November 24, 2017 Megan Tabangcora

Does your family take part in the tradition of sitting around the Thanksgiving table and taking turns saying what we’re thankful for before you eat? It is easy to rattle off things we know we should be thankful for to make a good appearance and satisfy the social requirement to say something. The problem is that too often this is just a ritual that we do to pay homage to Thanksgiving the holiday. The reality is that we grow numb to the amenities we have as American Christians.

Being thankful is more than intellectual assent. Thankfulness can be explained as “to express gratitude for benefits or blessings” or as “you have made my heart warm.”[1] God has blessed us materially, physically and spiritually, so it is appropriate to be thankful in all those areas. Each area can be neglected and should be revisited often. If thankfulness is done correctly in the heart, the proper result should be a satisfied heart that is willing to give out of abundance. The Bible tells us that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). We are cheerful when we realize how much God has done for us and become thankful for God’s grace, mercy and kindness. Should we be thankful for our material blessings like food and shelter? Absolutely! We should be thankful for material blessings as well as the beauty we see in nature. The key is not seeing the material blessings as a system God set up to earn more love from Him. Being thankful should not be a back-door way into health, wealth, and prosperity theology. Being thankful for what we have in creation and materially in theology is called common grace. God’s common grace is: “The love and favor God shows toward all his creation, regardless of whether they acknowledge him or have faith in Christ.”[2] Another definition is: “Common grace is the grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation.”[3] The fact that we are breathing is more than any of us deserve.

Being thankful is not a season or a one-time event; it is a lifestyle. The greater concept of thankfulness in the Bible is a thankfulness that comes from saving faith. In salutations, Paul is thankful for other believers in his life because it reminds him of the goodness of God. If a Christian wants to have a lifestyle of thankfulness, then there are two essential doctrines that they must know and put into practice. If we read Ephesians 2:1-10 we see man is dead in sin and that we were once children of wrath. Why is this important? Because this truth draws us back to reality about our past. We are not born basically good as society might want us to believe. It helps put into perspective the magnitude of what Jesus did and helps us not to diminish it. When we think that we were wounded by sin and Jesus is just a band-aid that covers our small sins like the occasional white lie, then we have diminished what Jesus really did. When we recognize the reality that we were dead in sin, we see that we are nothing without Jesus. Our ability to be thankful is directly tied to the magnitude of what Jesus did for us. The next question might be: how do I keep an accurate picture of my sin nature? One key is to make sure your standard of sin matches the Bible. For example, in Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus tells us that it is not just a sin to commit murder rather it is also a sin to be angry at your brother. 1 John 3:15 tells us that hating someone is the same as committing murder. God looks beyond the actions of people through to the intent of the heart. When we measure our sin according to Gods standard, it’s easy to see how sinful we are. The second doctrine is the doctrine of God which includes His character. Specifically, we want to focus on God’s goodness, this specific attribute of God is magnified when we look at it in light of how sinful we are.

Reading Psalm 145 is a great way to reflect on the goodness of God. When we practice the rhythm of reflecting on our sin in light of God’s goodness, the end product should be a thankful heart. When we are thankful for what God has done, then we have a higher likelihood to give with the proper intent in our heart. We are also thankful for eternal reasons not temporary reasons. Our salvation is an eternal gift that can never be taken from us. The challenge from now on is to keep a thankful heart for all that God has done. We want to press past the surface and into the depths of our soul to produce truly thankful hearts. When we are only thankful on the surface, we are one bad event away from being bitter toward God. In this life, everything ends up in a junkyard or a graveyard. Thankfulness that is rooted in salvation is eternal and therefore should be practiced daily, because our status as God’s child never changes.

-Pastor Eric Burns

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 428.

[2] Douglas Mangum, The Lexham Glossary of Theology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[3] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 657.