An Attitude of Thankfulness

{I know this is a day later than the latest I should I have posted it, but since we should be thankful at all times, not just on Thanksgiving, I thought I’d go ahead and post it anyway.}

Thankfulness to God is such a clear, repeated command in the Bible! I found out that the word “thanks” is used 73 times in the King James Bible; the word “thanksgiving” 28 times; “thank” 27 times; “thankful” 3 times; and “thankfulness” once. That’s a total of 132 times that God’s Word talks about being thankful.

After counting that up, I realized how necessary it is to have an attitude of thankfulness. The most important reason we should learn to be thankful is out of obedience to God. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, emphasis mine) But there is also another reason to live with thankfulness – because it will affect our lives in ways that will enable us to be a radiant testimony of the blessings of God, and to serve Jesus with humility and contentment!

You see, the opposite of thankfulness is a sense of deserving something more, which leads to complaining when we feel like we are denied what we think we deserve. Thankfulness requires humility, and it’s result, is contentment. Our nature has a tendency to tell us that we deserve more, but everything we have has actually been given to us by God. True thankfulness is understanding that we deserve nothing at all.

There are two elements to having a genuine attitude of thankfulness: trust that God knows best, and an understanding that every. single. thing. we have is a blessing from God!

The first element of thankfulness, trust, pertains to every detail of what we do and do not have. We must rest in the knowledge that God is over all, in all, and all things are for Him. We do not deserve anything, but God deserves everything. He deserves our praise and thanks for the things we may not understand, for afflictions that may hurt, for disappointments and suffering.

Thanking God even for the things we may not ask for, or want, puts a whole new meaning on the Bible verses that tell us to “offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” When I saw the implications of offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving, all I could of was “wow.” It means it’s not going to be easy, and we’re going to have to have to lay down our own ideas of what’s fair, but we owe it to our God who is perfect, and has given us everything we have.

Which leads into the second element of genuine thankfulness, understanding that everything we have is a gift from God. John 3:27 says, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” If we, as John, can understand that all that we have is from God alone – whether it be a direct blessing from God, or through another person as an instrument of God – we will be desirous and anxious to give praise and thanks to Him who has given us all that we have. Gratitude and expressions of thankfulness should naturally overflow from a

My mom thought of the story of Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom. They and their family were Christians living in German-occupied Haarlem, Netherlands during WWII. The Ten Booms used their house as a hiding place for Jews, and during a raid on their house due to a neighbor-informant, the whole family was arrested. After only 10 days in prison, Corrie’s father died. Eventually, the rest of the family was released, but Corrie and Betsie were sent to the concentration camp at Ravensbruck.

Upon being assigned to their barracks, Corrie was horrified to find that it was infested with fleas! But Betsie found the strength to go to God in prayer… “Show us how, Lord.”, and was reminded of their Bible reading from that very morning. It was in 1 Thessalonians 5, verses 16-18, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Betsie had found God’s answer to her prayer – give thanks in all circumstances. “Not just pleasant circumstances, Corrie!” So right then and there, Betsie found things to be thankful for: that the two of them had been assigned there together, right next to each other; that there had been no inspection upon entrance, and so they retained their Bible; for the over-crowding in the barracks, that many more women would hear the Word of God; and for the fleas…

The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

Betsie answered gently, “Give thanks in ALL circumstances… Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.” And so Corrie and Betsie gave thanks for fleas.

As time went on, they found that they were basically unsupervised in their Barracks 28 dormitory, and though they didn’t understand it, they were glad for the daily opportunities to hold “services” and minister to the other women from the Word and in prayer.

Then, one day, Betsie found out why neither guards nor supervisors ever entered the dormitories…

“That place is crawling with fleas!” was the supervisor’s response when they were asked to settle a question on sock-knitting. And Corrie remembered their first hours in Baracks 28. She remembered Betsie’s bowed head. And she remembered giving thanks for those awful creatures that she could see no use for.

Later in The Hiding Place, Corrie relates how, in “the sanctuary of God’s fleas,” the women of Barracks 28, broken and suffering, prayed for the whole of Ravensbruck – guards as well as prisoners.

The rest of Corrie’s story is amazing, and though I’ve never read the whole book, I can whole-heartedly recommend, and even urge you to read The Hiding Place for yourself.

There’s the story in the Bible about a time when one man in particular, out of a group, was singularly blessed because he expressed his thankfulness.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 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 17:11-19 NIV)

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly [give] thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15 NIV/KJV)

What should we be thankful for? Yes, all things. “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” (Ephesians 5:20) But by thinking of specific things we can begin to develop a general attitude of thankfulness. Some specific things mentioned in the Bible which men and women gave thanks for were:

  • Victory over sin, through Jesus Christ: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” 2 Corinthians 2:14
  • Christian friends, teachers, family: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2 (Just a side note… here, and in at least one other passage, when Paul was thankful for his brother and sisters in Christ, he also prayed for them, which is an important ministry we should have for other believers.)
  • God’s power and sovereignty in our lives: “Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.” Revelation 11:17
  • God’s unspeakable gift of grace to us: “And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” 2 Corinthians 9:14-15
  • Strength from God, and ways He has given us to serve Him: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.” 1 Timothy 1:12

So what happens when we aren’t thankful? We will miss out on the joy of treasuring and cherishing the wonderful things God has given us, since we only think of what we don’t have! Paul said, “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21) We also read about the two types of things that could be coming out of our mouths, and which one is better: “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” (Ephesians 5:4)

One verse that I found especially convicting, was this one, Psalm 119:62, “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.” To disturb my sleep, to feel SO thankful and indebted to God that I should make such an effort to give thanks to God at all times, spoke to my heart, and made me confess to God my lack of humble thanks, asking for forgiveness, and strength to be oh so much more desirous for His presence in my life.

To end with, I have one more verse, which, if you let it sink into your heart for a moment, should make you thankful for all God has done for you: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

{Written using concepts from Bright Lights materials by Sarah Mally and my own experiences and Bible reading. I used basically this same content for a recent Bright Lights lesson.}

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About Michelle

I am the middle of three daughters, daily living by the grace of God and in awe of Christ's perfect love, to suffer and die in atonement for my sins, and then rise from the dead to give me eternal life with Him. I get excited about reading/applying/talking about God's Word, travel, fellowship, nutrition, books, writing, photography, cooking and especially baking, designing things, event planning, and doing things with my family.

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