Monday, November 21, 2005

Enhancing our thanks-giving

I was pondering how to make our thanks more meaningful, and as I searched through the Bible several verses and concepts stood out. We all know we need to give thanks when we are given something, so I won't cover that obvious aspect (although, sadly, it's not obvious to some). I pray God will use this to bless you. And if you have anything to add regarding how to enhance giving thanks, please let me know.

First of all, Jesus was a thankful person. In a mystery only God can fully unravel, Jesus set aside some aspects of His deity when He came to earth (that does not mean he became any less than God, mind you). So He was dependent upon the Father. For example, in John 17:8, Jesus says, "Because the words that You gave Me, I have given them." And in John 14:24, He says, "The word that you hear is not Mine but is from the Father who sent Me."

As I said, Jesus was a thankful person. And since we are called by His name, we should emulate Him. He realized his dependence upon the Father, and didn't merely take it for granted but expressed appreciation for all the Father provided. When Lazarus died, before Jesus raised him, He prayed, "Father, I thank You that You heard me." He gave thanks when He multiplied the loaves and fishes (Mark 8:6). And He gave thanks at the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:27).

Psalm 100:4 says we should "enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise." So for us to come into God's presence and focus on ourselves is getting things backwards. Sure, there may be times of desperation when we need to seek God's favor, but our general approach when coming before the Lord of the universe should be to acknowledge all He is and all He provides. Once we do that, we'll be able to have a greater trust that He can and "will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

In the Old Testament, the Lord required thanksgiving sacrifices (Lev. 7:12, Psalm 107:22, Psalm 116:7, for example). Though we are no longer bound under the Law, our thanks-giving should show a sense of sacrifice. In a recent episode of Focus on the Family, James Dobson discussed how his wife's upbringing contributed to her not knowing how to show gratitude. At first he thought it was because she wasn't thankful, but he came to discover the real reason. Now, she goes out of her way to say thank you, to write notes of thanks, etc. We should not merely mumble "thanks" to those who give us things, and we should especially not take what we've been given for granted. Our thanks-giving should be given with a sense of sacrifice, to show we truly appreciate the gift(s).

In Richard Nelson Bolles' annual What Color is Your Parachute, he says that one major factor in whether a person gets a job is whether he sends thank-you notes to those at the company he met during the interview process. He says that this is largely a lost art, and those job hunters who actually take the time to write such a note stand out in the prospective employers' minds.

Just being inheritors of Christ's salvation ongoing presence should lead us to overflow with thankfulness (Colossians 2:7), just as our cup of blessing overflows (Psalm 23:5) from a God "who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). So if we truly realize all we have been given, and how blessed we are to have it, we will find it hard not to express thanks.

Sure, it's easy to give thanks when things are good. But we are commanded to "give thanks in everything" (1 Thess. 5:18), just as we are commanded to "rejoice always" (v. 16; see also Phil. 4:4). Of course, this doesn't mean we should be thankful for the trials and tribulations we face. Jesus wept at Lazarus' death (John 11:35). But then He gave thanks, because He knew of the Father's power over death, and He knew that in the Father's overarching plan all would come out right in the end. Isn't it true that Christian funerals are generally more hope-filled than others? Sure, the loved one who has died is grieved and missed, but knowing that they are enjoying the Lord's presence in heaven helps the healing process.

Thankfulness also requires humility. In John 11:25-26, Jesus expresses gratitude and praise to the Father for revealing things to the simple while keeping them hidden from the "wise." The Pharisees and Saduccees prided themselves on possessing great wisdom, but Jesus berated them for their foolishness. No matter what He said, they were too proud to be grateful that Jesus was in their midst. They berated those who were too "simple" to understand their convoluted theology, but in the end they were the ones who ended up missing it.

Lack of humility is also seen in Luke 18:11, where "The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: 'God, I thank You that I'm not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector." Of course, that tax collector of whom he was speaking had a more humble view of himself, not even lifting his head to heaven and realizing his sinfulness (v. 13). We know that "this one [the tax collector] went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted" (v. 14). Thanking God for what we do not possess, like moral superiority, or with wrong motives, is not pleasing to God and shows that we don't truly realize that all we have comes from Him. If I'm living a godly life, and somebody expresses appreciation for my example, I should give glory to the One who has enabled me to do so.

Finally, Romans 1 talks about those who embrace godlessness.
For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude.
Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds

were darkened.

22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools

23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man,
birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.

When we fail to realize and appreciate all God provides, we start believing we are the be all and end all of our existence, which is of course "nonsense" and "senseless," leading our minds to become "darkened." We think we are wise, but we are fools ("For to those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness" 1 Cor. 1:18), and we're deceived into worship idols

May you all have a truly thankful Thanksgiving, and may that attitude spread throughout the year.

All Bible quotations from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.



At 21:18, Blogger John said...

Excellent post Jeff, for which I am truly thankful! :)

Be encouraged!

At 10:01, Blogger Jeff said...

Than you, John. May you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


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