It is not surprising that this time of year causes some to focus on certain things. One of them, of course, is being thankful. Do you agree with this quote that I found? “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” Whether you agree with it or not, few will disagree with the importance and power behind gratitude.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1st Thessalonians 5:16-18
The above text has been mentioned in numerous articles and preached a multitude of times over the years. This time though, I find myself asking a question concerning the two brothers in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which I talked about a couple of weeks ago. One brother left in haste, only to find himself returning in humiliation, while the other son complained about his father’s treatment of his brother upon his return. I thought about it and determined one of the problems with both of them was the absence of thankfulness…gratitude: neither fully grasped what they had. So, whatever our situation may be, there is a reason to be thankful…right? Our callousness is precisely the reason we are urged to “in everything give thanks” (NKJV) or “give thanks in all circumstances” (NIV) or as the ETRV says, “Give thanks to God at all times.” The appeal is to be thankful in all circumstances, not because of the situation, but in spite of it. Thankfulness is not found in God relieving us of some event; but rather, seeing our loving and compassionate God within the game. It is then, and only then that in everything give thanks.
And when you pray, always give thanks.
Philippians 4:6 ETRV
Okay, maybe the two brothers didn’t appreciate what they had, which led them to be driven by selfish attitudes. There is another state of mind that can also rob one of a thankful heart: it is, worry. Just before Paul penned the above words, he said, “Be anxious for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6a). The ETRV says, “Don’t worry about anything.” Someone ascribed worry as “praying hard for an outcome you don’t want.” Still, another writes, “Worry is like a rocking chair – it keeps you moving but doesn’t get you anywhere.” Jesus posed the question, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6:27). Worry robs the believer’s heart of gratitude, the very thing needed to see God working in our lives during all circumstances.
So then, what is the takeaway from all this? It appears it has to do with what we see: or better yet, what we are looking for in life. The brothers had all they needed but were unable to grasp that truth, resulting in ingratitude and poor choices. Worry appears to do the same thing, crippling one’s ability to see God’s blessings in life. So, this appeal to give thanks in everything (always) is there to help us in our journey homeward. We access God’s strength through a thankful heart. There is power in gratitude.