Thanksgiving Day has passed. We have observed the nods of our secular brethren, weak as they are, toward expressions of gratitude. For the most part, they are noteworthy for three things: their shallowness, their brevity, and their lack of acknowledgement of God. We ourselves have heard our thanksgiving sermons, read our thanksgiving devotionals, said our thanksgiving prayers over Thursday’s dinner, and, perhaps, uttered our personal gratitude at a family gathering. And now (honestly), we are ready to get on to other things. The turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce are already becoming a dim memory. Christmas and New Year’s Day loom. But for the believer, thanksgiving is not merely a holiday, an occasion, or even a frequent expression or feeling of gratitude. Rather, it is a state of being. The Lord’s simple command to the Colossians, delivered through the pen of Paul, is: “Be thankful” (3:15b). Needless to say, the words were penned for all of us who know the Lord. Be thankful. The command is simple, concise, almost stark. It is as though the Lord were saying, “The possession of this attitude should be obvious and self-evident. It should be as inherent a part of your spiritual nature as breathing is to your physical nature. I don’t need to elaborate because if you will truly reflect for just a moment, if you will allow My Spirit to govern your heart and mind for an instant, you will overflow with gratitude. Be thankful.” Heartfelt thankfulness flows from an appreciation of many realities, among them the following.
1. Thankfulness is an acknowledgement that we are debtors to God. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow,” James tells us (1:17). Every good thing and every perfect gift come from God. We have neither earned nor merited anything of value, nor are we capable of buying or bartering for it. Every genuine blessing comes to us as a gift from a loving Father. Until we banish any thought that we are entitled to a blessing because of something we have done or something we perceive ourselves to be, we will not have thankful hearts. We have brought to God no merit or value that compels Him to reward. And we cannot afford the smallest gift He bestows. We are altogether debtors to His grace.
2. Thankfulness is a demonstration of humility and submission. A proud spirit refuses to express thankfulness because doing so acknowledges indebtedness. Thanks giving is an act of submission. How many times has a little child rebelled against his parent’s admonition to “Thank Aunt Alma and Uncle Mercer for your toy” or “Thank your sister for helping you with your chores”? Though it may not be able to express the fact or be fully conscious of the truth, even the youngest human spirit recognizes that genuine thankfulness involves bowing the knee, requires a submissive heart.
3. Thankfulness is a recognition that God owes us nothing. Many in the modern church have been misled to believe that God is compelled to fulfill their requests if they have sufficient faith or if they say the right words. They, in effect, can command God. Such erroneous opinions result in haughtiness, even arrogance. When I view God as my servant to be ordered to fulfill my needs and desires, when I have made it God’s duty to do what I want, I have deceived myself into believing that there is no reason to be thankful: subtly, but disastrously, I have made myself the master and God my servant. But when I understand that the God Who has showered me with blessings (cf., Ezek. 34:26) owes me nothing, I am filled with gratitude.
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