With Thanksgiving only days away, it is a tradition that I do a lesson about thankfulness, and this year will be no different for the most part. Let me begin by sharing with you what happened during our trip to visit our son and his family. While there, I finished my daily Ephesian scripture reading and started reading Philippians. I read through chapter one, listening to Paul’s endearing words to those he sincerely cared for. Then came Sunday and the opportunity to worship with the saints in El Paso. We were greeted by friendly faces, welcoming us to the area. The preacher got up and shared some initial thoughts, and he was good. Then he shared the text for the lesson, Philippians 1:3 and 6, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Lord willing, I want to focus next week on v6, but for today, I wish to consider v3.
In his introduction to his lesson, after sharing some thoughts, he asked a question that surprised me. The question was, “What do you thank God for?” If you are like me, in my mind, I began to list things: wife, family, church, job, clothes, and the list could go on. There is nothing wrong with being thankful for these things. James writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadowing of turning” (James 1:17). God is the source of all we have, so, when was the last time I thanked God for being my God? Weird, right? Yet is He not worthy of such gratitude from His children?
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks…” (1st Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Although this part of the lesson is much like the ones from years past, I invite you to allow God to remind us of how important thankfulness is to the Christian’s daily walk. The Greek word translated as “thanks” in the verse above means to be grateful and feel thankful. It combines two Greek words, eu meaning “good” and xaris meaning “grace.” This call to gratitude, as you know, is not an uncommon theme in the bible. In our recent Colossian journey, Paul spoke of all that is ours through faith in Christ and how we should be “abounding in it with thanksgiving” (2:6). He exhorted the Philippians to lace their prayers “with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6). He urged the church in Ephesus, he encouraged them to give “thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Why is thankfulness, so crucial to the believer? In a study, two psychologists had people write a few sentences each week for ten weeks. Broken into three groups, they each wrote about one thing; either things they were grateful for, daily irritations or events that had affected them, and finally, writing about events but not noting whether the event impacted them negatively or positively. I suspect I need not share the results, but I will. Those who wrote about what they were grateful for were more optimistic and felt better about life. God knew long before phycologists ever studied it that thankfulness, the art of gratitude, is critical to the well-being of mankind, more importantly, to the redeemed. So, this brings us to the actual emphasis of this article: the ultimate object of our thankfulness.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16)
For most of us, we can quote the remainder of that verse, but the question I asked earlier causes me to quote this part. Once again, the question, “What do I thank God for?” As I stated before, the list, we often make deserves much gratitude from us all. God has blessed us so much, especially in this part of the world. But what happens when that list is impacted in some fashion? The loss of a job, our house burns down, can’t afford things (inflation), you know what I am talking about. Gratitude is sometimes elusive, not because there is nothing to be thankful for; but because what we are grateful for in life is often temporary. So, to the verse above, my thoughts were drawn and for a good reason. God gave of Himself because He loved the world…me! Because of His love for us, he gave Jesus knowing of the deprived state of this world…of me (Romans 5:8). There are so many things for us to be grateful for, none other so precious and unchanging than His love for a lost and dying world of which, I was once a part of. Placing faith in what He did through the gift of His Son, I have received the greatest gift of all, salvation. Thank You, God, for loving me so much! Thank You, God, for giving Your Son in place of me and my sins! Thank You, God, for the redemption that is now mine! No matter what happens in this chaotic world, there will always be reasons to thank my God. Let us praise Him because He is faithful and loving.