GIVING THANKS … WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT
We interrupt our weekly (blog) broadcast with this special announcement: “Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (Psalms 106:1). What a wonderful season of the year: to set aside some time just to be thankful, and then to give and receive gifts!
Did you know that when all is said and done, there’s only one basic standard that God imposes on mankind? There’s one fundamental benchmark that God uses to separate the good from the bad, the righteous from the unrighteous, the godly from the ungodly, the just from the unjust, the saved from the unsaved. It’s a very simple, yet profound prerequisite that, if fully understood up close and personal, really isn’t a condition at all. Rather, it’s a response that defines and divides the entire human race into two distinct groups, as viewed by God, himself: Those who acknowledge and respond to the true and living God and those who do not.
What is this response that delineates who we are and actually determines our destiny? Let’s get it first hand from the Bible. “They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks….” (Romans 1: 19-21, italics for emphasis).
Forget about going so far as worshiping the creator of heaven and earth and the giver of life and all good things. All those who are determined to go their own way, do their own thing, and take credit for all they have or are, refuse to express or even consider any gratitude to God—though down deep they know that God exists and that they and the universe could not exist without its Creator.
If someone can never get to the point of acknowledging that Almighty God is the source of their very breath and being, it’s highly unlikely that they will believe what God (through the Bible) says, and certainly would not personally accept what he has done for mankind, i.e. by giving us the greatest gift ever given … His only Son to die for our sins and the penalty of those sins.
The Joy of Gratitude
Whether the happy occasion is Thanksgiving, or Christmas, Hanukkah, Veterans Day, Valentine’s Day, birthdays or anniversaries, nothing brings us joy like giving and receiving. Even the most stingy and miserly can manage a smile when their gift package is opened by someone they care about. We all love to receive gifts and many love to give even more than receive. When we receive a gift (special or routine), what is our normal response? “Thank you, so much.” And when we give, “You’re welcome.”
Very few of us express a hearty thank you to our employer when we receive our paycheck. Why? Because it really isn’t necessary. Oh, we’re appreciative to be gainfully employed, but the fact of the matter is: We earned that money! Not so with a gift. We thank the giver because the gift was free, and it was given with a spirit of compassion and perhaps even love.
In fact, isn’t that what thanksgiving (the giving of thanks) is all about? Think about it for a moment. What really happens when we thank someone for a gift? First, we have obviously accepted the gift as exactly what it is intended to be: a gift. Secondly, we are expressing gratitude for the gift itself. Whether we’re surprised at the gift or not, we are grateful for the intrinsic value of the gift no matter how much we use it, just because it’s a present. Thirdly, we are thankful to/for the giver … meaning for their very existence and their expression of goodness and generosity that often includes some form of sacrifice for that gift, whether it’s hard-earned money, time, effort, or just plain old kindness and consideration.
The Highest Level of Gratitude
With God, we can and should take this one step farther, into a higher dimension. We thank Him for everything. “Thank you Lord for this beautiful day. Thank you for the rain. Thank you so much Lord for family and friends. Thank you for who you are, what you do, and what you will do.” And so the Pilgrims (Puritans) gave thanks to God for guiding them to a beautiful land, and giving them a country where they were free to worship God, the giver of all good things.
God has given us many gifts, blessings, and sometimes even miracles. But two amazing gifts stand out above all the others: (1) Life itself on this earth; (2) Life everlasting, through the death, burial, and resurrection of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. We had no say in the first gift. All we can do is reply and say thank you Lord for giving me life. Likewise, we say the same thing with the second gift, “Thank you Lord for giving me life again … life after death … eternal life!” That’s all God expects from us, that’s all we can really do: Recognize that the awesome plan of salvation is a gift (unearned, unmerited, and undeserved), accept it, and say, “Thank you, Lord.” When we do that we agree with Him, we trust Him, we humbly express our eternal gratefulness for his promises—because his promises are true. And we present our body, soul, and spirit as a living sacrifice to our Great God and Savior, and we say, “This is the least I can do. Use me as you see fit. Thy will be done.” (See Romans 12: 1-2).
Wrong/Right Reasons for Giving
How many times a day, week, or month, do we say or hear the words, “Thank you.” I would venture to say hundreds of times in the course of any given year. And that’s good. On the other hand, how many times are those words more of a traditional, expected, or knee-jerk reaction to everyday life? How often do we truly thank the Lord for who he is and what he does, and really mean it, really think about what we’re saying, really want to bless and lift up his holy name? And genuinely thank those in our life for their care, encouragement, help, and consideration.
All religions (or even non-religious systems such as the New Age movement) of the world have one thing in common: Through some form of sacrificial system, they claim it’s possible (not a certainty as ultimately the god of that religion will determine where a person spends eternity and only after death will that be decided) to obtain a certain amount of favor with that god, and in some fashion “earn” his mercy, or at least generate recognition and favor among people whom they admire. These “sacrificial” good deeds include, but are not limited to: charitable giving of money and time, membership in and support of their church or organization, daily or periodic rituals, and abstinence from or deprivation of certain things either continually or on select occasions. The idea is: The more you give of yourself, the more likely you will be accepted because your good works hopefully will cancel out the wrong things you’ve done.
Not so with the Christian faith. There’s only one decisive sacrifice asked of those who have been born-again from above, who have been redeemed by the Son of God through faith in Him … the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Can you imagine? What kind of sacrifice is that, we ask? That’s too easy. Shouldn’t I be doing much more than just giving thanks?
We need to understand that genuine gratefulness is all that God ultimately wants from us. Because when we sincerely express thanks, we are giving to God our very heart; we are setting aside pride and selfishness by humbling ourselves to his grace and mercy; we are acknowledging how great he is, and yet how good he is. We are saying that all we have and all we are belong to Him. We are saying that apart from Him, we can do nothing, we have nothing, and for all practical purposes we are nothing. (See the Book of Ecclesiastes for the vanity and futility of life without God—and no less from the wisest and wealthiest man who ever lived). We are offering ourselves to him and we want to serve him; not for what we can get out of it, but simply because “our cup runs over.”
If we are truly thankful, then from an overflowing heart we do those things that other religions require to obtain salvation; but we do them in reactive and proactive gratitude for the salvation freely given to us. When we give thanks to the Lord from a truly grateful heart, we are fully acknowledging that so great a salvation is by grace and grace alone, and the only meaningful response is: “Thank you, Jesus.” That alone glorifies God, which was His very reason for creating us in the first place.
We are saying, “I love you Lord, because you first loved me!”
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15, NAS). Here praise to God is further compressed and defined by the verbal expression of giving thanks to His name, as God’s name represents all that He is and all that He does.
Let’s thank him with the words of an old Christian melody:
“Thank you Lord for saving my soul, thank you Lord for making me whole, thank you Lord for giving to me, Thy great salvation so rich and so free.”
And another one: “Amazing love, how can it be; that you my God would die for me.”
Things to Ponder:
– “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18). Notice that it doesn’t say be thankful for everything (all circumstances); rather be thankful in all that happens. We don’t say, “Thank you Lord for my automobile accident.” But we can learn from it and say, “Thanks, Lord for giving me the strength to get through it.”
– I wonder how much good it would do us and others around us if we truly cultivated an attitude of gratitude? As contrasted to the disposition of complaining and grumbling and finding fault.
– “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (Christ)” (II Corinthians 5:21, NAS). Wow! Amazing! “Thank you, Lord.”