Thanksgiving is much more than sharing a meal with family and friends or a polite response when you experience a kindness or receive a blessing. Thanksgiving is a vital aspect of our personal relationship with God. Paul sums this up in 1 Thessalonians:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”— 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (ESV)
All three of these commands—rejoice, pray, give thanks—indicate a state of the heart and involve communication. These are the proper responses of people in active relationship with the Heavenly Father—spiritual sons and daughters who have right standing before God through His Son Jesus Christ.
To be consistent and focused in rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks increases the depth of your faith and the impact God has on this world through you. Further, the degree to which you exhibit thanksgiving is a signal of other healthy aspects of your walk with Christ. When you are thankful in all circumstances:
You acknowledge your relationship with the Heavenly Father—God gives good gifts to His children. What’s more, acknowledging God as the ultimate priority keeps your relationship in healthy perspective, while the fleshly world seeks fulfillment in anything but Him. Finally, to the extent you give thanks to God in ways others can see, your actions may provide opportunities to share Christ with them.
You are more aware of God’s activity in your life—Otherwise, who would you thank? Plus, you become more perceptive of His presence and responsive to His leading.
You practice humility—Giving thanks to God indicates you understand the true source of blessing. You are correctly attributing your success or blessing to the Master Giver and not the result of something you did.
You strengthen your faith—Thanksgiving in all circumstances includes times of trial. Trusting Him in difficult times can be a much harder obedience, yet it is through trials that we are refined and prepared for even greater intimacy with God. Remember “suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:4 ESV) It’s that hope we are able to turn around and share with others when trials come upon them. —2 Corinthians 1:3–4
The encouragement of 1 Thessalonians 5 is not all Paul has to say on the importance of thanksgiving. In 2 Corinthians, Paul indicates as we experience God’s blessings, we are to be generous in every way.
“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”
—2 Corinthians 9:10–12 (ESV)
Here Paul calls the results of Christian generosity a “harvest of your righteousness,” and points out that God enriches us in order for our generosity to increase. More than that, Paul says the ministry of generosity is “not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” The results of our generosity and service should not be selfish attention. We are to point others to God. The passage continues:
“By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others. . .”
—2 Corinthians 9:13 (ESV)
Sharing of resources is important, but it is a small reflection of the most important gift that we must also share: the Good News. Elsewhere in 2 Corinthians, Paul says it this way:
“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
—2 Corinthians 4:15 (ESV)
Grace generates gratitude—a surpassing gift offered, received, acknowledged, and celebrated. And the Giver, glorified.
“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”
—2 Corinthians 9:15 (ESV)
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” —1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (ESV)
Rejoice! Pray! Give Thanks!