by Neil Pitchel, Pastor of Central Operations
Thankfulness is an important subject to the apostle Paul and in the Word of God as a whole. Some combination of the word thankful is found 195 times in Scripture. Paul uses the concept over 40 times in his epistles and seven times in Colossians alone. The concept of thankfulness in the New Testament comes from the use of two Greek words. The first comes from charis, “grace.” The second is homologeo, “to confess, acknowledge.”
Thankfulness then is a mental and/or verbal expression of one’s acknowledgement and appreciation of God’s person, His grace, blessings, and sovereign work in one’s life and the world.
Being thankful also requires a proper understanding of the reasons why we should be thankful. Thankfulness cannot occur in a vacuum of ignorance. So Paul doesn’t just tell his readers to be thankful, but points them to four awesome blessings that they possess through the mighty acts the Father has accomplished in the person and work of Jesus.
These four objects of thanksgiving are only a partial listing of the blessings God gives us in Christ, but these four do give us a wonderful illustration of what God has done in the person of His Son and of what all believers possess in Christ.
Through Christ, the Father has:
- QUALIFIED us to share in an inheritance that is imperishable,
- DELIVERED us from the domain of darkness,
- TRANSFERRED us into the kingdom of His Son, and
- REDEEMED us, providing the forgiveness of sins
When we are thankful, we recognize that God exists, and we are acting on the reality of His life as the very source and means of ours.
True thankfulness recognizes our total dependence on God and stems from realizing that everything going on in our lives and all we have is the product of God’s sovereign control, infinite wisdom, purposes, grace, and activity.
The Psalms are filled with the call to give thanks. An example is Psalm 100:4 which says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”
Then Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything keep on giving thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” In Colossians, he twice gives the command to be thankful (3:15, 17).
Thanklessness is dangerous to self and others. It dishonors God and leads to proud humanism or dependence on man rather than God. In addition, it leads to bitterness, complaining, and a joyless life. Since thankfulness is a response to the grace of God, its opposite, bitterness with its companions, complaining and grumbling, are the product of an unthankful heart that fails to properly respond to God in faith to His person, infinite wisdom, grace and purposes. Thanklessness promotes pettiness and occupation with self, people, and problems. That in turn creates feelings of hopelessness because we become focused on our problems rather than on the Lord.
A thankful and God-focused person counts on God in all circumstances and will manifest the sweet fragrance of a life filled with the knowledge of Christ rather than the spirit of bitterness and complaining.
Thankfulness, then, becomes a spiritual barometer; it is an evidence of the condition of our spiritual life and value system even in a year like 2020.
“But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place.”
2 Corinthians 2:14