|Volume 17 Number 11 November 2015||
Mark T. Tonkery
Did you hear about the woman who walked into a grocery store a day before Thanksgiving and was very upset with the size of the turkeys that were left? She turned to the stock boy and asked snappishly, “Don’t these turkeys get any bigger?” To which he calmly replied, “No ma’am. They’re dead!” Soon, we will all be celebrating Thanksgiving. What a wonderful holiday it is, but not just because of the food. Thanksgiving is the day when we pause to reflect, remember and respect the abundant blessings that God has bestowed upon us. There are over 550 references to thankfulness in the Bible. One of those passages 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, which states that we are to, “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
The Bible teaches us that as Christians we should be known for our thankfulness. Notice just a few of these things for which we as Christians are to be thankful.
Christians are to be thankful for daily food and needs. Matthew 15:36 records that Jesus gave thanks for the food. In Acts 27:35, Paul blessed the meal before he and others ate it. We are to receive our food and daily necessities with thanksgiving (Romans 14:6; John 6:11, 23; 1 Timothy 4:3).
In addition, we are to be thankful for salvation. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 6:17; 7:25).
We are to be thankful at the Lord’s Supper also. As we come each first day of the week, we are to give thanks for the bread and the fruit of the vine, which are memorials to Christ’s death on the cross (Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24).
We are to be thankful when good is done for us. Has someone done something good for you? We are to be thankful. Luke 17:16 records that only one leper returned to say, “Thank you.” What a striking illustration of the ingratitude of men! One returns, the alien; the other, saved from a living death, are heard no more.
We are to be thankful for the church. Yes, we are so blessed to be a part of the church, especially since so many do not know about the church. In Romans 16:4 Paul said that “he gave thanks for all the churches…” (1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; Ephesians 1:16).
We are to be thankful always. In summary, there up to 550 references to thankfulness in the Bible. The Christian is to be thankful always and not just once a year, “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17; 4:2). “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).
What if we are not thankful? “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21). Doesn’t this sound like some people today? They know God is real, but they don’t seek after Him, and they don’t give Him thanks. Many people today probably never think about saying thanks to God on a daily basis for meals or anything else. Nor do they think about whispering praise to Him for every little blessing they receive.
Some even in the morning Lord’s Day assembly will not even return in the evening or at other times for worship to thank God by their presence, prayer or support of His church in any way. Many Christians just take God and the church for granted, and sadly what we take for granted we never take seriously.
Millions will use Thanksgiving Day as a day of indulgence and ingratitude, not respecting their Creator, conscience or country. We’re sometimes too much like a little boy I heard about. On his return from a birthday party, his mother asked, “Bobby, did you thank the lady for inviting you to the party?” Bobby replied, “Well, I was going to. But a girl ahead of me said, ‘Thank you,’ and the lady told her not to mention it. So I didn’t.”
So, what if we do not thank God? Romans 1:21 reminds us that we will become futile in our thinking and our hearts will be darkened. Futile thinking means to be vain, morally wicked, worshiping of idols, godless in thinking, foolish reasoning and brainless speculations. Doesn’t this sound like the problem of pornography, drug addiction and the rise of false religion today? Hearts will be darkened; a heart that does not understand God’s truth seeks its own way. A sinful heart is wicked and rebellious. Doesn’t this sound like the atheist and many of those leading our country?
It is a frightening and sober thought that all of the carnal debaucheries and gross vulgar conduct revealed a little later in this chapter, as marking the wickedness of those ancient Gentiles, should have begun with so mild and apparently innocuous a thing as neglect of worship and failure to give thanks to God. What a powerful warning this speaks to countless Christians of the present generation who regard neglect of giving thanks as a very casual and minor omission of duty. All people should take this to heart; because forsaking worship or neglecting the giving of thanks might be compared to the pebble cast loose from the top of a mountain that becomes a roaring avalanche to crush a city or a civilization beneath it. (James Coffman)
“The root sin is the failure to value God above all things, so that he is not honored and praised as he should be. Human beings are foolish, not in the sense that they are intellectually deficient but in their rejection of God’s lordship over their lives” (ESV Study Bible).
What if God began to treat us like we so often treat Him? What if God met our needs to the same extent that we give Him our lives? What if we never saw another flower bloom because we grumbled when God sent the rain? What if God stopped loving and caring for us because we failed to love and care for others? What if God took away His message because we wouldn’t listen to His messenger? What if He wouldn’t bless us today because we didn’t thank Him yesterday? What if God answered our prayers the way we answer His call for service? What if God decided to stop leading us tomorrow because we did not follow Him today?
Years ago, there was a popular song by Joni Mitchell called “Big Yellow Taxi.” In the chorus was this memorable line: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got, till it’s gone.” We don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone. There is so much in our lives that we take for granted. When I go home today, I’ll enter my house and turn on a light switch and light up the room. I can open my refrigerator, and there are all kinds of foods to eat and things to drink. When I get up in the morning, I can step into the shower and turn on the water and stand under hot water. Then, I can get dressed because I have a closet full of clothes, and then, I go out and get into my car and drive down the road anywhere I want to go. When I run low on gas, I can pull into a gas station and fill up again. I tend to just take those things for granted. However, this isn’t the way it has always been, and that is not the way it is for most of the people living in other countries today. Further, since Hurricane Sandy, this is not the way things are in parts of New York and New Jersey.
What would happen if all our homes, cars and conveniences were gone? What about the freedom to worship God, to come to worship, to own and study the Bible? What if it was all gone? Sometimes we don’t know what we’ve got until it is gone.
Back in 1988, a Polish railway worker named Jan Grzebski was hit by a train. He lived, but only barely. For the next 19 years (until the year 2007), Grzebski was in a coma. He awoke in 2007 to a whole new world. Poland, 19 years earlier, was a communist state. Grzebski noted that back then meat was rationed, and there were huge lines at nearly every gas station. “There was only tea and vinegar in the shops.” However, 19 years later, he awoke to a free nation whereupon he said that there were “people on the streets with cell phones, and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin.”
Something, though, puzzled him. “What amazes me is all these people who walk around with their mobile phones and yet they never stop moaning.” These people had freedom, food and wealth greater than Poland had had for decades, and yet, Grzebski woke from his coma to find that all they seemed to want to do was grumble!
If we don’t get into the habit of thanking God daily for what we do have, we’ll soon become ungrateful for what we don’t have. Ungratefulness leads to sin and rejecting God (Romans 1:21). Psalm 103:10 says, Lord do “not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”
The story is told of the Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte. He was known as a man who always found something for which to be thankful. One Sunday morning, the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to himself, “Certainly the preacher won’t think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a wretched day like this.” Much to his surprise, however, Whyte began by praying, “We thank Thee, O God that it is not always like this.”
The Bible says we should be thankful for all things. With such an emphasis on thanksgiving, there must be great benefits as well. Consider the benefits of cultivating this attitude of gratitude. Perhaps the greatest is that thanksgiving has a powerful effect on our lives. Thanksgiving makes us different. Look around you. Daily you will see people who are bitter. It’s been said that some people are bitter, not because they do not have anything, but because they do not have everything.
We have been well taught to be greedy and ungrateful. We are bombarded by commercials that remind us of what we do not have. Christmas becomes a depressing time for many. We are led to believe that if we do not have things that we will not experience happiness. Most unhappy people are unthankful people. At first glance, you may think them unthankful because they are unhappy. The opposite is true; they are unhappy because they are unthankful. Thanksgiving has the power to transform us into different people – to be the people of God!
Finally, thanksgiving is the act of rendering praise and thanksgiving; this praise and thanksgiving may take the form of private prayer or public proclamation as in song or simply saying the words. Thanksgiving is more than a day; it should be the nature that all Christians should display every day – the attitude which should daily characterize those who are disciplined and devoted disciples of Christ.
What kinds of attitudes characterize you? You can either take things for granted or take them with thanksgiving. Let’s remember to give thanks with a grateful heart. Let’s remember Paul’s prayer, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
One accepts God’s gift of salvation and is placed “in Christ” when he places his faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turns from his sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confesses Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10) and is baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27). Will you do this today?