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Grace Notes

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“I WILL GIVE YOU THANKS WITH ALL MY HEART”
by Philip Owen

            The fact that Scripture commands the believer to return thanks to the Lord (e.g., “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”—I Thes. 5:18) evinces the reality that giving of thanks is not always the spontaneous response of a heart that is grateful for some token of God’s goodness.  In some, perhaps many, cases, giving of thanks results from a conscious and deliberate act of the will in obedient submission to God’s requirement.  The first clause of Psalm One Hundred Thirty-Eight provides rich insight regarding thankfulness.  David begins the psalm thus:  “I will give You thanks with all my heart” (v. 1a).

            “I will give.”  Ideally, we live in such fellowship with the Lord that we are fully conscious of His many blessings to us, are humbled by the rich and undeserved favor we have received, and pour out thanksgiving from lips empowered by rich gratitude for the undeserved blessings God has been pleased to give us.  But when we are in a less than ideal state, we are still called upon to give thanks to God for His blessings.  Then if we will humble ourselves before the Lord with a genuine desire to be faithful to that command and give the Lord what He deserves, we might begin by meditating on the blessings that we have recently received.  As we do so with a desire to honor the Lord, we will soon discover more and more goodness and mercy that have come from Him; our hearts will be humbled and become genuinely appreciative of the graces we have received; and we will give the Lord true thanks.  Spontaneous thanksgiving is wonderful, but faith that is prompted by the knowledge of our duty to give the Lord thanks and determines to do so will often prime the pump of a dry heart and produce gushing streams of genuine thanks.

            “You.”  I must admit that I was going to pass over this word.  After all, it is self-evident to whom the thanks belongs.  But therein is at least a partial source of the problem for our paucity of thankfulness.  Rich truth, great blessings, an intimate relationship become self-evident, normal, even “old hat.”  We soon take for granted the gifts and the Giver.  True thankfulness springs from a heart and mind that are focused on the “You” of this verse.   A life lived in the consistent realization of who God is, what He has done, is doing, and will do for us, and what it cost His Son to provide it, will elicit great thankfulness from us.  Ultimately, the Lord should be the Object of all our thanksgiving.

            “Thanks.”  The second part of the verse from which we have taken our text says:  “I will sing praises to You . . . .”  In some cases there may not be a significant distinction between thanksgiving and praise.  But if we wish to differentiate, thanks might be said to be an expression of deep appreciation for something the Lord has done for us or something He has given us, whereas praise might be defined as the extolling of the Person and work of the Persons of the Godhead.  In short, then, thankfulness acknowledges that the Lord is constantly showering blessings upon us.  (A heart that is properly exercised toward God will also recognize that even the trials and burdens God sends or permits are intended for our ultimate blessing and, therefore, warrant our thanks.)

            “With all my heart.”  We have not taken our true measure nor that of the Lord until we become “flat-out” thankful.  Tepid words, even eloquent words are not what the Lord is looking for in those He has redeemed and loves.  Nothing less than our all is His due.  We have all received half-hearted thanks from someone and realized that no expression of thanks would have been preferable to insincere words.  Genuine thankfulness to God holds nothing in reserve.  It abandons any sense of merit, of something earned or deserved, of disappointment that something less than or other than what we wanted we have received.  “All-my-heart” thankfulness has no ulterior motives, such as a desire to weasel more from the Lord or exchange what we have received for something we perceive to be better.  It simply and completely acknowledges that God is perfect, that all He does is perfect, and that what He bestows is right and good.  May we determine with David that “I will give You thanks with all my heart.”

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