Around this time every year, families will gather around large tables in warm homes and enjoy a feast like no other. There will be folks playing football in the backyard and others watching the Thanksgiving Day parade and football game. Still, others will be making plans for the hustle and bustle of the next day’s shopping spree. This is Thanksgiving, a time of joy, feasting, and thankfulness for all that we enjoy. The Bible has some powerful things to say about thankfulness and those things we enjoy. Let’s find out what God has to say.
A verse comes to mind when thinking about gratitude and thankfulness that seems like an impossible command to follow. This impossible command lies in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”. How are we supposed to give thanks in all circumstances? The good times, sure, it seems possible to give thanks but how in the world are we to give thanks when things are not going well at all?
Well, to be able to rejoice in every situation, good or bad, we must know why we are giving thanks. If our only hope is our life on earth and it turns out that the world was cruel and unkind and unforgiving to us, there would be no hope for us. The end would come and life was brutal to you and that would be all. Thankfully, that is not our only hope. Our hope is in Jesus Christ, who resurrected from the dead and gives us our hope in eternal life. Paul says we are waiting for his appearance in Titus 2:13, “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”. This is what our hope should be. If our hope is in the coming of Jesus and the resurrection, then we have a reason to be thankful. If this is our hope, then we realize the suffering we are going through is only temporary, it won’t last. When the good times come, celebrate and rejoice and give thanks to God. When the bad times come, you can still rejoice, not because of the suffering itself but rejoice because you have a hope that promises a better future. Each situation can bring out recognition of the blessings of God and thankfulness, it all depends on where your hope is.
Gratitude is something that is not always recognized but it is always appreciated and often leads to further reward and blessing. While Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem, ten men with leprosy came up to him and Jesus healed all ten of them. One of them, however, came back to Jesus and the story goes like this, “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:15-19). One man, out of ten, came back to give thanks and he just didn’t say ‘thank you’. It says that he came back praising God in a loud voice, threw himself down at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was also a Samaritan, a foreigner to the Jews and an outcast in society. Jesus then tells him something very profound. He tells the man that his faith has made him well. The others were cleansed on their way to see the priest as was this man. But this man, when he saw he was healed, decided to give thanks to Jesus in the most gracious way and his faith healed him through the power of Jesus. This is an amazing story of one man who decided to give gratitude when no one else did and his faith was recognized. In the same way, God hears our prayers of thankfulness and gratitude and they do not go unheard.
There are plenty of verses telling us to be thankful (Ephesians 5:20, Psalm 106:1, Psalm 100:4) and while we should be thankful, it is always important to remember what it is we’re thankful for and why we should be thankful. 1 Corinthians 15:57 tells us, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. We should be thankful no matter what because of the victory over death that God gives us through Jesus Christ. Praise God for all things!