What am I thankful for?

iStock_000010355993_MediumWhat is Thanksgiving like at your house? In many homes, as in so many others, is it a custom for each person at the table to share what he or she is thankful for?

Often the things mentioned are family, a good job, living in a free country, or material blessings (home, car, enough to eat). Often we take those things for granted, so it is good to stop and give thanks for them.

But is that all that I am thankful for?  What if those things are missing from my life?  Would I still be thankful?  What do I do if I don’t “feel” thankful?

As I read about the Israelites in the book of Exodus, I am struck by their lack of gratitude. God led them out of slavery, gave them His presence in the cloud by day and fire by night, destroyed their enemies, provided food, and much more. Yet they didn’t feel thankful. Instead, they responded with complaining and rebellion. Will this be my reaction if I find myself in circumstances not to my liking? Or could it be that thankfulness is a choice?

God places a pretty high value on thankfulness. In 1 Chronicles 16:4, we read that David appointed an early version of a worship team. Their job was, “to celebrate, to thank and praise Jehovah…” They were to tell of all the marvelous works that God had done. We see the expression of their work over and over in the Psalms.

As I look further through scripture, I am struck by the things that people thanked God for. Although there are those times recorded when they were thankful for the material things, often it is things that we would not immediately think of. For example,

  • Daniel thanked God for giving him wisdom to interpret the king’s dream. (Daniel 2:23)
  • Jesus thanked God that He hides things from the wise, but reveals them to children (Matthew 11:25), and another time He thanked God for hearing Him (John 11:41).

But it is in Paul’s letters that I begin to see thankfulness in a whole new light.

  • Paul thanks God for the Romans “because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” Romans 1:8
  • In Colossians 1:3-4 he thanks God “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints.”
  • In Philippians 1:3-5 he thanks God “because of your partnership in the gospel….”
  • In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, he thanks God that they accepted the word of God.
  • He thanks God “who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to His service…” 1 Timothy 1:12
  • He thanks God for Timothy and his “sincere faith.” 2 Timothy 13-5
  • He thanks God for Philemon “because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.”  Philemon 4-5

Maybe the point is that God wants me to be thankful for what He is doing to reconcile people to Himself. He wants me to recognize where He is working and be thankful for that. Because He has given me eternal life, He wants me to show my thankfulness by being a part of that work, reaching out to others in love. As Pastor Jon so often says “It’s about bringing lost kids home.”

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, may God give you a real sense of gratitude for how God is working in the church today.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ––the Message––have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives––words, actions, whatever––be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. Colossians 3:15-17 (The Message)