On Sunday our guest speaker at my church gave us homework. He told us to think each day this week of three things we’re thankful for. As I recall, he told us about a study in which one group started the day listing three things they were thankful for and another group started the day listing three things they wanted. At the end of the time period, the thankful group had all kinds of amazing benefits—better sleep, weight loss, a cheerful outlook, fewer divorces, and more.
Imagine if we took this a step further and made God our focal point. What has God given me or what about Him am I thankful for?
Interestingly, our thanks is something God desires. Jesus, for example, healed ten lepers in an interesting way. He told them to go to the priest who determined who was leprous and who was clean. On the way, they were healed. One, a Samaritan, turned back, glorifying God on the way, fell on his face at Jesus’s feet, and thanked Him. And Jesus’s response?
Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” (Luke 7:17-18)
In Romans, Paul added a lack of thanks as part of the darkened human heart:
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (1:21; emphasis mine)
I’m pretty sure I’ve mostly focused on the knowing and honoring. I’m guilty of paying little attention to the third of the triumvirate, giving thanks.
Paul particularly emphasized thanksgiving in one section of his letter to the church in Colossae:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (3:15-17; emphasis mine)
In Ephesians Paul tells us what ought not be a part of our speech: filthiness, silly talk, coarse jesting. But he also tells us what ought to be in place instead of those things: giving of thanks. (Eph. 5:4).
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, he goes so far as to say that giving things in everything is “God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” So when we’re not thanking God, we’re actually out of His will.
One more fact that’s stuck with me about thanks: the writer of the book of Hebrews marries thanks with praise which he says is a sacrifice to God: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).
Our thanks is a sacrifice of praise to God. Sacrifice was the centerpiece of worship in Israel’s relationship with God. The centerpiece of our relationship with God is Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. And yet, as redeemed people we are not to go merrily on our way as those nine healed lepers did. God desires more. He would have us be thankful.
That’s His will for His people. From the study our speaker shared, thanks actually benefits us. What a wonder! God continually surprises me, though you’d think I’d start anticipating this. I’m referring to the amazing fact that what He asks of us is what is best for us.
I tend to be like the five-year-old, only happy when I get candy and wishing I could have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. God gives carrots and broccoli and green beans and sometimes lima beans. He gives potatoes, but not always mashed with gravy. He gives steak sometimes, but liver other times, or fish—really fishy fish.
Why would He do that when He knows I want candy—mostly chocolate, M&Ms or Reeses or, best of all, Sees candy (a 2 pound box all for me would be nice!)
Well, God knows what I need.
And as it turns out, what He wants and what I need includes my giving Him thanks.
The other really cool thing is that I’m discovering I grow to like the things God wants for me, in the same way that I grew to like foods other than chocolate! 😉