Thursday, November 24, 2011

"A Life of Gratitude"

In His Word, God calls us to a life of abundant and ongoing thanksgiving.

"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I Thessalonians 5:18).

Our Heavenly Father does not need our thanksgiving, of course, but He does find great pleasure in it. Just as we teach our children to give thanks not for our benefit, but rather for theirs, so does our Lord call us to a life of gratitude that meets particular needs in our lives.

1. Thanksgiving enhances and protects the faith whereby we live. Consistently expressing appreciation to God strengthens our relationship with Him by fortifying remembrance of the Source of every "good gift and every perfect gift in our lives" (James 1:17). It also helps keep us from pride when things are going well, and bitterness when life becomes difficult.

2. Thanksgiving personalizes relationship with God, and with people. Saying "thank you" with a genuine heart is a very relational expression. Indeed, imagine a world where gratitude did not exist in thought, emotion and expression. A gray and drab scenario of the impersonal emerges where God would be largely unknown, and where "heart" would be replaced by mere mechanism.

3. Thanksgiving confirms a primary truth that Adam's race must discover and increasingly know. Namely, God is God, and we are not. Long ago, Satan tempted our original forefathers with the dark notion that "ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5). Adam subsequently partook of the forbidden fruit, plunging the human race into a dark abyss of deception regarding who God is, and who we are. Expressing gratitude to Him helps to remind us that our Lord is source, supply and sustenance, and that we are recipients, dependents and supplicants. Few greater lessons will ever be learned, by few greater teachers.

4. As A.W. Tozer wrote, thanksgiving "sweetens the soul." Life in a fallen world can harden and embitter the one who fails to see God's good giving expressed in difficult times, as well as in pleasant. A heart full of gratitude will always remain tender, bearing the sweet "fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:11).

5. Thanksgiving comforts. The balm offered by our Lord must be received. When, in times of heartache and heartbreak, we look toward Heaven with "the sacrifice of thanksgiving," the Holy Spirit salves the wounds we trustingly expose to His loving ability and willingness (Psalm 116:17). Always would our Lord have us to be active participants in our relationship with Him. Thanksgiving provides a major component whereby God's giving of comfort and our receiving thereof results in assurance of heart and mind.

6. Thanksgiving glorifies the Lord. "I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving" (Psalm 69:30). Living gratefully both in attitude and expression powerfully reveals and honors the Lord Jesus to those with whom we live our lives. The Psalmist desired "that I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Thy wondrous works" (Psalm 26:7). To "publish" and "tell" - we give thanks so that others may be drawn unto the warm hearth of gratitude whereby the warm heart of God is known, trusted, and loved.

7. Finally, we give thanks in order to please the heart of our Heavenly Father. Again, He does not require our thanksgiving, nor does He command gratitude for any selfish reason whatsoever. We do need gratitude, however, for all of the reasons mentioned in this essay, and many more. When gratefulness fills our hearts, minds and tongues, the fact and dynamic working of God on our behalf becomes realized and assimilated. This is His holy intention, that the knowledge of our belovedness might grace us with a life of abounding joy, peace, and a heart filled and fulfilled by the Lord Jesus. The same fills and fulfills our Father's heart, and if we needed no other reason to give thanks, surely this would be eternally and infinitely enough.

"Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto Thy name: the upright shall dwell in Thy presence."
(Psalm 140:13)

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