“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly implore His protection and favor – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God . . . .”
President George Washington issued this presidential proclamation in 1789 for the purpose of acknowledging thanks to God. I’m very grateful that President Washington set aside a special day to incorporate the giving of thanks into our national mindset and heritage.
The Apostle Paul speaks about thanks-giving as a privilege and an obligation for believers in Colossians 3:12-17: "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
The idea of being thankful or giving thanks, as expressed here, is to keep on being and becoming thankful as a continuous process of obligation and privilege. Eugene Peterson translates this verse in The Message like this:
Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of
the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
I like the way this same principle is articulated so clearly and plainly in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. The author has also added one additional word regarding giving thanks.
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is
God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (New American Standard Bible.)
In everything give thanks. Now that phrase puts a whole new spin on things! It seems easy to give thanks when you’re enjoying a house full of family, friends, football, and food on Thanksgiving Day. But Paul is telling us to give thanks in everything. That’s a tall order, and “everything” includes a lot of stuff. If I were to be totally honest, there’s a whole lot of stuff I don’t feel thankful for at all! I’m sure you could come up with your own list called, “Stuff I Wouldn’t be Thankful For, Lord.” But in God’s plan for each of us, there is a purpose for everything, the good as well as the not-so-good. Yes, it’s easy to be thankful for every joy and blessing. And yet the Bible tells us that every trial and difficulty, every disappointment and failure, is part of His plan for our life. The difference is that with Him there can be a silver lining for every cloud.
Paul, no stranger to trials himself, tells us that through our purposeful acts of prayer, rejoicing, and giving thanks, especially in difficult or trying times, our very attitudes will be transformed.
Simply by taking this action! Nobody claims it’s easy, but God promises to be with us, no matter what takes place in our lives. It is God’s will that we find joy (that we rejoice always) in thankful prayer in Christ Jesus, in every circumstance of our lives. Out of these difficult situations, we will begin to see God more clearly and be blessed by His abiding peace in our hearts. In the process, we will bless others, finding ways to show kindness and love to one another. No, it’s not easy to give thanks in every circumstance or time of testing. But obedience is not an option when it comes to our life in Christ.
Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more – a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleases me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be Thy praise.
~ George Herbert
There is something refreshing and wonderful about being around a person who understands the concept of being grateful. They walk through life differently. The atmosphere around them is energizing. Henry Ward Beecher said, “The unthankful heart . . . discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”