This week is thanksgiving. I have two questions for you: what are you thankful for and are you a thankful person? You live in a world where its easy to find people who are not thankful for their jobs, ungrateful toward their spouse, and who are unappreciative of what they have. But you can be different and God wants you to be different. Over and over again He calls and commands His people, you and me, to be grateful, thankful, and full of gratitude.
That attitude of gratitude is hard to possess in a culture of negativity and criticism and unhappiness. There is a reason why God tells us over and over and over again to be thankful. We have to work at it. We have to fight the temptation to be unthankful.
Today, we are going to look at one statement from the Bible about being thankful. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 1:2, “We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. 3 As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NLT). One of the lessons I’ve learned is gratitude turns what we have into enough. Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year because it reminds us to give thanks and count our blessings. Suddenly, your life seems to be better than you previously thought and God seems more good than you previously believed.
What are some principles of thanksgiving we need to consider today?
Thankfulness recognizes the worth of someone or something
Number one, thankfulness recognizes the worth of someone or something. God’s Word uses the word “thank” in verse 2. What is thankfulness? When we “thank” God what are we doing? To be thankful for someone or something is to recognize the worth or significance of the person or situation. When you give thanks to God for someone in your life you are saying, “God, I recognize the worth and significance of this person in my life.” This doesn’t mean that the person or situation is making it easy for you to be thankful. The person may be difficult and the situation may be troubling, but you are recognizing the worth of this person or the situation. The person may be difficult, but you are seeing how God is using them to help you grow spiritually and deal with some of your own selfishness and impatience.
The same is true for circumstances. Later in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are told, “Be thankful in all circumstance, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). You may not be thankful for the circumstance, but you are thankful while in it. You know that God does not waste opportunities and He will use your circumstance to help shape and grow you into the person He wants you to be. You are able to be thankful in any situation because you “know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT). When you are thankful you see the value of the person or circumstance. You see God at work in some way. Thankfulness changes the way you see things. You see things differently and more accurately.
Thankfulness is to be habitual
Number two, thankfulness is to be habitual. The word “always” (pantote) means “at all times” and “all occasions” which indicates a thanksgiving that was continual and regular. It was a habit. This does not mean we are to walk around babbling in our mind over and over of our thanksgiving for others (Matt. 6:7). This is choosing a lifestyle of thanksgiving.
Paul was no fool, he was not born yesterday. He was not naïve and his head was not in the clouds. He knew there were problems; he knew there were difficult people to handle; he knew there were tensions that arose from time to time; he knew there were clashes of personality. He knew all that, but in spite of all their hang-ups and shortcomings, he had chosen to give thanks more than to complain more. Your life and my life should be a “thanks-athon.”
Life is not always easy, but as believers we can say things like,
- What I’m going through has not been easy, but I thank God for giving me the strength to get through it.
- This problem I’m facing has knocked the wind out of me, but I thank God for placing people in my life who are praying for me and encouraging me.
- I did not see this issue coming, but I thank God for the lessons I’ve learned.
- This person in my life is difficult, but I thank God for giving me an opportunity to love this person and serve this person even if they are cold and rude to me.
Being thankful and grateful is to be a habit, a lifestyle.
Thankfulness acknowledges God
Number three, thankfulness acknowledges God. Notice Paul says that he always thanks “God” for them. When you thank God for someone or you tell them you thank God for them you are saying, “I believe God placed you in my life and He is using you to make me a better person and bring Him more glory.” A couple of thoughts:
- Take some time each day to say thank you to God for someone in your life. Be specific, say their name, and why you are thankful for them. This will help develop a thankful attitude that is habitual.
- Also, let them know you thank God for them and let them know why. This is what Paul is doing. He told the Thessalonians that he was thankful for them and then told them it was because of their “faithful work” and their “loving deeds” and their “enduring hope” they had because of their relationship with Jesus.
There are a lot of ways to honor God. One of the ways is by being thankful to Him for who and what is in your life. Psalm 69:30 says, “I will honor Him with thanksgiving” (NLT). We glorify and honor God when we give Him thanks and speak of our gratitude for what He has done in our life. When we withhold giving Him thanks we rob God of honor that could have been given to Him.
Thankfulness for others does not depend on their maturity
Number four, thankfulness for others does not depend on their maturity. Paul says in verse 2 that they thanked God for “all of you.” Now think about this for a moment. The “all of you” phrase is an “all inclusive” phrase. Paul knew, just like you know there are all types of believers at all levels of maturity with all types of personalities and with all kinds of issues and hang-ups in the church body. He knew they still had imperfections. Over in 1 Thessalonians 3:10 he says, “Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith” (NLT). Every believer has gaps in their faith. They trust God in this area of their life but not this other area. They believe what God says about this is true, but they are not so sure about that. Mature in one area and immature in another. Paul was thankful for all the believers regardless of what they were lacking in their faith or maturity.
Let me ask you a question, what person in your life gets on your nerves because they are lacking kindness toward you? Do you have any immature believers or people in your life? Can you be thankful for them? It’s easy to be thankful for that person who is mature and kind and selfless and giving and who loves you and likes you and agrees with you and supports you. That’s easy. But everyone in your life is not like that. Can you be thankful for that believer who is rude, stubborn, set in their ways, who doesn’t agree with you, who doesn’t support you, and who doesn’t like you? Here is where you find out how mature and deep you are in the area of thankfulness.
Thankfulness can be produced in others because of you
Number five, thankfulness can be produced in others because of you. You want to be that person that others find it easy to be thankful to God for. Paul identifies three things that made it easy for him to be thankful for regarding these believers.
- Their “faithful work.” Some translations word this as a “work of faith.” The idea here is believers who are doing things based on their faith in God. Their faith in Christ moves them to bless others and serves others. Their faith produces works. We are not talking about lazy Christians, but faithful Christians. Paul was thankful for these believers demonstrated “faithful work” as followers of Jesus.
- Their “loving deeds.” Some translations word this as a “labor of love,” which is more accurate because “loving deeds” (kopos) focuses on the energy and effort in demonstrating love to others. Paul understands that to love some people takes more effort and energy because they are difficult people. Paul was thankful for the believers who spent the effort and gave it their all to speak lovingly and act lovingly to their enemies and the people in their life that were hard to get along with.
- Their “enduring hope.” Some translations word this as “steadfastness of hope.” It refers to hope in the future that provides endurance in the present. Their hope in the return of Christ, a home in heaven, and the treasures they are building there produced endurance to deal with difficult people and trying circumstances in this life. They had an enduring hope in Christ that gave them spiritual perseverance.
Because of their faithful work, loving deeds and enduring hope Paul found it a joy and delight to be thankful to God for these believers. That is where you want to be. You want to be that follower of Jesus who is known for their work of faith, labor of love, and enduring hope. You want to make it easy for other people to be thankful to God for you.
Thankfulness is an important part of your prayer life
Number six, thankfulness is an important part of your prayer life. Notice carefully that Paul refers to their prayers in verse 2 and 3. Whenever Paul would spend time praying, one of the things he would do would be to spend time thanking God for people. There are all kinds of prayers.
- There is the prayer of praise where you tell God how great He is (Ps. 50:23).
- There is the prayer of confession where you tell God about your sin (1 Jn. 1:9; Ps. 41:4).
- There is the prayer of intercession where you ask God to do something in the life of someone else (1 Tim. 2:1-6).
- There is the prayer of petition where you lay your personal request before God.
- There is the prayer of thanksgiving where you express your attitude of gratitude for what God has done in your life.
One of the best ways to develop the habit of being thankful person and to remind yourself to be the kind of person who others are thankful for is to pray prayers of thanksgiving.
Gratitude and thankfulness turns what you have into enough. Be the most thankful person you can be. Win the war against discontentment and ungratefulness with the power of thankfulness to God.