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Give Thanks!

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Give-Thanks


"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Rampant thanksgiving is one of the surest marks of spiritual health, and one of the distinguishing marks of a Christian. As our text says, this is the will of God for the Christian. The shape of the Christian life is that of thanksgiving. The Christian life is a life abounding in thanksgiving (Colossians 2:7). Now, while it is true that people outside the faith can give thanks to one another and can even express a general thankfulness to some nebulous idea of God, the fact remains that robust and lush thankfulness is the province of the Redeemed. In fact, Paul describes a lack of true thanksgiving as the root of our world's problems. In Romans 1, the gnarly list of sins begins with this very thing. "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him" (Romans 1:21). That is what is wrong with the world – we do not give thanks to God. And so this is an area that every Christian should shine in. In a world of entitlement, in a world rife with the victim mindset, in a world devoid of thanks, we should shine as the most thankful of all people.

This is what is so characteristic of the Apostle Paul. Everywhere and always, he is thanking God. He was responsible for many church plants, and many of them had problems. Sometimes big problems. And yet how does he begin his letters? "I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers" (Ephesians 1:16). "I thank my God in all my rememberance of you" (Philippians 1:3). We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you" (Colossians 1:3). "We give thanks to God always for all of you" (1 Thessalonians 1:2). Even to the notoriously troubled Corinthians he begins, "I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 1:4).

This is where I think we should all do some soul-searching. When you think of your brothers and sisters at church, are you quick to criticize and complain about their deficiencies? Or, do you always give thanks for them? As a pastor I hear a lot of things from the people of God. But to be candid, I hear complaints and criticism far more than I hear thanksgiving. And that is unfortunate. But it is not just with regards to church. How's work? How's your marriage? How's raising those kids? How's your day? How's your week? If I just took the average of the answers I hear to those questions, I would have to conclude that we are not batting over .500 on the thanksgiving test.

The failure to give thanks in all circumstances is no small matter. Here in 1 Thessalonians we are commanded to give thanks. This is not optional Christianity. This is what the Redeemed are to look like. This is not just for those with sunny dispositions and optimistic outlooks. No, give thanks always, in everything, in all circumstances, all of you. "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 3:17).

So, again I ask: Is your life characterized by thanksgiving? Would your spouse describe you as thankful? Would your kids? Would your brothers and sisters at church? Or, are you a complainer? A grumbler? A critic? A gossip? A curmudgeon? And I'll tell you one thing – the church doesn't need any more of those. We are most certainly not hiring in any of those departments. Please find employment elsewhere. Or better yet, re-train. Leave that career behind and join the ranks of the thankful. You see, none of us are perfect in these things. We have to fight for thankfulness, but we will easily drift into complaining and grumbling. Which is exactly why Paul commands the church to give thanks. They need to be exhorted because it is a battle. It isn't easy.

So my encouragement to you is this – fight the good fight of thanksgiving. For every complaint that rises in your soul, replace it with something that you are thankful for. And verbalize it. You are disappointed about something at work? Okay, fine. Now tell me what you are thankful to God for with your work. You are finding your situation frustrating? Well don't be angry. And yes, frustration is anger. It is simply anger on a slow boil. Whenever we are frustrated with people, tasks, situations, what we are ultimately failing to do is give thanks to God. And in a way we are frustrated and angry at God. For He is the Sovereign One over your life. He gave you your currently-frustrating spouse, or traffic situation, or task. Will you receive all things as a gift from His hand and give thanks? Or will you complain and grumble? We know what the right answer is – but will you commit yourself to doing it.

O that the people of God would excel in thanksgiving. O that we would be full of thanksgiving toward one another, for one another, towards our God, and in each and every circumstance, even the trials. We of all people should always have reason to rejoice and give thanks. There are always more blessings to count than there are frustrations to vent. And if we can't call them all to mind, at least we can call to mind the highest and greatest blessing of all: the gospel. We once were lost but now we are found. We once were blind but now we see. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, destined for a Christ-less eternity, and then all of a sudden, we weren't. Everything has changed. We have received grace upon grace flowing to us from Calvary. We are forgiven, justified, declared righteous, destined for heaven, and re-united with our Creator and Redeemer, forever. And you were complaining about what again? Let us give thanks in all circumstances; for this truly is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us, His redeemed.

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Wednesday, 24 April 2024