Thankfulness is hard to come by in a selfish, discontented culture but the same should not be true of the Church of Jesus Christ. Every Christian should exude thankfulness toward God at all times. Although God has commanded that his people be thankful, this attitude should also freely and willingly flow from the heart of those who are forgiven by Christ.
Unthankfulness – A Mark of Unbelievers
2 Timothy 3:1-5 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Romans 1:18-21 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
God made everything and is the sovereign of the universe. A recognition of God’s sovereignty should lead mankind to be thankful toward Him. For this reason, anything short of glorifying God through thankfulness is sin. In fact, unthankfulness is a characteristic of the unsaved. Unrighteousness, ungodliness and unthankfulness go hand-in-hand.
Ephesians 5:3-4 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
The unsaved man or woman does not recognize God the Father as the Lord of creation and is therefore, unthankful. This should never be the condition of the Christian. After all, salvation itself is a matter of confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. Salvation then, is in part, a transition from an attitude of unthankfulness toward God to one of continual thankfulness toward Him.
Thankfulness – A Matter of Praise and Worship
Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Throughout the Bible, and especially in the book of Psalms, we see thanksgiving, praise and music linked together.
Psalms 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Psalms 147:7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!
Psalms 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Ephesians 5:18-20 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Jesus said in John 4:23 that the Father is seeking “true worshippers” who will worship him “in spirit and in truth.” As we have seen above, this spirit-filled worship has a prominent thread of thankfulness running through it (cf. Ps 18:49; 30:12; 35:18; 69:30; 79:13; 92:1; 100:4; 106:1,47; 147:7). The Christian life then, is one of praise, worship and song. All of which are to be saturated with thanksgiving. (see also Ezra 3:10-11; Neh 12:46; Ps 92:1-3 for a connection between thanksgiving and song).
1 Corinthians 14:16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?
Although Paul had to correct much of what went on in the Corinthian church, we see from this passage that they understood that “thanksgiving” should play an important role in the worship service. How might a church incorporate times of thanksgiving into its worship?
Thankfulness for God’s Mercies
Read the following:
1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
1 Chronicles 16:41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Chronicles 5:13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud,
Ezra 3:11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
Psalms 106:1 Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalms 107:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalms 118:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalms 118:29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalms 136:1-3 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. 3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psalms 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.
There is an unmistakable connection in scripture between thanksgiving and the mercy of God. It is chiefly for His mercies that we thank him.
• Charles Hodge has defined mercy this way: Mercy is kindness exercised toward the miserable; it includes pity, compassion, forbearance, and gentleness.
• Webster, in his 1828 Dictionary has it thus: Pity; compassion manifested towards a person in distress.
These definitions help us to immediately understand why we are in need of God’s mercy and why we should be thankful for it. It is no wonder that Lamentations 3:22 says, It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
Consider the following,
Ephesians 2:1-10 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
God’s people have a long history of offering thanksgiving to him in response to his mercy. In fact, under the Old Testament sacrificial system, God provided for this expression of thanksgiving by instituting the thank offering. The thank offering was a freewill offering that the Jews could choose to offer in recognition of the mercies which God had shown them. (Lev 22:29; Lev 7:11-12; 2 Chron 29:31).
2 Chronicles 29:29-31 When the offering was finished, the king and all who were present with him bowed themselves and worshiped. 30 And Hezekiah the king and the officials commanded the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshiped. 31 Then Hezekiah said, “You have now consecrated yourselves to the LORD. Come near; bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the LORD.” And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all who were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings.
Our Thank Offering – A Living Sacrifice
In the book of Romans we find an ongoing theme of the mercy of God. In chapters 9-11, Paul teaches the Romans that God is perfectly justified in sovereignly choosing to whom he will, and to whom he will not, show mercy.
Romans 9:15-16 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
Romans 9:22-24 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
Paul teaches the gentile church in Rome that Jewish people are temporarily blinded from the gospel because of their rejection of Jesus Christ (Rom 11:25). He goes on to assure the Romans that this does not mean that God has “cast away” his people but that he will, one day, save the Jews as a nation (Rom 11:1-2; 11:11; 11:26-27). He tells them that what appears to be the wholesale Jewish rejection of the messiah does not mean that God has annulled his covenant with Israel. The reasoning? Even those who are ethnic Jews are not necessarily God’s people. Salvation is by faith and not genealogy (Rom 10:12-13; Matt 3:9; Rom 4:12; Gal 3:6-11). God sovereignly chooses those among the Jews and among the Gentiles upon whom he will shed mercy (Rom 3:29-30; Rom 9:23-24).
After Paul lays the foundation of the mercy of God in chapters 9-11, we come to Romans 12:1:
Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Paul’s use of Old Testament terminology in this verse is very clear. He is making a blatant reference to the sacrifices of the Old Testament. Just as the Jews in the Old Testament would offer acceptable sacrifices to God, so should we. Furthermore, just as the Jews in the Old Testament would offer sacrifices in response to God’s mercies, so should we. Paul is telling us that we should consider the mercy which God has shown us and in response, offer our entire lives back to him as an acceptable thank offering.
Thankfulness toward God in the life of a Christian is not simply something we whisper in prayer occasionally. It is an all-consuming lifestyle. We live our lives for God, seeking His will and not our own. This is the ultimate thank offering, given in response to the mercies he has shown us in salvation.
How do we increase our thankfulness? Meditate on the mercies of God and think about all that God has done for us. He has spared us from hell and he seeks to pour out all the blessings of Heaven upon us. It is no wonder that those who are furthest from God are the most unthankful. They do not spend time in His word, in prayer or meditating upon what God has done for them. The deeper understanding we have of our sinfulness, God’s holiness and all that he has done to reconcile us to himself, the deeper our thankfulness toward him will be (Luke 7:47). This thankfulness will then overflow into praise, worship, song and sacrifice.