what He has done. We praise God by thanking Him for what He has done.
Psalm 100 is a Psalm of praise to God. In verse 4, it says,
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalms 100:4 ESV)
This Psalm, along with others, ties thanksgiving and praise together. We praise God by proclaiming what He has done.
Consider also what Hebrews 13 instructs us to do:
Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:13-15 ESV)
In this passage, our sacrifice of praise is explained as the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. This is the key to our happiness, joy and fullness in the Lord. Notice also, it is the key to our joy in spite of suffering. These verses are talking about bearing the reproach that Jesus bore.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to give thanks in all circumstances. This would include suffering. Another passage that points to how we can find joy in suffering is Romans 5.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)
Thanksgiving comes from a heart that acknowledges what God has done. Thanksgiving is the foundation of our praise. When God gave the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 ESV), He attached to this command a recognition of what He had done. He prefaced this command with:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Exodus 20:2 ESV)
Do you want to have faith?
Do you want to have joy?
Do you want the peace of God to rule in your heart?
Then you must have a thankful heart. Faith, joy and peace all start with thanksgiving. These things grow with acknowledging the work of God in our lives. Telling others the wonderful things God has done for us requires that we first have hearts full of gratitude for what He has done. If we lack thanksgiving, we will lack fruit in our lives.
Thanksgiving is so crucial that I will go as far as to say we cannot enjoy real peace, real rest or enter into the fullness of Sabbath without thanksgiving.
We must do as the song writer said and name our blessings one by one, and they are many.