The New Testament both exhorts its readers to give thanks and exemplifies the giving of thanks. Gratitude is a common attribute of the sanctified believer (in part because it is so unlike the natural man).
Of all the things that might be said about giving thanks, I want to draw attention to two characteristics of biblical thanksgiving.
First, God is always the object of true gratitude. The world has a kind of gratitude that is nebulous and indefinite — its gratitude does not terminate on the One who is ultimate. Gratitude is given “in general” — “I’m thankful for food…relationships…success…” — without expressing thanks to the God in Heaven who has given that gift of grace to them.
True gratitude finds its ultimate expression in God. Consider these examples from Paul:
- “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ…” (Rom. 1:8)
- “I thank my God always…” (1 Cor. 1:4)
- “I thank my God…” (Phil. 1:3)
- “I thank my God always…” (Philem. 4)
No matter the object for which we are thankful, our gratitude should find its expression in the Lord. He is the One who has given us every good gift (James 1:15). Since He has given us all good things to enjoy (1 Tim. 4:4), it is idolatrous to give thanks to anyone but Him as the giver of the gift. So always end your expressions of gratitude with an expression of ultimate thanksgiving to God.
Secondly, Scripture often exemplifies the giving of thanks for people. We are prone to give thanks for stuff (repaired cars, enough money to meet our bills, groceries, health, recovered health, rain/sun, and rest/leisure, to name just a few items). But in Scripture we often find expressions of gratitude for people. Consider the same examples from above, but expanded to their full sentences:
- “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” (Rom. 1:8)
- “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was evidenced in you.” (1 Cor. 1:4-6)
- “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Phil. 1:3-5)
- “I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints.” (Philem. 4-5)
So there is gratitude for faith in Christ that is spreading (exploding?) into evangelistic testimonies, gratitude for faith that is evidenced in sanctified lives, gratitude for perseverance in serving Christ, and gratitude for love that is both upward (towards God) and outward (towards other believers).
From this we learn a lesson that it is good to observe, think about, and remember the good works of others — and then express our gratitude to both them and us for what God has worked in them and through them.
With those two principles in mind: always giving ultimate thanks to God and also giving thanks for people, this Sunday (June 12), our church body is giving thanks to God for the 20th anniversary of the ministry of Keith Palmer to us.
He began his ministry at GBC on July 1, 2002 and in God’s great kindness to us, we have experienced much blessing through his ministry for 20 years. This Sunday we recognize the grace gift that Keith has been to us.
In the morning worship service, we will fulfill the first responsibility of giving thanks — pointing our hearts towards God in gratitude for His kindness to both Keith and us. And in the catered fellowship meal to follow, we will give thanks to Keith with some tangible expressions of gratitude.
If you are in the area, we invite you to come join us in worship and fellowship as we express thanks to God in our every remembrance of Keith and his ministry.