Written by Peter Blanch
If you were to wake up tomorrow, with only the things you thanked God for today, what would you have?
It’s pretty obvious that thankfulness is fairly important in the Christian life. And why shouldn’t we be overflowing in our thankfulness to God? After all he has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
By the grace of God – his kindness to us in Jesus Christ – comes an offer of salvation to all people, despite the fact that all people were alienated from God in darkness and shame of their sin. That’s the bottom line. Even the enmity of human beings to the true God is not an obstacle to the great offer of salvation by God’s grace. In fact, that’s what makes it grace: that it is despite of what we are rather than because of what we are that God rescues us by the blood of his Son.
And being thankful is part of a life that is pleasing to God. And it’s not just any kind of thankfulness it’s joyful and overflowing (Colossians 1:11, 2:7). A life that is pleasing to God exhibits thankfulness to him and to others in abundance. This sort of thankfulness should also show through in the life of our church and in our prayer lives (corporate and individual) too. Overflowing with thankfulness is one of the ways that we continue to live with Jesus as our Lord. Joyful people never forget to say, “Thank you.” Thankfulness is a sign that you enjoy what you got.
However, more than ever before, Thankfulness is a missing mark of our generation. Why are we so slow to show thankfulness?
1. We are proud
Have you noticed when you say prayers of thanks to God? For many of us it’s after something’s happened that we were stressed about or had no control over – like passing exams or finding our house keys in the recycling bin. What about the everyday things? Why don’t we express thankfulness for them? This is where pride comes in. Being thankful and thanking God for the everyday things is an acknowledgment of our dependence on him. By not thanking God we’re holding onto the lie that we are self-reliant; we’re holding onto pride in our hearts. Paul links humanity’s lack of thankfulness to God with their lack of honour for God, the first two steps on the slippery slope to judgement in Romans 1 (Romans 1:25).
2. We are discontent
Maybe we are slow to be thankful because we are discontent. We aren’t thankful because we’re discontent with what we have and with what God has given us, where he has placed us in life. We too easily forget that “those who seek the LORD lack no good thing” (Ps 34:10) and that “[our] Father in heaven [gives] good gifts to those who ask him” (Matt 7:11). As God’s children, God has given us everything that is good for us right now – if there was something else (or somewhere else) that God thought was good for us to have (or be), we would have it (or be there). This is why we’re not thankful – we think we’re being short-changed by God and that we know what we need better than he does.
How do we cure a lack of thankfulness?
Thank God often and always
Thankfulness stops pride growing. We can thank people for things that they do and who they are, and that’s important and encouraging for them. But we’re to thank God for that person, for the way he has worked in them. Thankfulness is a sign of a believer. “Ingratitude…[is] one of the distinguishing marks of an unbeliever”
(Thanksgiving by D.W. Pao).
If you’re struggling with feeling thankful to God, try and think of just one thing each day to be thankful for. It might be that you have enough food, or the weather, or something that happened at bible study. Thank God for one thing after someone has visited you, or you have visited them. Thank God for one thing in your friend or your child, or in your spouse, your church or your local community. “In the constant act of thanksgiving, the relationship with God is nurtured. Through thanksgiving, the gracious acts are remembered and the life of a person is thereby changed.” (Thanksgiving by D.W. Pao).
God-centered thankfulness helps us grow in humility as it stops pride growing.
Thankfulness is a lost art in today’s society. As you practise thankfulness amongst your friends you might be surprised at the effect it has – prayer lives (corporate and individual) will be enriched by profound expressions of thankfulness and dependence on God; more people will be encouraged to serve by expressions of thankfulness within the body; and we will be content with where God has placed us and who God has made us so that we can go on to serve him, instead of seeking to change what’s making us discontent.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Col 2:6-7)