“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18, NKJV)
Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day for family, focus, and feasting. It seems fitting to take note of the place of thanksgiving in the Christian life.
Our family gathering includes some of our children and grandchildren. Often we will go around a table filled with food and say something we are thankful for. It’s a fun exercise, especially to hear what my grandkids come up with.
It’s also a useful exercise, one that should not be only seasonal. In fact, giving thanks belongs to all of life as a seasoning of grace. We find thanksgiving in unexpected places, such as in dealing with anxiety. Paul urges us to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
We might think thanksgiving out of place when provoked by worry, but gratitude to God is exactly what the Great Physician prescribes. Giving thanks lifts our eyes to God in recognition of all that He has given us. Our lives are a cornucopia of blessings. Thanksgiving helps us to take note of them. Thanks seasons our prayers and supplications to enable us to savor even the most distressful of times in communion with our God.
Thanksgiving is particularly conspicuous in Paul’s charter for the Christian community.
“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.” (Col. 3:15–17)
Notice that each of the admonitions is punctuated with thanksgiving. Giving thanks is to be expressed in our own hearts, in our relationships with others, and in our walk with God.
Gratitude to God is part of the profitable thinking of Philippians 4:8 that leads to the peace of God guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. It is the voice of a shared fellowship in the Spirit and rich experience of the word of Christ dwelling in our hearts and expressed through our mouths to one another.
Particularly striking is the comprehensive place of thanksgiving in the life of the believer. It seasons whatever we do and think because our lives are grounded in our Lord Jesus Christ. That awareness prompts a steady refrain of gratitude to our God.
Thanksgiving is not listed among the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, but it very much belongs to a Spirit-filled life that unites us to Christ (Eph. 5:18-20). It serves as a nutrient to the soil of a grace-grown life. There is not any part of the Christian life that is not owed to the hand of God. What do we have that we have not received? The greater our realization that we are debtors to grace, the more prominent the giving of thanks will be in our lives.
As pleasant as our expressions of thanks around the table are, thanksgiving must oxygenate the breadth of our being in communion with our God through Jesus Christ.
- Why is thanks a seasoning for all of life as a believer?
- What can you do to stimulate thanks in your own heart?
Father, fill my heart with Your glory, goodness, and grace to the extent that I give You thanks in all ways , for all things, at all times in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.