When our daughter, Lori, was small, we were trying to impress on her the importance of being thankful. One Sunday her Sunday School teacher asked the class what they were thankful for. Lori responded, “ I thank God for bologna.” The teacher chuckled as she related the event to my wife. Sue was horrified and said, “People will think that’s all we feed the child!” But it was obvious to me that we were getting the point across.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” This exhortation from the Apostle Paul has a flavor of the impossible about it. The height to which it calls seems far too rugged and steep for our feeble feet. So much so that many never take it seriously. Others confess it to be true with their mouths but never put it into practice. Paul is perfectly serious about it, and not just on Thanksgiving Day either. Paul held it as a life principle. Paul’s life was one long trial. As his days were, even so was his end. He lay in a prison cell in a foreign country without parchment or pen with which to write, no cloak to brace against the chill and dampness, and abandoned by his companions. Even in these conditions, he was not without thanksgiving on his lips and a song in his heart.
Paul’s directive to believers was born in the crucible of adversity and has an air of authority. This is a high standard. But God never calls us to do that which, through His grace, we cannot do. Gratitude is not a child of circumstance. The most grateful people I have known are often those who appear to have the least for which to be grateful. Paul’s letters explode with exultant thanksgiving. They ring with grateful praise. He was shipwrecked, stoned, hounded, whipped, and imprisoned. He was finally executed, but never did he stop his praise.
True gratitude is a child of faith. It is anchored firmly in the belief that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) As gratitude is a child of faith, it must be nurtured, developed, and trained. We must begin by noting the daily blessings of life. A man suffered a dreadful disease but recovered. Someone said, “I’d be thankful too if I was like him.” Yet that person was in excellent health and never sick. He simply took his health for granted. A gospel song from my Eastern Kentucky home says, “I want to thank you, Lord, for all the things I’ve never thanked you for. It’s not that I’m ungrateful, just forgetful, Lord. So I want to thank you for all the things I’ve never thanked you for.”
If we are to be truly grateful, we must throw away pride, self-sufficiency, and conceit. We must realize the ground upon which we walk, the air we breath, and life itself are all gifts from God. What would happen if God took away all but what is due to us as individuals? The sun and stars would vanish. Our bodies would dissolve into dust, and our immortal souls would be annihilated. Every thing would be lost and nothing would remain.
Lord, help us in every thing to give thanks: for this is Your will through Jesus.
~ Brother Roy