“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times” remains one of the consistent sayings from generation to generation in American families. Moms weary from open milk cartons left on the counters and dads befuddled by hand tools left in the sandbox repeat the mantra told to them by their parents. The cycle continues.
Still, not every repeat message occurs because the hearer forgets or is neglectful. Often the importance of the message requires repetition. When God repeats something over and again, wise people listen. At more than 130 times, few topics have more references in the Bible than thankfulness.
- Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
- Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).
- And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful (Colossians 3:15).
- Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 118:1)!
Developing a pattern of thankfulness is not merely a practice in good manners. To be a genuinely thankful person is to a be a spiritually maturing person. Think about it:
Thankfulness produces liberty when you realize your life, both temporal and eternal, does not depend on you. The Christian who sees the hand of God dispensing every good gift, from his salvation to his daily bread, finds great mental relief when he affirms in thankfulness that sustaining life does not rest on his shoulders because his Father in heaven bears the responsibility to care for him.
Similarly, thankfulness delivers security when you realize that your Father in heaven watches over you in constant vigilance. Anxiety can paralyze a woman or make a man unable to act. The Christian who woke this morning thankful to God for the protection through the night finds herself in the position of protection from her Father in heaven in her restless and anxious moments of the day.
In the battle against pride, thankfulness wins the day. How can you express pride in your achievements, your stature, or your wisdom when you first express humility in thankfulness to God for the endowment of your skills, for the unknown acts of providence that delivered to you your position, or for the understanding of a situation because of the insight God gave to you?
In a world fraught with hardships and the daily penchant to complain, thankfulness overcomes grumbling, whining, and protesting. Your spouse will be much lovelier to you when thankfulness to God for her starts your morning thoughts about her. Your parents will be much less of a bother to you when you begin your day with thankfulness to God for them. You will appreciate your job all the more and work through the real challenges you face when your workday begins with thanks to God for what the income from your job provides for you and allows you to do.
While some historians debate the finer points of the story, Matthew Henry’s thankful response serves as an example to us. An English preacher in the late 1600s and early 1700s, Henry traveled by horseback on a preaching circuit through the English countryside. On one occasion four thugs attacked Matthew, robbing him of the little bit of money he possessed. Later, Henry recorded in his journal these thoughts: Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.
While doing God’s will and serving God’s people, Matthew Henry experienced the reality of living in a sin-filled world. Who would condemn him for complaining? Yet, he finds in the event that left him poorer and the victim of a crime occasion to express thanks to God. You can do that too, can't you? As you do the will of God today as a dad, mom, son, daughter, employer, employee, and a brother or sister in Christ and experience some difficulty great or small, some point of dissatisfaction, some reason to complain, can you find a reason to be thankful to God?
Be thankful today. Your Father in heaven has been, is, and will continue to be good to you.
As always, I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.