Giving Thanks

Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? I think we all probably have at one time or another and God does have specific plans and purposes for our lives. However, His word reveals to us that His will for all of us is fundamentally the same. 1 Corinthians 5:16-18 says,

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

The will of God in Jesus for us—for all of us—is to give thanks in all circumstances! Now, with Thanksgiving coming up this week, and Christmas right around the corner, it is the season of gratitude. During this time, we’re reminded to take time to be thankful for all that we have. However, the Scripture tells us that this shouldn’t be a day or a season, but a lifestyle. It’s the will of God that in every single thing we do, we give thanks!

What’s interesting about the word for “giving thanks” in the Bible is that it is active. Thanksgiving to God isn’t just a feeling or an attitude of the heart. It’s actively acknowledging God’s goodness by thanking Him—praising and exalting Him—for all that He is and all that He gives!

Now, thanksgiving is the active expression of a grateful heart, but the opposite of thanksgiving is complaining—the active expression of an ungrateful attitude. Complaining expresses doubt and exalts our circumstances over God’s promises. There’s a story in Exodus 15 and 16 that demonstrates this perfectly. Here we read the story of the Israelites in the wilderness after God had brought them out of Egypt by mighty signs and wonders. They had been in bitter slavery, absolutely abused. God promised them that He would lead them in a land flowing with milk and honey—abundance beyond anything they’d ever known. However, they grumbled on the way. They grumbled that they didn’t have water. They complained that they didn’t have food. Then when God gave them manna—incredible supernatural provision—they grumbled that they didn’t have meat. They were never satisfied, with their focus constantly on what they didn’t have, rather than what they did. In the end, that attitude of grumbling and complaining destroyed an entire generation. When it came time for them to enter into the promise, they doubted God’s ability to fight for them. They believed the negative report of ten of the twelve spies that were sent to spy out Canaan and grumbled against God saying,

“Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Num. 14:2-4)

Even after everything, they refused to trust Him and He replied,

“How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. Say to them, As I live, declares the LORD, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.” (Num 14:27-30)

In the end, their complaining destroyed them. Now, it’s easy to judge the Israelites because we know the end of the story. We know that God would have done what He promised. We know He had good plans for them and longed to show them His goodness. However, it was their complaining—which was the fruit of doubt—that destroyed them. It may not have been easy for them to trust in a hot, dry desert, but God would have been faithful, because it’s who He is!

In Acts 16, we read an incredible story about Paul and Silas that ends a little better than that one. Paul and Silas were beaten terribly for the sake of the gospel and thrown into prison. They were bruised and bloodied and in a situation that it would have seemed perfectly normal to have complained. However, these men of God did the opposite. The Scripture says,

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

In their praise and their thanksgiving in the midst of a trial, God delivered them, saving the jailer and his whole family. Not only that, but every prisoner there saw His Glory and faithfulness. We don’t know how many souls were saved from that encounter. What a testimony! If we will give God praise and thanksgiving even when it isn’t easy, even when we don’t feel like it, it will absolutely change our lives! The Bible tells us that out of the abundance of our hearts, our mouths speak (Matt. 12:34) and that our lips can’t pour forth salt and fresh water at the same time (James 3:11-12). This means we can’t complain and give God thanks at the same time because those two expressions can’t come from the same heart. In our own lives, we have to remember what the Israelites did not: God is always faithful to keep His promises. Even when we don’t yet see something God has promised us, we have enough to be thankful for to last us a lifetime. He has given us His own son, in unimaginable love, to bring us into His family. As if that weren’t enough, He has promised us all things! Will He not do it? Will He not keep His promises to you? He is more faithful than we could imagine. He is bigger than we’ve dared to hope and better than we’ve dared to dream. So this week and every week, I encourage you to dwell on God’s goodness and give Him thanks for all He is and all He’s done. As it says in Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

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