One of the things that seems to have come out of our meditations on thanksgiving over the last seven months is that thanksgiving and thankfulness is a living dynamic thing rather than a formula, or document, or procedure or even a rule that we must follow. Indeed when you think about it, it is something about which we have free choice every day. Shall I be actively thankful or not? Our study in Romans 1 reminded us that things start to go wrong when people decide not to be thankful, and they, and we, do have that freedom to choose.
Moreover, when you consider the human arena, we are almost always thankful to people – it is relational even when it is for an item or a service. I thank you for the box of chocolates, the lift you gave me, the meal you made for me. Even when it is indirect – I am thankful for modern medicine and painkillers, I am thankful for the people who had the knowledge, skill and dedication to discover and perfect these things.
What does that say to me? Well maybe it adds something to Psalm 100:4 “Enter His gates with thanksgiving”. Sometimes we apply that to the start of a church service or worship time, but what if it is speaking of our daily, morning by morning when I wake up, moment by moment relationship with the Lord, as I live my daily, normal, up and down life. Could it be that my friendship, my relationship with the Lord flows and is fueled by thanksgiving?
Sometimes a contrast helps to clarify this, like white chalk on a blackboard. Consider the Children of Israel going through the wilderness. They did a lot of complaining. Now humanly speaking you could say there was a lot to complain about. Hot sand, water shortage, lack of food, lack of variety of food, enemies circling to attack etc. We too have problems big and small in our daily lives. It’s not difficult to find something in your/my life that is difficult, uncomfortable, scary or plain horrible. But whilst understandable at a human level, did complaining do them a lot of good? Well it obscured their vision of how good God had been to them and the mighty things He had done for them; and most importantly it spoilt their relationship with Him.
God is so good, kind and patient that it did NOT stop God providing for them miraculously, but they were not enjoying His friendship, or even, at times, some of the things He was doing for them. If they could have chosen thanksgiving (like I am sure Caleb and Joshua did) they would still have been provided for, but in addition they would have enjoyed a great relationship with the Lord, who was both Father and Mother to them through this time. Its rather like human parenting, Mum and Dad can provide all that is needed for their kids, but beyond that, what a difference either complaining or thanksgiving makes to the flow, fruit and pleasure of the parent child relationship.
It is worth reminding ourselves that thanksgiving is a very significant way to express and grow faith. I face a problem, maybe a bill, I can pray please help me God, that’s good and He listens and responds. However, if in the midst of that I also say ‘thank you Lord that you are Jehovah Jireh, my provider’, ‘thank you Lord you own a cattle on a thousand hills’, ‘thank you Lord Psalm 23 says nothing will I lack’ and I continue in that vein, by the time I have finished, there is a whole lot more faith going round in my veins for God’s action in my problem. Thanksgiving practically builds and releases our faith, in a way that churning things round in my head is unlikely to do.
Even better thanksgiving moves my faith from hope for the future to knowing that in God I have resources for now. I recently heard a talk by Andrew Wommack where he pointed out what Peter said to the lame beggar in Acts 3:6. After ‘I don’t have any money’ he said “but what I have I give you” Peter knew that he already had something he could give that lame man because of the Holy Spirit in and on him and the power of the Lord Jesus and His name. Thanksgiving, for example, ‘thank you Lord that I have Christ living in me today,’ Colossians 1:27, reminds me what I have already, what the Lord Jesus has done for me already, and given me already, and so again it builds my faith, practically and not just theoretically.
Many times we need to make statements of faith in the truths of God and our salvation, utilizing both our shield of Faith and our belt of Truth, Ephesians 6:14-16, in order to stand firm. At times that can be hard work. Thanksgiving for these truths upon which my faith rests is likely to oil the flow of faith in my heart. Furthermore because thanksgiving naturally flows towards being personal and relational it draws my heart and my faith back closer to Jesus, the source and cause of these truths that I need to stand on. ‘I shall not want because the Lord is my shepherd’, ‘I am forgiven and free of condemnation because Jesus loved me and died for me and rose again.’ No wonder Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life, John 14:6.