It is not unusual today for a member of God's church to feel ill at ease with the world around him. Many of us feel that we are living in the last days of Rome, as it were. We hear about things that we would have never heard of in years past. We begin to wonder if we will be overrun by immigrants and see that little or nothing is being done about it. Environmentalists have tied our hands in extracting oil and other natural resources from the ground. We are under constant threat of war from terrorists groups, and our plans for a short conflict and occupation of Iraq languish due to poor planning and political maneuvering.
We see the cost of just about everything going up, especially anything connected even remotely to petroleum and to health care. We scratch our heads over political shenanigans. Some states are beginning to allow civil unions or even so called marriages between homosexuals, and public schools are teaching young children that homosexual relationships are normal. There is no shame anymore in couples living together before marriage or having illegitimate children.
It makes one wonder, "Have we gone mad?" It is no surprise that we feel ill at ease in a world heading for true chaos and disaster. We find it difficult to retain a positive, thankful attitude in such an environment, but we should always offer thanksgiving to God, especially in times like these.
Thankfulness, appreciation, and gratitude mean a great deal to God the Father and Jesus Christ. We know how we feel when someone has sincerely thanked us for something we have done, or when someone gives us a nice thank-you gift, not for any special occasion, but just because he wants to show his appreciation. The Father and the Son have the same feelings.
Thankfulness is giving the gift of appreciation. Years ago, our children, who were not well off by any means, purchased a new gas dryer for us. They did not give it to us for any special occasion; it was just a gift that said, "Thanks for being mom and dad." Needless to say, we were flabbergasted, but to this day, when I see that no-longer-pristine dryer, I often remember the kindness of our children with a special warmth.
Similar in principle, II Kings 5:1-16 tells the story of Naaman, who is healed of leprosy. Rather than just taking his healing for granted and returning home, Naaman realizes that the great gift that had been given to him came from God, and that all other gods were meaningless. In deep appreciation, he attempted to offer thanks by giving costly gifts to Elisha.
How important is it to be thankful? Romans 1:20-21 presents us a few reasons: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and [divine nature], so that they are without excuse, because, 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."
The apostle Paul is telling us that, when we neglect to be thankful, we begin to change:
An unwillingness to thank God for His great love, mercy, and all the other things He provides and does for us will eventually alienate our affections and harden our heart toward Him, causing us to be blinded to all that He is doing in our lives. We can be working to obey God, be receiving His blessings, and approve of God's laws and actions, but if we are not praising and thanking Him, an important aspect of our spiritual development is missing. In a sense, gratitude is the glue that cements our relationship with Him!
This end-time environment can pull us down if we do not take time to consider all that has been done for us. The Passover season annually reminds us of who we are and the price paid for us in great love, so that we can be forgiven and come before the great God of the universe. But we should not relegate this lesson just to the springtime; it is a good idea to remember this fact frequently throughout the year. The late fall and winter is an excellent time to remember why we should have a thankful heart at all times, despite what is happening in the world.
II Corinthians 3:16 tells us that the veil of blindness has been lifted from our minds to give us understanding of spiritual matters that this world cannot comprehend. What God has given us is considered a treasure placed in human vessels (II Corinthians 4:7). Do we value that as highly as we should? Do we thank God for it? Even if it brings us persecution, we are to give thanks for it. Jesus says in Luke 6:23 that we should "rejoice in that day and leap for joy!"
As we see our country founder in confusion, it can be difficult to offer thanks, and yet the giving of thanks to God is of the utmost importance. When we are in a thankful relationship with God, our whole attitude changes toward repentance and obedience, and overcoming takes on new meaning. When we truly thank God, we reflect our love toward Him, and we seek to honor Him.
God, who is capable of far greater feelings than what we can express, highly appreciates our thankfulness toward Him, and it results in blessings toward us, especially those of the Spirit. Perhaps best of all, He draws us closer to Him, and our relationship with Him grows.
We live in an unthankful world, and we in this nation take many of God's wonderful blessings for granted, never considering all the sacrifices that have been made to produce them. Because we live in this greatly blessed country, though we are not truly part of it (see John 17:14-16), we must train ourselves to consider our blessings and give thanks. When we do, it is a win-win situation. We win because we focus on God and His work, and God wins, because in our response to Him in giving thanks, He draws us closer to Him.
This Thanksgiving, then, remember I Thessalonians 5:16-18: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
- John O. Reid