Thanks to Sonny, our wise and beloved staff pastor, for kicking off a mini-series about gratitude on the Impact Blog during this season of Thanksgiving!
The who, what, when and why of thankfulness
By Sonny Westbrook, Director of Ministries
Wow, can it be that the Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner? In the ministries of the Union Gospel Mission we seek to live out ourselves, and to instill in those we serve, the true significance of this special time of year.
I invite all who are Christians to join with us and fully participate in the Thanksgiving celebration with genuine hearts of gratitude to God for the bountiful ways He continues to bless us.
We will launch out from one verse of Scripture for direction and clarity: I Thessalonians 5:18.
“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
To approach this wonderful verse, let’s consider the “who” of the verse, the “what” of the verse, the “when” of the verse and the “why” of the verse.
Who is involved in this verse?
It seems obvious that there are two persons involved here: each one of us and God. Here is something that is the will of our gracious God for each and for every one of us who are “in Christ Jesus”: He wants every one of us to engage in continual thanksgiving to Him. He desires this from us. He directs us to do so. This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, for me, for each one of us.
What does God want?
Now let’s focus on the “what” of this command from God. What is He wanting from us? He wants us to be in a state of continually giving thanks to Him!
This implies we are recognizing that He is always in a state of giving to us! He is not telling us to “give thanks for nothing”! He is wanting us to acknowledge Him as the ongoing Giver of everything that is good in our lives because this is in fact the reality of our lives.
The Bible says it clearly: “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Yes, God Himself is the ultimate and sovereign source of all that we experience that is good in this world. As we give thanks “in everything” we are acknowledging this. Read Psalm 103 again for more detail.
When do we give thanks?
Now, the “when.” When are we to be giving thanks to our wonderful, giving, gracious God?
The command is “in everything give thanks.” This implies that the “when” is right now and continuing, in the midst of everything that is going on in our lives and around our lives. In everything means in every circumstance, in the midst of every relationship, in the good times and in the hard times, we are to be giving thanks to our God!
Now, what sense does this make? Though we do not always do so, it is relatively easy to give thanks when all goes well for us. But when difficulties come, when our lives are beset with hardships of all kinds – health problems, financial reversals, relationship difficulties, etc. – what is the logic behind the command to “give thanks” to God then?
The logic is this: God always has something He wants to give us in that moment, in every moment. If we will recognize Him as the One on whom we are actually dependent for everything, He will be free to supply to us what is needed for that circumstance. And that is what we ask Him for, and then by faith we thank Him continually for what He continually gives.
It’s important to know that thanksgiving is the language of faith! Faith is depending on Him for every grace that is needed in life, for every situation.
Is it comfort you need? He is the Comforter. Let Him comfort you, and give Him thanks.
Is it perseverance you need? Trust Him and thank Him that He will steady you and give you the ability to endure.
Is it more love for the person who is causing you problems? He is the One who will give it to you. Just ask and He will keep giving.
So offer your requests with thanksgiving, in anticipation of His faithfulness. See this taught also in Philippians 4:6-7.
Too often we are behaving as though He has nothing to offer us, so we do not call out to Him. Even when we do, we do not combine our requests with faith, thanking Him in advance of what we are counting on Him to provide. This verse directs us to correct these omissions.
Why do we do this?
It’s important to say at the outset that all of God’s commands are gracious commands. They all direct us into attitudes and actions that are good for us. God knows how He made us and when He commands us to be continually giving thanks, He is directing us into an activity that will make us healthier, more whole human beings.
In our recent Northwest regional rescue missions conference, our keynote speaker, Dr. Marcus Warner, emphasized this. He explained that our brains actually grow in positive ways when we are giving thanks. So giving thanks is beneficial to us! At UGM, our recovery programs teach the importance of gratitude as part of ongoing recovery.
The greatest reason, however, that we are to give thanks continually to God is that He has given us His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. For every circumstance of life, we have the Lord Jesus with us! Indwelling us by His Holy Spirit, He makes us complete in Him. His presence is our greatest treasure. In Him, we have the fulfillment of all the promises of God on which to build our faith and our lives. He is present to enable us to keep trusting Him – expressing our trust by continual thanks to Him – for all that is needed to live our lives for His glory.
Dear ones, join with us here at UGM, as the holidays approach, and let’s jump-start our hearts to live out this verse: “in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you!”
We want to give you a gift that gives throughout the holiday season. Click below to download Holiness Revealed, our free Advent devotional.