Today is a day for thankfulness. Every day is a day for thankfulness. Every circumstance is a time for thankfulness.
That’s not my opinion. My (personal and fleshly) opinion is that most days are for grumbling, complaining, disputing, and arguing. I do not naturally gravitate to thankfulness. I naturally move towards ingratitude and discontentment.
But I do super-naturally move toward gratitude. With the Spirit of God inhabiting us and the Word of God resting in my hands and heart, we do gravitate towards thankfulness. That thankfulness is the duty of the believer (remember the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:18?); it’s also the joy of the believer. I have never regretted being thankful. I have regretted (and confessed) being grumpy, discontent, and unthankful too many times.
So today, in economic, societal, political, medical, and ethnic debate and upheaval, it is good for the believer to be thankful.
Being grateful does not mean that we have tinted our glasses a rosy hue and do not see things correctly. It means that we evaluate our circumstances accurately, but that we also discern accurately and trust implicitly the character of God as being over, beyond, above, and greater than our circumstances.
We do not know what the future will bring, but we do know the One who has been sovereign in the past, is sovereignly ruling in the present, and will always be sovereign in the future. He was trustworthy yesterday; He is trustworthy today; and He will be trustworthy tomorrow. That’s why we are thankful.
This gratitude was the constant example of the apostle Paul. In Philippians 1:3, when he says, “I thank my God” for the Philippians, he means that he is regularly, habitually, and constantly giving thanks. Every time the Philippians come to mind, it produces a season of gratitude in Paul. That was also true of Paul as he thought of the Romans (Rom. 1:8), Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:4), Ephesians (Eph. 1:16), Colossians (Col. 1:3), Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:2), Philemon (v. 4), and — one suspects — all the people known by Paul. In prison or out of prison, hard church (e.g., Corinth, which persisted in unrepentance and repeatedly attacked his character) or treasured church (e.g., Ephesians, see Acts 20:18ff), Paul gave gratitude for God’s people. His life was a thankful life.
This gratitude was exemplified and taught by Christ. Jesus thanked God for “mundane” things like food (cf. Jn. 6:11, 23), powerful events like the resuscitation of Lazarus (Jn. 11:41), and daunting responsibilities like the cross (Lk. 22:17, 19). And He questioned those who were ungrateful and commended those who were grateful (Lk. 17:11-19). Jesus taught us to be grateful and showed us what a grateful life looked like. No one on earth was ever more sinned against than Jesus and no one has ever been more grateful than Jesus (e.g., Heb. 12:2-3).
This gratitude is the calling of all believers. That’s clear in 1 Thessalonians 5:18; gratitude is part of God’s will for the believer. It’s the God-purposed, Spirit-empowered responsibility of every believer, at all times, in all circumstances. That doesn’t mean that we are thankful for sinful things or for sinful activities (or own or the sins of others). But it does mean that we are thankfully trusting God for what He is working through the sins of others (e.g., we are thankful for the sinful crucifixion of Christ that yielded our salvation) and grateful for God who is sovereign over every circumstance (see also Eph. 5:20; Col. 3:17; 2 Thess. 2:13).
Lack of gratitude is the sign of unbelief. One of the basic characteristics of the unbeliever is that he is ungrateful (Rom. 1:21). He refuses to thank God and in his ingratitude he refuses to acknowledge God’s glory or authority. Unbelieving people are ungrateful people. And people who are consistently and unrepentantly ungrateful have no reason to be confident in a supposed salvation.
I know things are hard. I know things are unsettled. I suspect most of us have never seen so much trouble in our country and so much unrest, distrust, anger, discontentment, disagreement, and volatility in so many areas of life. I hesitate every morning before opening my newspaper or reading the news alerts on my phone screen — “what catastrophe is about to be announced now?” But still…
Today is a day for thankfulness. What are you and I doing to cultivate thankfulness today?