3 Biblical Principles About Thankfulness

Biblical principles of thankfulness

With Thanksgiving upon us, it’s that time of year once again to slow down, reflect, and be thankful for all the blessings in our lives. If we’re being honest, though, how many of us really do this? I know I’m guilty of skipping a side of thankfulness on my way to the stuffing and mashed potatoes. It’s easy to do when work has been stressful, the commercial Christmas corporate conglomerate has been shoving snowflakes and plastic Santa’s down our throats since July, and we’re worried that we’ll get stuck next to that crazy uncle at the table, talking about his never-ending fight with foot fungus.

But is Thanksgiving really just about third helpings of green bean casserole, football games we wouldn’t normally care about, and hoping to break off the largest piece of the wish bone? Should we really take this time to stop running the rat race of life and reflect on all that we have to be grateful for? And ultimately, what does God’s Word say about thankfulness and how can we apply it to our daily lives?

It's Evidence of Christ Working in Us

As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re justified by grace in faith in the One who gave His life for us and sanctified in the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Simply stated, if we belong to Christ then our lives should begin to reflect His qualities and characteristics. As Colossians 2:6-7 puts it, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” We’re not instructed to be thankful only when something good comes to fruition in our lives, but to be overflowing with thankfulness simply as a result of a life lived in Christ. It’s evidence of His good work in us. Therefore, we should be thankful in good times and in bad, and our hearts should be a reflection of the Savior’s heart towards God the Father and all that He’s done for us.

It Grounds Our Hearts and Helps Us Approach God with Reverence

Thinking of all that God has done for us helps us to be thankful, and in turn, causes us to approach Him with the respect and admiration that He deserves. This is especially true when life seems to be taking us down a different path than expected, and we have questions or requests of God. In Philippians 4:6-7 it says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present you’re requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Without first recognizing God’s infinite goodness, it may become too easy to stack up grievances against God for the things we haven’t yet received that in our finite hearts we believe belong to us. If we take it even one step further, we realize that we can have peace about the things we don’t understand simply by making those requests known to our loving God with thanksgiving in our hearts. So, God turns our anxieties into peace and gives us something more to be thankful for by guarding our hearts and minds against the things that cause us concern.

It's the Will of God

Despite the circumstances of life, we should be thankful because it’s the will of God. Thankfulness is not an emotion brought on by the elation we feel when we get what we want, but rather a condition of the heart toward the Creator of the universe, who gave us life, immerses us in His perfect love, and ultimately saved us from our sinfulness through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son. And because of the infallible love of God, He doesn’t want us to suffer ungratefulness and cynicism, but instead He desires for us a heart of thankfulness that will lead to a life lived more abundantly. So, in that vein, He instructs us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

So, as we gather around the table this Thanksgiving, let us not forget to be thankful to the One who provides the sustenance that most of us are likely to overindulge in. Let’s give Him thanks for the many blessing that we all have in our lives. And let us not forget to thank God for life, and love, and the people with whom we get to share both. Because when we do, we’re pointing to the work of Christ in our lives, approaching The Almighty with the reverence that’s due Him, and fulfilling the perfect will of God. These are things that we should do not just during the holiday, but every single day of our lives. And the thing that we should be most thankful for is the free gift of grace, given by the Father in the sacrifice of His most beloved Son, Jesus Christ.


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