“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
My father lived to be 98. In the last years of his life he expressed an earnest gratefulness to anyone who did anything for him. He could not tell them “thank you” enough! This reflected a humility in being faithfully served by others when he could not do things for himself. You do not need to approach the age of 98 to practice such extravagant gratefulness to others. It ought to be a practice performed earnestly, that is, with sincere and heart-felt passion throughout the entirety of your life.
Unfortunately, we take far too much for granted and expect things to be done for us by others as a matter of course. We are; therefore, we deserve to be treated like we want to be treated, we think. Any expression of gratefulness is not a requirement to getting what we want.
What is earnest and genuine thanksgiving after all? First of all, it is the firm recognition and acceptance that you do not deserve anything. In fact, nothing is due to you because you simply are. If anything, though, you truly deserve only death! If this is not your thinking, you will have difficulty being earnest about humble thanks. Thanksgiving will actually not be the first response that comes to your mind. You are rather all about your rights, your entitlements, and what the “law” says is your due. And no one can take that from you!
Earnest thanksgiving will not arise in your heart until you come to grips with your actual status in this life before Almighty God. You are a fallen sinner who deserves the wages of sin, the just punishment of being conceived and born in sin. You tend to think you are born an innocent, due all the rights of being a human being and, in your case, an American citizen. There are, you believe, certain entitlements you have and deserve simply because you are. You have been born into an “entitled” life.
We learn this certainly as we grow up in an entitled society. My parents are only there to care for me, feed me, clothe me, provide for me. When I leave home others around me are responsible to recognize that I am someone who should be accorded certain deference and certain treatment, simply because “I am.” Earnest thanksgiving never arises from such thinking; these thoughts are simply wrong if this is your attitude. In essence, no one owes you anything.
Your very nature, prone to sin, fights against the spontaneity to give earnest thanks; maybe a reluctant but polite expression, maybe a calculated expression to gain you something, or an appearance of thankfulness to maintain your reputation. But the truest expression of thanksgiving is done when you are alone, alone before God and only in His hearing, when you pour out your heart to your Savior and ask for an earnestly thankful heart. If in private, it will move to public!
A thankful spirit is born out of a correct view of yourself, which, if genuine, comes from your understanding of who God is and what He has said concerning you. Your standing (your righteousness) is as filthy rags. You are a “wretch” as in the words of “Amazing Grace.” If you fail to recognize it, you will never be earnestly thankful! A spirit of thankfulness is born from the crucible of humility. It is a humble spirit which produces gratefulness, and it produces it earnestly.
A person, of which there are many, who knows not a thankful spirit is to be pitied. He is a sad man in the course of his life, searching for lasting satisfaction but never attaining it. We were made initially to be thankful people, but sin ruined our spirits. An unthankful spirit is a sight worthy of tears (“Jesus wept,” John 11:35) for they have no inkling what misery they invite into their lives by their lack of it. A vital mark of the genuine believer is he or she is a person characterized by joy…and earnest thanksgiving!
A thankful spirit is a healthy spirit. It rises above the vicissitudes, the evils, the genetic determinations that impact your life. It accepts and, yes, rejoices in the sovereign providence of God! He alone knows the path that you take. So, in the midst of any valley or any mountaintop, everything and anything, give spontaneous testimony of earnest thanksgiving. This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
“Ten thousand thousand precious gifts my daily thanks employ; nor is the least a cheerful heart that tastes those gifts with joy.”
(4th verse of Joseph Addison’s hymn, “When All Your Mercies, O My God,” 1712)
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