In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, the Apostle Paul says to the believer"s at Thessalonica, "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing: in everything give thanks; for this is God"s will for you in Christ Jesus." God"s will is that we always "rejoice, pray and give thanks." Erwin Lutzer, said, "You can learn to give thanks even if you don"t feel particularly thankful. If God gives a command, he expects obedience, whether you are in the mood or not. Thankfulness, like forgiveness, is not an emotion. Thankfulness is an intelligent response of gratitude to God" (Draper"s Quotations). There are 3 features about thanksgiving I want us to look at.
The Call to Thanksgiving
We are to be thankful to God. This was David"s plea in Psalm 100:4-5, "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations." This was Paul"s exhortation to the believers at Colossee, "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Col.3:15-17). "Rule" Gr.brabruo, an athletic term, "be umpire." (Wuest) Lightfoot says: "Wherever there is a conflict of motives or impulses or reasons, the peace of Christ must step in and decide which is to prevail." Warren Wiersbe, says, "The peace of God is the "Umpire" in our believing hearts and our churches. When we obey the will of God, we have His peace within; but when we step out of His will (even unintentionally), we lose His peace. We must beware, however, of a false peace in the heart. Jonah deliberately disobeyed God, yet he was able to go to sleep in the hold of a ship in a storm! "I had peace about it!" is not sufficient evidence that we are in the will of God. We must pray, surrender to His will, and seek His guidance in the Scriptures. The peace of heart alone is not always the peace of God. Something else is involved: if we have peace in our hearts, we will be at peace with others in the church. We are called to one body, and our relationship in that body must be one of harmony and peace. If we are out of the will of God, we are certain to bring discord and disharmony to the church. Jonah thought he was at peace, when actually his sins created a storm! When a Christian loses the peace of God, he begins to go off in directions that are out of the will of God. He turns to the things of the world and the flesh to compensate for his lack of peace within. He tries to escape, but he cannot escape himself! It is only when he confesses his sin, claims God"s forgiveness, and does God"s will that he experiences God"s peace within. When there is peace in the heart, there will be praise on the lips: "And be ye thankful" (Col. 3:15). The Christian out of God"s will is never found giving sincere praise to God. When David covered up his sins, he lost his peace and his praise (Pss. 32; 51). When he confessed his sins, then his song returned.
We are to be thankful for each other. Because of the proclamation of the faith - Rom.1:8, "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world." Because of God"s call to salvation in your life. 1 Cor.1:4 says, "I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus." Col.1:3-5 says, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now." "A true Christian is a man who never for a moment forgets what God has done for him in Christ, and whose whole comportment and whole activity have their root in the sentiment of gratitude" (JOHN BAILLIE, 1741–1806).
The Meaning of Thanksgiving
1. Grateful. This means being "appreciative of benefits received" (Webster)Gr.eucharistos, "grateful." "The word indicates the obligation of being thankful for someone for a favor done. The thankfulness arises out of the grace of God and that which He has done" (Rienecker, p.581). Col.3:15 says, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful (grateful)." Ps.100:4 says, "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name."
2. Gratitude. "This is the state of being grateful" (Webster). It is a "season for all seasons." Gratitude "is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies" (Charles Edward Jefferson). A.W. Tozer said, "Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it" (Signposts. Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 13.). Gr.eucharistia (our English word eucharist is derived). It means "gratitude." Col.2:6-7 says, "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving (gratude)." Col.4:1-2 says, "Masters, give your servants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving (gratitude)." John Miller said, "How happy a person is depends on the depth of his gratitude" (Drapers).
3. Glorify. Gr.anthomologeomai, "to acknowledge fully, to celebrate fully, in praise with thanksgiving." It is used only in Luke 2:38, "Afer Anna saw the baby Jesus "in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem." "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer"s praise!" (CHARLES WESLEY, 1707–1788). "On earth join all ye creatures to extol Him first, him last, him midst, and without end" (JOHN MILTON, 1608–1674).
4. Grace. Gr.charis, translated "grace" and "thanks" in the NT. This is expressing "favor." Paul said to the Romans "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom.1:7). He said the same thing to the Corinthians (1:3; 2 Cor.1:2). He desired this for the churches at Galatia, Ephesus, Philipi, Colosse, and Thessalonica. He also desired this for Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. This grace or favor comes from "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom.1:7). "A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart" (CHARLES G. FINNEY, 1792–1875).
The Application of Thanksgiving
By the very definition we are to have an attitude of thanksgiving which demonstrates itself in "rejoicing, prayer and thanksgiving."
1. Become a Christian
2. Be Spirit-Filled (Eph.5:18-20; Col.3:16-17)
3. Reflect on God"s Work in Your Life. Phil.1:6 says, "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." 1 Cor.15:57 says, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Ps.107:8 says, "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!"
"Whatever we have, we have because God in his grace and generosity has given it to us. When we realize this, there comes into our lives a joyful gratitude for what we do have, and we are freed from resentment and anxiety over what we don"t have" (Ben Patterson, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 7, no. 3.).
Erwin Lutzer, said, "A Christian who walks by faith accepts all circumstances from God. He thanks God when everything goes good, when everything goes bad, and for the "blues" somewhere in-between. He thanks God whether he feels like it or not" (Drapers).