Thanksgiving is the expression of gratitude towards God.
It is something which I have neglected and taken for granted, and thus, I hold a very shallow and superficial view towards thanksgiving. More often than not, to my shame, I find myself giving thanks only when God answers my prayers, or when He simply grants me the desires of my heart. I know that scripture exhorts us and commands us consistently to give thanks. But I often wonder, why? Beloved, if you happen to be struggling in this aspect of your Christian life as well, may this be a catalyst for you to start asking, seeking, and knocking. The topic of thanksgiving is deep, wide, and expansive. And as I have learnt, it is not just a virtue to have, nor merely “something good” to do unto God, but for a believer, one of absolute necessity.
“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”– Ephesians 5:20
‘No gospel, no thanksgiving’
It is doubtless that we ought to give thanks for everything. But first and foremost, we ought to give thanks for the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is central to, and also the basis of all our thanksgiving. Simply put, if there is no gospel, there is no thanksgiving. As such, we have need go back to the gospel and be reminded of all its glorious truths. Here we shall explore three points, the giver, the recipient, and the gift.
No gospel, no reason for thanksgiving’
Firstly, the giver.
God is the giver. The important question is, who is He? Yes, we all know that God is the ruler of the universe. Yes, we all know that God is the creator of all things, you and I included. But I wonder, is there more to His being? To me, these descriptions alone fail to truly capture the greatness, the vastness, the splendor of God. Let us look into two of His names in Hebrew for a little more insight. God is Elohim, it translates to “gods” (plural noun). We know that God is one, but exists in three persons, namely God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We see that God is multifaceted, yet still in perfect oneness. This describes the depths of the riches of God’s being. It depicts that He is transcendent, majestic, and supreme. God is also Yahweh, which translates to “I am”. He is unchangeable, unalterable, and self-existent. He never begins to exist, nor will He ever cease to exist. Beloved, what I am trying to bring across here is this: God is far bigger, far better, far greater, and far beyond our human imagination. The God you serve is “the most high”! And yet, He thinks of us. The giver is “the highest”. This is a reason for our thanksgiving.
God is far bigger, far better, far greater, and far beyond our human imagination.
Secondly, the recipient.
We, sinners, are the recipients. Who are we? To my fellow sinners, I am just another sinner. No need to make a big deal out of it. But, what counts is this! In the eyes of the God whom we have just described, the only perfect being, the “highest” being, I am condemned. In His eyes, I am utterly evil, wicked, corrupt, deprived, immoral, an opposition in every way, an enemy of “the most high”. This is who we are, and if I may, for the sake of depiction, use the term “the most low”. We sinners are “the lowest”, and yet recipients. This is a reason for our thanksgiving. To add an additional point here for our consideration. It is very important to note: not all sinners are recipients. Dear one, take heart, we are amongst a select few, and not because we deserve it.
Thirdly, the gift.
Jesus Christ is the gift of salvation. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and it is crucial that we recognize His part in the trinity, and thus God himself. He lived a perfect and sinless life, and was made a living sacrifice for the atonement of our sin. God himself is the gift! To have the debt of our sin fully paid for, and to be freed from eternal condemnation in hell, this is a gift of mercy. To be clothed with righteousness, deemed perfect in the sight of God, and fully deserving of eternal life in heaven, this is a gift of grace. Beloved, by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, from “the most low”, we were made joint heirs to the inheritance of the heavenly kingdom with “the most high”, this is a gift of agape love. Consider the preciousness and the pricelessness of this gift. This is a reason for our thanksgiving.
‘No gospel, no ability for thanksgiving’
Without the gospel, we sinners are incapable of thanksgiving.
Finally, a slight continuation of the last point mentioned above. The gift is not just a reason for thanksgiving. The gift itself enables us to partake in thanksgiving, because of two important points, a new heart and access to God. Firstly, the gift of Jesus Christ grants us a new heart that is no longer dead in sin, but alive in Christ. Our original sinful heart has no sense of God, no knowledge of sin, no need for salvation, and no reason for thanksgiving. Even if we tried, it would have been impossible to give thanks. Secondly, the gift of Jesus Christ restores the broken relationship between God and man, Creator and creation. It grants us complete and perfect reconciliation to our God, so that we can stand before Him no longer enemies, but fully forgiven, and fully justified. We now have unrestricted access to God, we are at peace with Him, and this allows us to offer our thanksgiving.
I shall end with this. Sometimes we do feel unable to give thanks. Why? The presence of indwelling sin. Sin continues to darken our minds, and blind our hearts to the glorious truths of the gospel. This is why scripture consistently reminds us, and commands us to give thanks. But as the gift of salvation is given by grace, so is our thanksgiving. I pray that the gospel will continue to impress on our hearts the necessity of thanksgiving as a response to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel rightfully demands it, fully deserves it, and it is our pleasant duty to fulfil it in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. In a thankful heart, you will not only find gratitude, but also joy, contentment, peace, hope, and much humility. God does not need our thanksgiving, we do.
God does not need our thanksgiving, we do.
In Part 2 we will look into the practical aspects of thanksgiving, to be