In the Bible it is written, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”
This text, one of many that encourage us in thanksgiving to God, is rich with direction in this most vital discipline. Here in Hebrews 13:15 we see thanksgiving commanded, and find that we are to be thankful continually.
How often do you find yourself anxious, dry, restless and discontent, fading under the stresses and difficulties of life? Do you choose to live like this, finding some sordid comfort or pleasure in moping about … mulling over your problems? Are you troubled and discontent that your spouse does not treat you as you wish? That your wealth is insufficient, already spent, or soon to be left to the unfit? Do you complain that your health is broken, or that you are not as well as you would be? Do you pity yourself that you have no true friends? Or that you have too many enemies? Do you envy the prosperous, and grieve that you do not have as nice a home, or such and such a plaything, or cannot go wherever you would at your pleasure? Do you murmur that you have not been given due credit for your labor and sacrifice?
Have you indeed left off to be thankful? Have you stewed so long over your carnal regrets and unmet passions that you cannot lift your voice in praise to God? This is wrong. It is a robbery of God and a molestation of your entire being. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Pr 17:22)
Being thankful is not optional; it is commanded. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1Th 5:18) You do well to take stock of your life … and be genuinely thankful.
First, take purposeful and deliberate energy to focus your heart; decide to give thanks. Even though at first it be merely mechanics, force the unclean lips to speak praise and thanksgiving to God. Confess your hardness, your cold and self-centered way; repent and ask God for grace to be sincerely thankful.
Understand that you are to give thanks in every situation, every happening, every concern, every circumstance, every need. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Php 4:6)
You are not only to give thanks in all things, you are to give thanks for all things: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ep 5:20)
You are to give thanks in all things for all things because your hap is ordered by the Lord for His glory and for your good. The fact that thanksgiving is not only appropriate but required in every event and circumstance of life implies that every detail of our lives is ordered by the hand of God and either comes from Him directly or is indirectly and purposefully permitted by Him. Everything that comes to you is filtered through His hand first, and ordained for you. Nothing happens outside of His purpose for you, and if you do love Him it is all for your good and for His glory. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Ro 8:28) “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1Pe 1:7)
Being thankful is not an accident that you will stumble into, it is not a natural habit of the flesh or of the carnal mind. Thankfulness is intrinsic to a virtuous character, it accompanies a knowledge of the sovereignty of God and the depravity of Man, and it is a discipline that you must with all diligence cultivate. “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge.” (2Pe 1:5) As you diligently add virtue and knowledge to your faith, find it bringing forth the spiritual fruit of thanksgiving in all things.
Thankfulness is completely foreign to your old nature, your natural man which you are to diligently divorce yourself from, and part the new nature which God imparts to His children, which you are to enter into daily. God’s children are being taught to do this by Jesus Christ: “If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ep 5:22-24) When you understand that you are depraved, that you deserve nothing good from God but only wrath and anguish and torment, and that God has been exceedingly merciful and gracious with you — just in staying your judgment, much less in being incredibly lavish in caring for your personal well-being — thanksgiving is then natural. This knowledge is in the new man, not the old.
So, you will be thankful. You will be thankful in heart, word, and deed … sincerely, earnestly, deeply, continually. You will be thankful in everything and for everything to overflowing: “Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” (Col 2:7)
Be thankful that you are not in an eternal hell this very moment. Nearly everyone ever born is either suffering in hell right now, or will be in torment there very shortly. “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mt 7:14)
Be thankful you are saved and bound for heaven, if indeed you are. This is ultimate victory and glorious success, regardless what else befalls you. If salvation is ALL the good you have, or ever will have, it is fantastic wealth! If you have faith unto salvation, rejoice: “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice.” (1Pe 1:5-6a)
If you do have salvation, lay hold on this – grasp it, establish it, verify it, prove it, comprehend it, internalize it, revel in it, rejoice in it, and be thankful for it — above all else. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses… Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1Ti 6:12, 19) “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2Pe 1:10-11) Once you have obtained and laid hold of eternal life, set your mind and heart to be eternally and persistently thankful in it. Never let it become something you take for granted, but continually ask God to “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Ps 51:12)
Be thankful for basic things; be thankful for extra things. Be thankful for pleasantries, and for the foul things. Be thankful for friends, and for enemies, for blessings and comforts and for trials and tribulations: “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?“ (Job 2:10b)
Be thankful you are alive, for the breath God gives you moment by moment. “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” (Ac 17:25b) Be thankful for the basic provisions of every day living: “Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Ac 14:17)
Be thankful that God loves you. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1Jn 4:10) It matters not what you have done, what you think, or what anyone else thinks of you. The everlasting God extends His love and grace to you, and He does so now. Be thankful for that.
As a believer in Jesus Christ, be thankful for adoption into the family of God. It is not a paltry love that God extends to us as believers … He accepts us into His holy family with an extraordinarily gracious love: “ Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” (1Jn 3:1a) The love of God the Father for His own dear Son flows through the Son to you: “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” (Jn 15:9) Continue in the love of God by being thankful for it, meditating on it, focusing on it daily, and letting God love others through you. He makes no difference between loving His only begotten Son and loving you: “… that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (Jn 17:26b) What an awesome thing! Be thankful for it!
Be thankful for the call to fellowship with God, and respond to His invitation heartily. Pursue intimacy with Almighty God. “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (1Jn 1:3-4) What a wondrous and gracious privilege to be wanted of God! To be wanted as a friend by One so magnificent and glorious and vast!! The King of Heaven would be your constant and dearest companion!! What could you ask for in human comfort beyond this? Be thankful unto Him and bless His glorious name!
Take a moment and acknowledge that the everlasting God enters into your experience; welcome His presence, and bid Him set His order and His peace in your heart. Open the door to Him: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Re 3:20) Let not God merely be your guest, He is your sovereign Owner and Lord — yield all to Him as King. Be His guest in your own heart … be the servant. Let God take over, and let Him be your Defender, your Refuge, your Advocate, your high Tower, your Shield. Let Him spread a table before you in the presence of your enemies, anoint you with the oil of honor and gladness and acceptance, and fill your cup to overflowing: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” (Ps 23:5)
Be thankful for whatever family you have, for any human comforts God grants you in this life. So many live without the love of a mother or a father or a child. Even if your parents forsake you, forget not His promise, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.” (Ps 27:10)
Give thanks for the character of God. He is matchless in His beauty, in loveliness, in purity, in strength and wisdom … thank Him for being the way He is. Give thanks to Him because He is good, and because of His boundless mercy: “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (1Ch 16:29, Ps 107:1, 118:29, 136:1). Give thanks to Him because He is holy: “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” (Ps 30:4)
Give thanks for the sovereignty of God, that He reigns: “We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.” (Re 11:17)
Thank God for His sovereign selective revelation of the truth to the lowly, humble, and foolish: “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” (Mt 11:25) God has not been rich and open with His precious truth to all men, but has been very selective in whom He grants understanding of spiritual truth. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1Co 1:26-31)
Yes, glory in your weaknesses, when others reproach you and persecute you, when you are in want and lack necessary things, and when you are in otherwise distressful states for pursuing and serving Him. Take pleasure in this and be exceedingly thankful. “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Co 12:10) It is in weakness and loss that God reveals Himself to His children, and knowledge of Him and of His ways is more exceedingly precious than anything and everything temporal: “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Php 3:8) Ask yourself now: What little of God that you do have would you trade for all comfort, convenience or pleasure? Nothing? Well then, my friend, value what you have of God, take it not for granted, and seek above all else to have ever more of Him.
Look to our spiritual fathers for examples here. “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (Ja 5:10-11) Say continually, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Ps 119:71) Be confident, as Job was, that “he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)
As we glory in weakness that is imposed on us for Christ’s sake, forget not to be sincerely thankful for the explicit times of trial and trouble which God brings our way: these times are to purify and strengthen us. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (Ja 1:2) “Glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Ro :3-5)
When you are empowered of God for service, thank God for His enabling of you for the work He has called you to do; “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” (1Ti 1:12) Do not glory in yourself, glory in the God who has called you and enabled you. Also, thank God for His providence in what He has kept you from doing in your service, “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius.” (1Co 1:14)
Thank God for His sanctifying grace in the lives of other believers, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ.” (1Co 1:4) Thank God that His grace causes His children to grow in faith and love: “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth.” (2Th 1:3)
Thank God that He lays the burden of prayer on your heart for others, “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day.” (2Ti 1:3)
Thank God for hearing and answering your prayers: “Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” (Jn 11:41b)
Thank God for His spiritual gifts to you, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all.” (1Co 14:18)
As a mortal person, as a Christian, as a man or as a woman, as a boy or as a girl, as one who walks upon God’s green earth, who breathes His air, who drinks His water, who enjoys His sunshine and His rain, who sees His earthly light, who sees His spiritual light and truth, who has access to all the riches of heaven because of the boundless mercy and love of God through Jesus Christ, who is even called into the deepest fellowship with the eternal loving God — from Whom every good gift and every perfect gift comes, be thankful. “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Ps 136:1) Yes, yes… give thanks.