This weekend we will once again, by God’s grace, celebrate Thanksgiving. While we could spend a great deal of time considering all the things we are grateful for (and you should do this), I want to ponder a couple of things that go a little deeper when it comes to gratitude as a Christian. Paul the apostle writes, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
What does this mean and how should it be reflected in our lives? On the one hand we need to think hard about the reasons we have for being thankful. In this text, and elsewhere, Paul speaks of the importance of being grateful continually and in all circumstances (Eph. 5:20). It is a given that, since God is the one who gives us things, cares for our needs and is working out our future for his glory and our good (Rom. 8:28) we should in turn give these back to him in lives of praise and grateful service. But for today let’s touch on a couple points that go slightly deeper. First, in our giving thanks, consider the character of the one to whom these expressions are made. His goodness shows us who he is and in turn we give thanks. More of this later. Second, ponder for a moment the ultimate intent behind his giving. What is the goal in God’s benevolence? Well, for certain one of the things that God intends is that his creation, and more intimately his chosen people, would enjoy life because of his kindness. “Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy” (Psalm 96:12). Or further, there is the reminder of just how deeply blessed we are by his thoughtfulness. That is to say, on a basic level, our lives are greatly enriched by his goodness. So we echo the sentiment expressed in Psalm 106:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever”.
All of this is true and no doubt should occupy the minds and hearts of his people this week and beyond. However in my mind, at the foundation of all the reasons behind thanksgiving is that in so doing God, who is the all-benevolent one, is manifestly glorified in it. It takes us back, to my earlier point about the fact that the character of God is in evidence when we give thanks. Here even more so as his glory is the ultimate end of this praise. This past Lord’s day I quoted John Piper’s definition of glory as it relates to God; “the glory of God is the infinite beauty and greatness of his manifold perfections”. His goodness, mercy and kindness, in spite of the sinners to whom he is good, merciful and kind, puts on display the awesome glory, majesty and magnificence of the God who made us. He through the thanksgiving of his people is wonderfully glorified.
Much more can be said here (I intend to preach this coming Lord’s Day on this very theme) but suffice to say that as you take time to thank God for all his blessings this week, use it as a springboard to exploring the subject more deeply. By doing the hope is that our expressions to him will not be crass, self-serving pick-me-ups but, in humble self-effacing manner, displays of the incredible glory of our God for all the world to see. And so, in all things the words of the apostle ring with greater impact; Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things.To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36