Give Thanks!

I have had the great joy and privilege of leading a senior guys bible study every Tuesday night this past semester. It started when they were awkward 8th graders and now they are (mostly) mature young men about to embark on the next stage of their life.

Our conversations revolve around the usual topics such as; their collective dislike for homework, girls, the stress of applying for college, upcoming football games, fantasy football roster lineups, the latest memes, and did I mention girls already? The best part though, is diving deep with these guys around a biblical topic and figuring out how it applies to our lives.

In light of Thanksgiving coming up, I decided we would cover the topic of biblical thankfulness. It was a brief but enlightening conversation with the boys, and I wanted to share those insights here.

Biblical Thankfulness 

The simplest definition of thankfulness is: “feeling or expressing gratitude”, yet that lacks a biblical component because it’s devoid of God, the very source of our thanks.

I would propose defining biblical thankfulness this way: a response to who God is and what He has done by feeling and expressing gratitude no matter the circumstance. 

Biblical Thankfulness: a response to who God is and what He has done by feeling and expressing gratitude no matter the circumstance. 

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I. A response to who God is and what He has done by feeling and expressing gratitude no matter the circumstance. 

Thankfulness can never be neutral. We are either grateful or ungrateful.

Think about this, every time a Chic-fil-A employee hands you your mouth watering Chicken Sandwich, that’s been baptized in peanut oil and MSG, with a large fry (we don’t go small people), your favorite dipping sauce and (non-diet) Lemonade you RESPOND with thankfulness. And yes, WITH OUT FAIL you will get a “my pleasure” in response from them as the clouds break forth and baby angels with harps play in the background.

(If you want to get a sneak peak at Chic-Fil-A Training…watch here)

Dr. John Piper describes it this way: Genuine thankfulness is an act of the heart’s affections, not an act of the lips’ muscles. It is not willed, but awakened. It is not a decision of the will, but a reflex of the heart. It happens to us. We become aware of good will toward us, and either we feel gratitude or we are ungrateful. It is not an inference; it is an experience. If the response of our lips is a mere logical deduction, it’s not heart-thankfulness. 

Our thankfulness is an awakened response that we experience in light of something we have acknowledged deeply.

II. A response to who God is and what He has done by feeling and expressing gratitude no matter the circumstance. 

What is biblical thankfulness, but a response to God? He is our good Father who has sent his only son to save us. We are thankful for him and what he has done.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. – Psalm 136:1 

It’s key that we begin with God because as I’ve written before, when we are most thankful for God it allows us to be appropriately thankful for the other gifts he’s given us. Yes, we should be thankful for health, relationships, food on our table – for they are from God himself – but let us frame that thanksgiving with a heart of thankfulness found in who God is and what He’s done.

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III. A response to who God is and what He has done by feeling and expressing gratitude no matter the circumstance. 

In the Hebrew text, the word for thankfulness means “with outstretched arms”, which signifies praise. It seems fitting doesn’t it? So often our thankfulness results in our worship through song to the Lord for his goodness towards us.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. – Psalm 28:7 

We must have our thankfulness awakened, articulated and expressed to complete our gratitude.

III. A response to who God is and what He has done by feeling and expressing gratitude no matter the circumstance.

This is the most challenging aspect of biblical thankfulness. Paul expresses it to the Thessalonians this way:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

I vividly remember Thanksgiving in the hospital with Davy girl. The first Thanksgiving without Chelsea’s dad or Mama Frazier after their passing to cancer were sadly void of their magnetic presence. It’s not lost on me that some of us will approach this holiday, not with songs on our lips, but with sadness in our hearts.

If you’re grieving this holiday season, I just want to first say I’m sorry. I wrote about those experiences in my own life here and here. Sometimes we fight for thankfulness and sometimes we let the thankfulness of others carry us.

This is why keeping God at the center of our thanksgiving is so crucial. Even in the midst of the suffering He is still good, He is still kind, and He is still going to make all things beautiful in the end. Therefore, in all circumstances, we can give thanks.

My prayer is that my high school boys, all of you and I can cultivate biblical thankfulness this upcoming holiday season by being appropriately thankful for all the created things, but supremely thankful for the Creator.

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