Points Covered: Reason for thanklessness, seven things that corrupt our thanksgiving, Biblical examples of thanksgiving, why should we give thanks to God for?
1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
That means in connection with everything that occurs in life give thanks. No matter what circumstances, no matter what struggle, vicissitude, trial, or testing, be thankful. No matter what the situation we are to find reason to thank God.
The overarching principle that sets thanksgiving in its place is: Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. That’s really the umbrella that covers every issue of life. No matter what happens, it will be by God working together for my good.
I can be thankful for the pain that I go through in a surgery because I know that that there’s healing coming out of it. I can be thankful for the trouble that I might go through because I know in the end I’m going to be happy. When we see the end result of what God is doing, blending everything in our lives for ultimate good and glory, then we can in everything give thanks. But isn’t it interesting how we somehow fail to be thankful.
Thanksgiving is the essence of Christian living and being unthankful is the very essence of the unregenerate heart. The apostle Paul, in Romans identifies the ungodly as non-thankful people. Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. “They knew God,” that is through conscience and creation, God was visibly manifest to them. But even though they knew God through creation and conscience, he says, “They did not glorify Him or give thanks.”
A non-Christian may say parrot phrases like “Thank God for that,” or as some religious prayer of thanks to a God he does not know, but such does not qualify as true thanks. It is only the believers who know God and that he is in control over things can really thank God.
I. Reason for thanklessness.
They contribute their success and life to:
They are the people who go through life thinking that things happen as a result of luck. For them life is a course of events over which none has control. It just happens to happen that way. They say who is to thank? You can’t thank luck. What little good may come to them they attribute to luck. And if it doesn’t happen the way they want it be, they become bitter, complaining, angry, hostile, and life takes on a sour dour kind of meaning.
2. External force.
Some think there is some force out there that controls things, maybe by the stars or some force. Who’s to thank for whatever good in that case? There’s no one to thank. It’s a nameless force that has no personhood and so there’s no one to thank for anything, good or bad.
Some believe they can control their life. They’re the positive thinkers. They’re the usually successful people and attribute it to their own skill. Everything good that happens to them because they’ve done it, they’ve arranged it, they’ve orchestrated it, they’ve made it happen, they dreamed it, planned it, pulled it off. And all the credit goes to them, none for God. After all, what did God have to do with anything?
Now, usually you find the above kind of character in the unsaved but it is so sad such thoughts come into believers. When a person becomes a Christian, it becomes a character of a believer to thank God for everything. All of a sudden there is a new heart and a new soul, and built into that newness is a heart of thanksgiving that cries out in gratitude to God. Thanksgiving becomes a part of the fabric of our new life.
But isn’t it interesting how even Christians can become unthankful? For an unregenerate person to be unthankful is normal. For a Christian to be unthankful is abnormal.
So what are the things that corrupt those inner springs of thanksgiving? I’m going to give you a list, seven things that’ll corrupt the spring of your innermost heart and hinder joy, prayer, and thanks.
II. Seven Things that corrupt our thanksgiving.
If you doubt God you can never give thanks. If you doubt God’s truthfulness, God’s character, God’s sovereign power, God’s wisdom, God’s timing you’re going to have trouble being thankful.
Selfishness poisons the springs of gratitude. This is the attitude that says, “Look, I don’t want the way God wants. I want it the way I want. God, get off the throne and put me on it. I want to be in charge, I want to run my life.” I want my life this way. I want my job this way. I want my spouse this way. I want my kids this way. I want my career this way. I want, I want, I want, I want. And if God doesn’t come in and fit the picture perfectly, then self-will begins to run over the plan of God and a thankless spirit is the result.
Someone whose vision is filled with pleasure, prominence, popularity, prestige, people, places, possessions, pursuits cannot thank God. It is somebody whose vision is all filled up with the trivia of the world, the stuff that is passing away. They’re so consumed with all that stuff that if they do not get all they want, they’re not going to be thankful. If your vision is the material world, that causes you to be thankless and ungrateful. The more you have the more you want.
4. A critical spirit.
A person who is bitter, a person who is negative, who has a sour life attitude. It can be produced by a number of things but if it is running unchecked, it will destroy a thankful heart. It will blind your vision. It will warp your understanding. It will make you useless to God and a pain in the neck to everybody around you. This over-analysis of everything, this need to criticize everything makes a bitter, negative, thankless person.
Some people don’t give thanks simply because God doesn’t operate according to their schedule, their clock. They just can’t take process. People like that want instant gratification. They can’t deal with process. They cannot patiently thank God for an unfinished process. They want God to work for them to accomplish all their goals in their own time frame. Impatience will just destroy thankfulness. Learn to thank God for the process and in the process.
6. Spiritual coldness.
You could call it apathy or lethargy. It is like lukewarm heart of the Laodiceans or the Ephesian Church who lost its first love. There’s a lack of zeal for Christian service. There’s a lack of love for Christ. There’s a lack in the study of Scripture, worship, and prayer. Christian life is just on the outside. They just become spiritually indifferent, lethargic, apathetic, and thankless.
“I’m not thankful because I’m angry with God. I’m not thankful because I don’t like what He’s doing in my life. I’m mad. And I know I’m unthankful and I’m going to stay unthankful.” Just plain rebellion.
In any form, any of these seven, you have gross sin. You’re defying the command of God in everything to give thanks. And so, because we can fall to the sin of ingratitude, the NT repeatedly calls us to thankfulness. I’ll just share a few NT verses of thankfulness and when to give thanks that may help us understand this better.
III. Biblical examples of thanksgiving.
1. Be thankful in the church.
The early church was characterized by thanksgiving. 1 Corinthians 14:16-17 16If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who find himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? (He is asking them if you always speak in tongues how can a nonbeliever understand your thanksgiving?) 17You maybe giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.
Well the little insight you get there is that when the early church met together, they gathered with the purpose of giving thanks. Somebody had a psalm, others prayed, somebody had a word from the Lord, and a lot of folks had an opportunity to say thanks. We have such times in our area cell meetings. That was characteristic of the early church. So we meet together to give thanks to God.
2. Be thankful in your thoughts.
Philippians 1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you.
Colossians 2:6-7 6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
3. Be thankful in your speech.
Ephesians 5:3-4 3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. When you open your mouth nothing dirty ought to come out. What ought to come out is thanksgiving.
Psalm 40:5 Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; where I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.
Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wondrous deeds.
Every time a believer person opens his or her mouth, out comes thanksgiving to God.
4. Be thankful in your deeds.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
5. Be thankful in your prayer.
Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
6. Be thankful always.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
IV. Why should we give thanks to God for?
2 Corinthians 4:15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. What he means there is that as people receive God in salvation, it leads to redounding thanksgiving.
2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. Not only do you have salvation but you have everything. God has poured out everything in life: Home, bread, clothes, family; and the result of all that God doing in your life should be unending thanksgiving.
3. God’s Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18-20 18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. A Spirit-filled believer is a thankful believer, is a joyful believer, is a praying believer. That’s what he’s saying. If you’re filled with the Spirit, you’re going to be giving thanks for everything. It’s just going to gush out of you.
Even in the times of trouble we are to thank God. Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Even in the times of great anxiety, in the times of great fear and worry and stress, you’re to be characterized as thankful.
Now let’s back to 1 Thessalonians 5 where Paul says us to give thanks in everything. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16Rejoice always, 17pray continually, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Here we find the responsibility of the believer before the Lord in terms of his heart attitude. You give thanks because there is inward incessant joy, continual unceasing prayer, constant daily thanks. I mean, that’s to be the character and the pattern of our life. They’re the best gauge on a person’s spiritual condition. Let’s spend some time thanking God for 2015.