God’s love expressed by Him in all creation and His blessings in our lives through His Son are enough reasons to thank Him besides the multitude of blessings provided daily to us.
“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it……… I give you” (Genesis 1:28-29) contain the task assigned to Adam and Eve and the resources provided for the same. Before making all the gifts available to man God did not lay down any pre-conditions- “If you do this I will” but everything was given on a platter, free and in abundance. God does not expect anything from His creation in return for having not only created us but also for having provided every possible thing that we need to live a life full of happiness. God created man and felt the need for creating a partner for him for God did not want man to be alone. It is for this togetherness that God visited every day during the “cool of the day” to fellowship with him and solve any problem that man might have created for himself.
The only precautionary advice given to man was not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Even after having known about their actions of having committed the sin, God still did not leave them but came around looking for them to guide them out of the situation. It is a different matter that man decided to hide from God rather than come out before Him, confess his mistake and seek forgiveness. They chose to blame each other or the serpent for their sin. Even after this God did not withdraw what He had provided free and only changed the condition of availability. Since man had decided to place self and satiation of his body before God he was now required to use that same body to put in hard work to receive what was earlier freely available.
Concept/meaning of thanksgiving – The word thankfulness / thanksgiving is used about 190 times in the Bible and Apostle Paul has used this about 40 times and 7 times in his Epistle to the Colossians. The concept is derived from two Greek words- first is ‘charizomai’ meaning ‘to do something pleasant or agreeable to someone as a favor’ taken from ‘charis’ meaning grace and the second word is ‘homologeo’ meaning ‘to profess; to declare openly ;to praise/celebrate’. It is thus an open declaration of gratitude as a celebration for something done by another as an undeserved favor. God provided everything for us as a gift and a gift is not earned but is presented to the receiver as an act of kindness. A gift has two basic aspects to it- it is at the discretion of the giver and it is free without any preconditions attached to it. The act is an act of confirmation and continuation of a relationship. The receiver has two options- either to receive the gift and acknowledge the affiliation or reject it and break/ignore the same. The one receiving the gift cannot opt to take one and refuse the other or place a condition or demand something specific.
Thanksgiving is a mental, verbal and spiritual act from within the heart, of acknowledgement and appreciation of the gift through humble and joyful acceptance.
Why thank God for His favors – Since a favor is given without any condition why should man be required to thank God for His gifts? Thankfulness is surrendering to the power of the Omnipotent God thus acknowledging that we seek His hand on us. “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10) and I must be grateful to God for making me what I am. Khalil Gibran, the great philosopher narrates the story of a man who while walking to the temple for afternoon prayers complains to God for the hot sand on which he is walking and his grievance is further enhanced when a rich man passes by him riding a horse. On reaching the temple he finds a man without legs loudly thanking God and asks him the reason for his joy. The lame man replied “I thank God for He has given me this life, this wonderful temple to come to, a tongue to praise Him and a mind to know Him. What more could one ask?”
Thanksgiving is developing an attitude of satisfaction in what is given, to prayerfully ask for more and thankfully await the answer. If I am not thankful for what I have how can I ask for more and then expect God to answer my prayer?
To be good Christians – There are four aspects of a believer’s life that please God and Apostle Paul has listed these in his Epistle to the Colossians in chapter 1:10-12 to make us worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him. Verse 10- being fruitful in every good work is the first part by revealing Divine love and glory to others to bring them into the Light of the world. And then “increasing in the knowledge of God” through meditating on His Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to receive the revelations of the mysteries of the Word. The third part is being “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power for all patience and steadfastness with joy” thus being fully prepared to face the lies of Satan and be victorious. The final aspect is “Giving thanks to the Father” for it is through the last act that we become eligible to partake of the other three.
Fulfill God’s will – Our Lord directed us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven and Apostle Paul gives a glimpse of the Divine will “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God has provided us with all the gifts for the main purpose of “loving others as He loves us” and this love of God is displayed in us through our good works. We are supposed to do everything, through encouraging someone through prayers or words or doing something for the well being of others, in the name of the Lord Jesus while giving thanks to God the Father (Colossians 3:17).
To receive wholeness – On His way to Jerusalem Lord Jesus was beseeched by 10 lepers to heal them and He commanded them to present themselves to the priests for checking and to be declared as free from leprosy. On the way they received their healing and one of them returned back to thank the Lord and glorify Him. Lord Jesus recognized his act of thankfulness and blessed him “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you whole” (Luke 17:12-19). Others were healed from the disease but the one who returned to give was made whole through restoration of the limb extremities lost to leprosy.
To get empowered – Our Lord decided to feed the 5,000 men and their families before asking the disciples for anything and on being given five loaves of barley bread and two small fish, “and when he had given thanks he distributed them to the disciples; and the disciples to those sitting down….as much as they wanted” and twelve baskets full of the fragments were collected afterwards. After feeding the multitudes the Lord “departed again to a mountain by Himself alone” (John 6:11-13;15). In like manner standing outside the tomb before calling out to Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, “Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me” (John 11:41). And only after that He called out to the dead man to come out of the tomb. His prayer at Gethsemane is not only of surrender to the will of God but also empowerment to face the task at hand. If the Son of God Himself felt the need to give thanks to the Father before undertaking any difficult and important assignment how much more should we to get empowered through the Holy Spirit.
What if we do not thank God? – We shall be breaking the relationship that our Savior died on the cross to restore to us and thus consider that sacrifice of no value to us. Since we would then severe our right “to be children of God” we should not expect any grand blessings also nor can we lay claim to any special favors to be given to us. “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22). With ‘darkened hearts and foolish thoughts’ one can neither glorify God nor even himself.
When should we give thanks to God? – We have already seen some of the times for thanking God. We live in a sinful world and we also have a basic nature that is sinful and are likely to be trapped by the devil many a times or get into situations beyond our control. “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57) and this thanks is maintenance of our faith in Him before, during and after facing a difficult situation, irrespective of the outcome. In Him and through Him only is our victory and “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Our love for Him is expressed through an attitude of thankfulness to Him.
WE must thank God for the blessings already received each and every time we sit before His throne to pray to acknowledge His sovereignty over our lives and then seek Him and His love. This attitude shifts our focus from self and our capabilities to the power of the Almighty God thus providing Him an opportunity to intervene. We are thus proclaiming that though we do not deserve His blessings but we humbly seek Him. It stops us from vain complaints and “I deserve better” feelings. It was this attitude that the Israelites showed in the wilderness by not being thankful for the ‘Manna’ but craving for meat by claiming their lives during slavery in Egypt being better (Numbers 11). King David was well aware of the importance of thanksgiving that “He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the Ark of the Lord, to extol, thank and praise the Lord, the God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 16:4). Thanksgiving cannot be a private affair but a public display of gratitude without making a show of it as it is a part of worship. “I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many peoples” (Psalm 35:18) and this is what comprises a major part of the “Great Commission” also.
How do we give thanks to God? – “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Worship is establishing communication with God who being a Spirit can only be reached through the spirit that is in all of us. The spirit is reached with the heart and that is the essence of the first commandment by the Lord Jesus. Thus unless the thanksgiving is from deep within the heart it is of no value and is only superficial. How do we involve our heart in this critical aspect of worshipping God? The heart must realize and accept its total dependence on God and His power working in every facet of our lives thereby reducing self importance or power to a state of nothingness. Only then is it possible for us to recognize and thank God for what He has done and is doing in our lives. King David presented three thousand talents of gold of Ophir (pure gold) and seven thousand talents of refined silver for the Temple to be built and urged others also to give according to their heart. The nobles an d others gave five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron beside large amounts of precious stones and king David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly (1 Chronicles 29:1-13). Thanksgiving should be before all but not as an act of show off but of humility and submission for God having given us a chance to serve Him.
What should we thank God for? – Life itself is a gift of God for which we should be thankful always and everything that we have is from God (1 Timothy 4:4). Thank God for revealing Himself through His Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ and for His Holy Scriptures and for His promise to answer our prayers even before we ask (Isaiah 65:24). We must cast all our worries before God and thank Him for listening to and answering our prayers (Philippians 4:6). Thanksgiving is necessary for the character of God- for His unchanging nature, His love, His righteousness and for being just. WE must pray for and give thanks to God for our brothers and sisters in Christ who at great risk to their own self and suffering tribulations move out in obedience to His Word (Ephesians 1:16). Once we develop an attitude of thanksgiving then we find reasons to do so at every breath that we take and everything in our lives.
A heart devoted to God does not need reasons or ideas for thanksgiving but surrenders to Him in total humility accepting His sovereignty over our whole being and the creation itself. “Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the congregation of His people” (Psalm 149:1).
Hallelujah and Hallelujah to our Lord God!!