Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!
Have you ever thought about how much your thankfulness affects your witness and testimony? Probably yes. I know that thought has crossed my mind a few times in my life. As we approach the end of the year, I’ve spent some time examining my life as well as the Christian culture at large. We have much to be thankful for. Personally, I have everything I need. Much more than I need, if I am perfectly honest. We are a blessed people. Can we also say we are a thankful people?
Fair or unfair, perception is a big deal. Perception does not always walk hand-in-hand with reality, but its importance cannot be denied or rejected. From my vantage point, the perception of Christians in America is not one of gratitude and thankfulness. Why is that? What can we do about it? Is it our responsibility to challenge and affect that perception? What steps do we take to present our lives as honestly as possible, while also proclaiming our profound thankfulness for all that God has done for us?
I don’t have any answers
I know. You were probably hoping I had this all figured out. Maybe you were expecting a five-point action plan. Something concise and effective. I hate to let you down but I have nothing of the sort. All I have are questions and observations. I am thankful for what God has done and is doing in my life. That much I know is true. But, and this is the sticking point, do the people I interact with on a daily or weekly basis see that? Do their encounters with me leave them seeking the giver of all good gifts, simply because of my thankfulness? Probably not. And that’s a problem.
Fake it until you make it?
Before you grab your pitchfork and storm my house, I don’t believe faking thankfulness is the answer. But, I do believe that choosing an attitude of thankfulness is part of the answer. Let me explain.
One of my sons, I won’t say which one to protect their privacy, hated school. At least, he claimed he hated school. He would get home in the afternoon and he would collapse on the couch, miserable and emotionally spent. Some of it was the dramatics of his age and some of it was genuine unhappiness. My wife and I tried all sorts of things to help him get through that particularly difficult stage of life. His grades were never an issue. He enjoyed learning. He wasn’t bullied or anything like that. It was difficult to pinpoint what the actual problem was. All we knew is that he hated school, something he told us multiple times a day.
Finally, we gave him a challenge. For one week, no complaining about school. No more saying, “I hate school” every few minutes. He needed to go for a week and focus exclusively on the things he liked about school. I’m not going to say it completely fixed his problem, but everything related to school was better that week. His attitude at home was better. Simply turning his focus away from the bad stuff, his perception of school changed.
When Scripture talks about thankfulness, it is usually in the context of giving thanks. Yes, true thankfulness comes from the heart, but it is sent out into the world by our words and actions. One source I found said that we are told to be thankful or to give thanks 144 times in the Bible. Whether it is more or less is not really that important. The important takeaway is the command to act, to do, to proclaim.
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)
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)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
These are calls to action, not simply words of encouragement. We cultivate a heart of thankfulness by continually expressing our thanks through words and deeds. Are we doing that? If your life was described by someone you interacted with on a regular basis, would they say you are a thankful person? Would my friends and acquaintances say that about me?
Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. After that, Christmas and our yearly celebration of the birth of Jesus. For believers, there is no better time to be thankful people. We aren’t going to change everyone’s perception of who we are. But, we might change a few hearts if we approach every day, every interaction, as an opportunity to proclaim our gratitude and thankfulness to God.
I challenge you to take your focus off the negative stuff in your life. People are hurting. I get that and I know it’s not easy to see the good in the middle of all that bad. I’ve rarely walked the dark valleys so many others have. As I said earlier, my life is good. I’ve been greatly blessed by God. Even still, I know that God’s commands, those I listed above, are not contingent on our circumstances. They just aren’t. We aren’t thankful because everything is good and easy. We are commanded to give thanks no matter our current situation.
Focus on Jesus. Focus on His great and wondrous salvation. Cast your eyes on Him. He walks with you even when the road is hard and dark and long. Let Him be your North Star, your constant. I’m not promising that your life will suddenly improve and you will be showered with fortune and material blessings. That’s not Biblical. But, I am confident that if you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, you will feel His presence and your perspective will change.
I vow to be more thankful. The world is watching. Our neighbors are watching. Our coworkers are watching. Speaking personally, I have so much to be thankful for. Redemption. Grace. Mercy. Family. Friends. Music. Food. Books. The list goes on and on. How can I not give thanks?
A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.