Thanksgiving: Not Just a Holiday, But a Way of Life

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in America, many will turn for a few hours or minutes of thankfulness before they devour the turkey and watch football games. Thankfulness is not an important virtue anymore for most people as we become consumed with self, indifference or other problems we may be facing on the horizon. Does it matter to be thankful anymore? Is Thanksgiving a forgotten holiday or much more in life? So many have allowed this hateful culture or social media to choke any thanksgiving out of their lives and replace it with anger, hatred and discontent.

As a Christian there may not be a more important attitude than thankfulness. Grace, love, faith, kindness and forgiveness all flow out of a thankful heart. Thankfulness is a key ingredient for the Christian walk as we live in a society that thankfulness is becoming a lost virtue. Thankfulness allows us to grow spiritually and increase our intimacy with God. The world is built around constant grumbling and complaining that builds a heart of discontent. It leads to anger, hate and lashing out at others instead of a heart of peace. For the peace of God to rule in our hearts, we must be thankful. Peace and thankfulness are inseparable companions.

Colossians 3:15: And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

It is a command of God to “Be Thankful!” It is the present imperative which also means it must be a daily habit and walk. It starts with being thankful that we are breathing, that we are alive and that we know Him.

Thankfulness is not simply an occasional utterance, but must be cultivated as a daily attitude in all circumstances.

Ephesians 5:20:  Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to Godeven the Father.

The grumbling spirit is not compatible with the Holy Spirit. Grumbling was one of the besetting sins of the people of Israel; they were always ‘murmuring’ against the Lord and against Moses. But the Spirit-filled believer is full not of complaining, but of thanksgiving. You cannot give thanks and complain at the same time.

The opposite of giving thanks in all things is grumbling or murmuring, an attitude and response Paul addressed in his letter to the Philippians…

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 (Paul explains why this response is so important) that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (Philippians 2:141516)

Comment: Notice that “non-grumbling” is not optional and is not just a suggestion. Paul is commanding “non-grumbling” to be the believer’s continual response [present imperative]!

So then the ‘everything’ for which we are to give thanks to God must be qualified by its context, namely in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Our thanksgiving is to be for everything which is consistent with the loving Fatherhood of God and the self-revelation he has given us in Jesus Christ.

Always (3842) (pántote from pás = all + tóte = then) means at all times. On every occasion. Without interruption. All circumstances. All places.

Giving thanks:  (eucharisteo from eucháristos = thankful, grateful, well-pleasing – Indicates the obligation of being thankful to someone for a favor done, in turn from eú = well + charízomai = to grant, give.; English – Eucharist) means to show that one is under obligation by being thankful. To show oneself as grateful (most often to God in the NT).

Eucharisteo is a word that at its very core (eu = good + charis = grace) means to acknowledge how good grace is!

Eucharisteo describes a person who is depending on God’s grace moment by moment. The present tense pictures this as one’s lifestyle,

1 Thessalonians 2:13 (note) And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

It is notable that one the chief traits of unregenerate men is the failure to give thanks to God and their attitude of ingratitude is not without “natural” sequelae” Paul explaining…For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Ro 1:21)

This call to thankfulness for everything is found frequently in the New Testament —Philippians 4:6 Be anxious (present imperative = make this your habitual practice) for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known (present imperative = make this your habitual practice) to God.

1Thessalonians 5:18 (note) in everything give thanks (present imperative = make this your habitual practice); for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Don’t miss the fact that give thanks is in the present imperative which calls for this to be our habitual attitude and action! The active voice means that his is a personal choice (enabled by grace and the Spirit) we each must make continually.

In all circumstances, not just once a year, but all the time. This “is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” If you come to me and ask what is the will of God for you, I can tell you three specific things that are the will of God for you: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything. That is the will of God for you. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson )

An attitude of gratitude is a wonderful weapon against unbelief, disobedience, a hard heart, and a bitter spirit. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1Thes 5:16-18). Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, let’s be thankful for what we do have, because God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him. (Bible Exposition Commentary Old Testament)

We can’t control the circumstances of life, but we can control how we respond to them. That’s what faith is all about, daring to believe that God is working everything for our good even when we don’t feel like it or see it happening. “In everything give thanks” (1Thes. 5:18) isn’t always easy to obey, but obeying this command is the best antidote against a bitter and critical spirit. The Scottish preacher George H. Morrison said, “Nine-tenths of our unhappiness is selfishness, and is an insult cast in the face of God.” (Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament)

(Commenting on Psalm 146:12 Wiersbe writes) God gives us life and breath (Acts 17:25), so it is only right that we use that life and breath to praise Him (Ps 150:6). To receive the gifts and ignore the Giver is the essence of idolatry. The writer promised God he would praise Him all of his life, and certainly this is wise preparation for praising Him for eternity (Ps 104:33). To live a life of praise is to overcome criticism and complaining, to stop competing against others and comparing ourselves with them. It means to be grateful in and for everything (1Th. 5:18Eph. 5:20) and really believe that God is working all things together for our good (Ro 8:28). A life of praise is free from constant anxiety and discouragement as we focus on the Lord, who is mentioned eleven times in this psalm. (Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament)

That’s the habitual attitude of gratitude Paul is calling for in all of God’s children, beloved. Gratitude is an attitude that like all spiritual disciplines, needs to be consciously developed and deliberately cultivated in the dependence on the Holy Spirit and the grace in which we stand. There are some practical steps that can cultivate the gracious attribute of gratitude. For example, you can make thanksgiving a priority in your prayer life (Col 4:2note) rather than focusing only on petitions and requests. There may even be blessed times when your prayer time consists of nothing but gratefulness to the Almighty. You can always thank Him for the various wonderful aspects of your salvation (sonship, constant care, remission of sins, forgiveness, inheritance, the gift of His spirit, freedom from sin’s power and Satan’s authority, etc) Have you had any prayer times like that recently? And you can thank Him for the “smaller” blessings of life, those things we all to often take for granted. You can ask Him to make you very sensitive to grumbling and mumbling complaints which are the polar opposite of a thankful spirit. You can utilize spiritual songs (Ep 5:20note) to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, allowing the words of a wonderful hymn to lift your eyes and heart in a way that nothing else can. Thank people who bless you in even the smallest ways. It will complete your enjoyment of the blessing, and it will increase your capacity to thank God. Reflect on and serve those less fortunate than you. This will remind you of how gracious God has been to you, how far He has brought you, and how much He has blessed you—which will in turn motivate you to be grateful to God.

Everyday Blessings – Missionary Benjamin Weir was held hostage in Lebanon and imprisoned under miserable conditions for 16 months. In his first interview after his release, he was asked how he spent his time and how he dealt with boredom and despair. His answer stunned the reporters. He simply said “Counting my blessings,” they responded, “Blessings?” “Yes,” he explained. “Some days I got to take a shower. Sometimes there were some vegetables in my food. And I could always be thankful for the love of my family.”

We can understand why the reporters were astonished. It’s hard for most of us to be consistently thankful for the commonplace blessings that make life pleasant and comfortable–the unfailing supply of our daily needs, the provision of food and shelter, the companionship of friends and families. There are times when we may even forget the wonderful mercies of God’s redeeming grace.

Paul and Silas, though they were beaten, thrown into prison, and placed in stocks, were still “singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25). May we learn from them, and from Benjamin Weir, to count our blessings no matter what our circumstances. We have many reasons to rejoice. — Vernon C. Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. )

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by. –Oatman

As John Piper asks “How can we not be thankful when we owe everything to God?”

Indeed, he who thanks God for His mercies shall never want a mercy for which to thank, for “Every stream should lead us to the fountain.” (M. Henry)

Ray Pritchard writes that “The foundation of gratitude is the expectation of nothing. If one expects nothing then anything is bonus. If one expects more than he receives, then he is disappointed. We are so prone to complain because roses have thorns than to give thanks because thorns have roses! “In everything give thanks.” How do we do this in a practical sense? First, thank him for your blessings. Second, thank him for how he has helped you in your trials. Third, thank him for his presence every day. Fourth, thank him for his promises for the future. As a Christian, our whole life is to be one great, “Thank you, Lord.” This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us.””

Psalm 86:12: I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.

Thankfulness is a heart thing. It is to proceed from the depths of the heart and is not to be a fleeting attitude. What is the heart from Scripture? The heart is not the physical organ that pumps blood to the body, but rather, it’s the innermost part of a person’s being—the seat and center of a human life. Your heart is the essence of who you are. It is the control center for your will, emotions, intellect, desires, understanding, reasoning, reflection, and judgment. How you develop and grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is determined by the condition and makeup of your heart. The heart is the center of everything that is manifested and comes forth in your life. One of the great principles of the heart is that whatever is in your heart is going to show up in your life, forming your character, your personality, your attitudes, your actions, and your words. The heart is the blueprint of what people see manifested in your life.

What flows out of our heart determines the quality of our life and character. It determines the manner and attitude with which you handle life’s major obstacles. It determines the richness of your relationships and the depths of your love. What flows out of the heart even determines the direction and course of your life. This is why we must cultivate a heart of thanksgiving. Our whole heart should be overflowing with thanksgiving not complaining or bitterness. Thankfulness allows grace, love, kindness, forgiveness and faith to freely flow and grow in our hearts.

Colossians 3:16: 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.

The more richly the word of Christ dwells in us, the more abundant thanksgiving will be that flows out of hearts.

Colossians 3:17: 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.

We give thanks to God for everything we do in word or deed.

“God gave you a gift of 84,600 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say thank you?”
― William Arthur Ward

H. Spurgeon rightly quipped that “The heart must be alive with gracious gratitude, or the leaf cannot long be green with living holiness.”

Thanksgiving leads to Thanksliving.

Psalm 34:1: I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

At all times we bless, praise and thank the Lord. Your mouth should be a fountain of praise and thanksgiving always, no exception. If we expect our words to edify, exhort and help others, it starts with words of thanksgiving.

Hebrews 13:15 (Phillips): Our constant sacrifice to God should be the praise of lips that give thanks to his name.

Our sacrifice to God is our lips constantly praising Him and giving thanks to His name.

We need to realize that genuine thankfulness is inextricably bound up with trust. We will never truly thank God until we first truly trust Him. We will not be grateful to God for all that we have until we first recognize that we’re dependent on Him for all that we have.

By nature, we’re not trusting creatures. We’re creatures of necessity. We trust God when we’re forced to trust Him because our problems go beyond our abilities. The rest of the time, we get along just fine by ourselves. If we can solve the problem by ourselves, we don’t resort to prayer and trusting God, because we don’t need to trust Him. But it’s only when we come to the end of ourselves and cast ourselves in total dependence on the Lord that we begin to experience genuine praise and thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is also an excellent antidote for anxiety or worry as we deduce from Paul’s famous command in Philippians 4:6…

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. When we cultivate a mindset of thanksgiving, we will not be anxious or full of fear. We cannot be anxious when we are thankful.

Robert Morgan illustrates this spiritual dynamic…

When her children were rebelling against the Lord, Ruth Bell Graham found herself occasionally torn apart by worry. One night while abroad, she awoke suddenly in the middle of the night worrying about her son. A current of worry surged through her like an electric shock. She lay in bed and tried to pray, but she suffered from galloping anxiety, one fear piling upon another. She looked at the clock and it was around three o’clock. She was exhausted, yet she knew she would be unable to go back to sleep. Suddenly the Lord seemed to say to her, “Quit studying the problems and start studying the promises.”

She turned on the light, got out her Bible, and the first verses that came to her were these, Philippians 4:6,7. As she read those words, she suddenly realized that the missing ingredient in her prayers had been thanksgiving. “…in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

She put down her Bible and spent time worshipping God for Who and what He is. She later wrote, “I began to thank God for giving me this one I loved so dearly in the first place. I even thanked him for the difficult spots which had taught me so much. And you know what happened? It was as if someone turned on the light in my mind and heart, and the little fears and worries that had been nibbling away in the darkness like mice and cockroaches hurriedly scuttled for cover. That was when I learned that worship and worry cannot live in the same heart. They are mutually exclusive.” (In Everything Give Thanks)

Gary Delashmutt writes that…

The New Testament teaches that gratitude is related to spiritual health in two different ways. We’ll use a medical model to explore this . . .

(1) Gratitude is a “thermometer” that indicates the state of your spiritual health. A thermometer is a tool that tells you whether you have one of the symptoms of physical illness (fever). It is not a medicine. You don’t put the thermometer in the freezer and then stick it into your mouth to break your fever. You put it in your mouth and it tells you if you have a fever. In the same way, the presence or absence of gratitude in your dealings with God is one of the most reliable indicators of your spiritual health. This is because it (along with serving love) is the normal and natural result of personally understanding and receiving God’s grace. Grace means charity—a gift to the undeserving.

(2) Gratitude is a “medicine” that promotes your spiritual health. Gratitude is not a feeling that dictates your choices; it is a choice that affects your feelings. This is what Paul is emphasizing in this passage. Most of the New Testament passages on gratitude are imperatives, addressed to our volition rather than to our emotions. He is not prescribing for us how we must feel; he is calling on us to choose to rejoice and thank God on the basis of what is true–regardless of how happy or thankful we may feel.

This is a key insight into biblical spirituality. It involves our feelings and experiences, but it is not rooted in them, because they are fallen and broken and unreliable. It is rooted in God’s truth and our choice to express faith in the truth, often in spite of what we feel. This is why the notion that it is unspiritual to thank God unless you feel grateful is false. Choosing by faith to thank God in spite of intense feelings of depression, disappointment, anxiety, etc. is deeply spiritual. This is why if you wait until you feel grateful to thank God, you will feel less and less grateful. But if you choose to thank God regardless of how you feel, you will feel more grateful more often. It is in this sense that gratitude is a key step of faith (along with serving love) that unleashes God’s blessing into your experience. (“Grateful servants are happy people.”).

 Warren Wiersbe – An attitude of gratitude is a wonderful weapon against unbelief, disobedience, a hard heart, and a bitter spirit. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1Thes 5:16-18). Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, let’s be thankful for what we do have, because God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him. (Bible Exposition Commentary Old Testament)

If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.

The Christliest life (J.R. Miller, “Christian Essentials”)

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thanksgiving should never be lacking in a Christian life. It is not enough to observe one day in the year for ‘Thanksgiving’ although that is a beautiful thing to do. Nor is it enough to put a sentence of thanksgiving into our daily prayers, although that, also, is proper.

It is the grateful spirit which pleases God, the spirit that is always full of praise. There should be a note of thanksgiving running through all our life.

Too many of us go to God only with requests, with our burdens, our worries, our troubles; while we but rarely go to Him with any word of thanks.

We are not to be thankful only for the pleasant and agreeable things that come into our days — we are to be thankful, too, for the things that appear to us to be adversities. “Give thanks in everything.” That means . . .
in the sad days, as well as in the glad days,
when clouds are in the sky, as well as when the sunshine is pouring everywhere.

It is said here that this is the will of God for us. The Christliest life — is the one that is always keyed to the note of praise and thanksgiving.

Andrew Murray: “Let us thank God heartily as often as we pray that we have His Spirit in us to teach us to pray. Thanksgiving will draw our hearts out to God and keep us engaged with Him; it will take our attention from ourselves and give the Spirit room in our hearts.”

John MacArthur

“A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer’s trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord.”

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)

“Pride slays thanksgiving, but an humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow.”

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”

Thanksgiving is not just a holiday, it’s an attitude we can practice every day.

Here is the opening quote from the Thanksgiving Proclamation signed by George Washington, President of the United States of America, October 3, 1789:

 Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Today in America this proclamation of George Washington would offend somebody and likely bring a lawsuit to attempt to stop thankfulness to God becoming an attribute of our nation. In the name of tolerance, we have pushed away the essence of thankfulness to God Almighty for His many blessings. Without God this nation would have crumbled long ago. Now so many are foolishly trying to take God out of everything and rewrite our history or try to point to the flaws of men or women to negate God’s hand in blessing our country time and time again. We do not have to follow the crowd and let thankfulness disappear from our hearts.

I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, or Republicans and Democrats. The real difference is between the aware and the unaware. When somebody is aware of the love that the Father has for Jesus, that person is spontaneously grateful. Cries of thankfulness become the dominant characteristic of the interior life, and the byproduct of gratitude is joy. We’re not joyful and then become grateful—we’re grateful, and that makes us joyful.—Brennan Manning

Romans 1 clearly outlines the degradation of thankfulness and the spiral downward into thankless idolatry.

 Romans 1:20-25 (Amplified): For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense.

21 For even though [d]they knew God [as the Creator], they did not [e]honor Him as God or give thanks [for His wondrous creation]. On the contrary, they became worthless in their thinking [godless, with pointless reasonings, and silly speculations], and their foolish heart was darkened.

22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

23 and exchanged the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God for an image [worthless idols] in the shape of mortal man and birds and four-footed animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their own hearts to [sexual] impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin],

25 because [by choice] they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

This downward spiral out of thankfulness starts with failure to see the magnificence of God in His creation. Pause for a moment to think about the beauty of the majestic mountains to the roaring sea to the tranquil trees and the amazing landscapes that all paint a portrait of God’s heart. We fail to see His divine workmanship in everything around us including the wonders of the human body. We become blinded by the chaos around us and fail to simply take a moment and reflect on the splendor of God’s creation. This leads to a mindset of a lack of trust in God. We fail to honor Him and we fail to thank Him. We lean on our foolish speculations and misguided reasonings and think we have all the answers. Instead of becoming wise, we become thankless fools. This opens the door to idolatry and sin distorting our passions to lust. We exchange the truths that cause us to overflow with thankfulness to lies that breed discontent. The truth becomes an enemy as we plunge further into bondage because we refuse to be thankful and allow the truth to set us free. Romans 1 patterns the downfall of a culture from thankfulness to God to self-absorbed foolishness.

In contrast, since we have received Christ, we are commanded to walk in thankfulness as a habitual way of life.

As you have therefore received Christ, even Jesus the Lord, so walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. Have the roots of your being firmly and deeply planted in Him, fixed and founded in Him, being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7, AMP)

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. (NLT)

Abounding and overflowing with thanksgiving comes from being firmly and deeply planted in Christ and continually growing in Him. When we are fixed on Christ and build our lives on Him, thanksgiving flows from our hearts like a mighty river.

We also are thankful for the final victory for all eternity that only rests in Christ, the way, the truth and the life.

2 Corinthians 2:14 (Voice): Yet I am so thankful to God, who always marches us to victory under the banner of the Anointed One; and through us He spreads the beautiful fragrance of His knowledge to every corner of the earth.

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

Let us make our lives as a model of gratitude. Not just once a year, but every day let us overflow with thanksgiving to God for His countless blessings. Thanksgiving is the foundation to the Christian walk for without it our faith, hope and love will fade away. At the heart of thankfulness is the amazing grace and mercy of God. The grace of God defines who we are in God’s eyes. We are God’s masterpiece because of His grace and mercy.

Take a moment every day to be quiet and just thank God for His love and care over your life. Thank Him you have eternal life and an inheritance that can never fade away. Thank Him that He cares for you so deeply, He knows the number of every hair on your head. Instead of complaining like the world, let us shine as lights, being thankful to God in every circumstance and in every challenge. Your life will be transformed by simply remembering to be thankful always.

Ed. note: I am thankful for Precept Austin where a lot of research came and some of the links will take you to their website: https://www.preceptaustin.org/

About goodnessofgod2010

author, attorney
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