Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thess. 5:18
The Thanksgiving holiday is approaching and I am sure many of us are already making lists, sketching out our menus, and creating a plan of attack for all of the cleaning we need to do. Those who are crafty put together Thanksgiving trees and other fun crafts, while others of us scour Pinterest to see what kind of Thanksgiving table decor we can copy and some simply keep a thanksgiving journal. For the Thorns, Thanksgiving also means family reunion.
But wouldn’t it be great if we put this much effort into cultivation a life of thanksgiving that goes beyond just the month of November? J.R. Miller said that,
“Christian thanksgiving is the life of Christ in the heart, transforming the disposition and the whole character.”
A thankful life will change who we are, and how we think about what we have, and all that we experience. The more we cultivate a thankful heart the more our heart will begin to beat like the heart of Jesus. There will be less complaining, less coveting, less selfish attitudes, less haughtiness. There will be more joy, more sharing, more contentment and more internal peace.
But thankfulness is born of theology. It is the offspring of truth. The more doctrine we know the more thankful we are equipped to become. Here are a few truths to meditate on as you seek to cultivate a thankful heart.
1. Thank God for His preservation
Every evening we should ask ourselves, what has God preserved me from today? Is it illness, accidents, evil, starvation, crimes, ruin, homelessness, despair, or death? These are common in the world and yet God has kept us from many of these things today.
And during the times when God allows us to walk through the “valley of the shadow of death” (or hardship) we can know that God still has his hand of protection on his children and is preserving our hearts and our souls. Remember how Job lost everything? Even during that time Job praised God saying,
“The Lord has taken away — blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21)
2. Thank God for your salvation
I know it is so easy to lose the awe and excitement for the salvation that we have. I hate to say it, but we sometimes even get a bit bored with hearing about it, don’t we? But Christ saving us from our sins and therefore from the judgment of God is a huge deal. It has massive implications for the future, like spending eternity with Jesus. We are promised an inheritance that is so grand that there are no words to describe it. There will come a day when all evil, pain, and sin will be done away with and we will only know joy, contentment, safety, and goodness.
But our salvation also has earthly ramifications. We are made new, which makes us love God and all that is good, and as Thomas Watson so aptly said that no matter how bad it gets here on earth,
“It is all the hell a child of God shall ever have.”
3. Thank God for every thing
“All was forfeited by our sin. All that we receive is by His grace.” -James Smith
This is devastation and joy giving. Sin ruined everything to the point that we deserve nothing but condemnation. But grace has given us everything good that is in our lives and grace uses every difficulty for our well-being. This is true for you and me because we belong to the giver of this grace.
So look around at what you have; your family and friends, your stuff, your talents and abilities, and be thankful. Think also about the difficulties you are going through, both big and small, and know you will overcome them all! But while you are in the midst of them God is using them to refine and strengthen you, to mold you into the likeness of Jesus, and to use them for his kingdom and his glory.
Gratitude is Life
We are so easily distracted and discouraged causing thankfulness to disappear. When thanksgiving is weak in your heart take a minute to think about what you truly deserve and contrast that with who you are Christ, and all that you have in him now and will have, in the future.
Thankfulness is for all of life all the time. Apostle Paul says,
“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 3:17)