I hope, despite the adjustments thrust upon everyone by the COVID-19 pandemic, that you found time to give thanks.
The rest of this column has little to do with the American holiday and much to do with basic Christian living. Scripture describes boundless thankfulness as a way of life for believers in Jesus. The kind of thankfulness described in the Bible should be ordinary for Christians, not an exception. Let me show you what I mean.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the apostle Paul wrote, “Give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” That command is the last of five boundless commands Paul gives in verses 14-18. First, he commands boundless patience with other saints. Second, he commands boundless good will and action toward all people, not just saints. Third, he commands boundless rejoicing. Fourth, he commands boundless prayer. Fifth, he commands boundless thanksgiving.
Paul makes clear that all five of those commands guide ordinary Christians and reflect the heart and desires of God - His will. Imagine a group of saints who all practiced boundless patience, good will, rejoicing, prayer and thanksgiving. How extraordinary! Now, gather a whole church congregation of such believers. They would deeply impact their community. Finally, gather all of those churches into a denomination. Such a flood of boundless, God-driven spiritual holiness would no doubt draw many onlookers into church pews. Such a movement starts inside the heart of an individual - someone like me or like you.
Of course, boundless thanksgiving is just as much God’s work as the other four commands. No human being can muster enough determination to begin and sustain such living. Yet, a believer’s obedience allows God access to do that kind of work.
Think of how amazing boundless thankfulness is compared to alternatives. The verb Paul uses includes three elements. First, a believer internally feels thankful for something. Second, he or she expresses that thankfulness in some outward, public manner. Finally, he or she directs that expression toward God, clearly giving Him credit and glory.
Those three elements, according to Paul, should happen in every situation, every circumstance and in every matter. Basically, nothing can derail God’s plan when He begins unfolding His plan in a believer’s life - except one thing. The believer can stop obeying, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
I see much unthankfulness, today. Clearly, that is not the mark of God at work in His people. Thankfulness among saints should be like a trick candle. When disappointments and other smothering events happen, the candle may flicker, but then it bursts back into life. Biblical thankfulness is truly unquenchable.