There are many ways that we express our thanks. We say, “Thank you,” “Many thanks,” “Much obliged,” and “Thanks a lot.” Expressing one’s gratitude for another’s kindness is nothing more or less than good manners.
However, when it comes to thanking God for His goodness, most of us become ingrates. Sad! One man even said to me, “I work forty hours a week; why should I thank God’?”
I like what Ann Landers had to say in one of her columns:
“On this day, take a few minutes to think about what you have to be thankful for. How’s your health? Not so good? Well, thank God you’ve lived this long. A lot of people haven’t.
“You’re hurting? Thousands, maybe millions, are hurting more. (Have you ever visited a Veteran’s Hospital? or a rehabilitation clinic for crippled children?) If you awakened this morning and were able to hear the birds sing, use your vocal chords to utter human sounds, walk to the breakfast table on two good legs, and read the newspaper with two good eyes, praise the Lord. A lot of people couldn’t.
“How’s your pocketbook? Well, most of the world is a lot poorer. No pensions. No welfare. No food stamps. No Social Security. In fact, one-third of the people in the world will go to bed hungry tonight.
“Are you lonely? The way to have a friend is to be one. If nobody calls you, call someone. Go out of your way to do something nice for somebody. It’s a sure cure for the blues.
“Are you concerned about your country’s future? Hooray! Our system has been saved by such concern. Your country may not be a rose garden, but it also is not a patch of weeds. In America, freedom rings. You can still worship at the church of your choice, cast a secret ballot, and even criticize your government without fearing a knock on the head or a knock on the door at midnight. And if you want to live under a different system, you are free to go. There are no walls or fences-nothing to keep you here.”
Contentment Is a Command
Oh, be thankful. Did you know that contentment is a command from God? He says in Hebrews 13:5, Be content with such things as ye have. Contentment is indicative of our spiritual temperature, and it also indicates a thankful spirit.
John Wesley records a conversation with a porter at Oxford College which changed his life. The man called at Wesley’s room late one evening and said that he wished to talk with Mr. Wesley. After talking for quite some time, Mr. Wesley, in a spirit of pleasantry, said to the porter, “Go home and get another coat.”
The man replied, “This is the only coat I have in the world, and I thank God for it.”
Then demanded Wesley, “Go home and get your supper.”
The man again replied, “I have no money or food, but I have had a good cold glass of water today. And I thank God for it.”
John Wesley again cried, “Go home and rest.”
The porter answered, “I have no home, but thank God that I have dry stones upon which I can recline at night.”
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, then said, “You thank God that you have nothing to wear, nothing to eat, and no bed in which to sleep. Is there any other reason you are grateful?”
“Oh, yes,” said the porter, “I thank God that He has given me life and health and a heart to love and serve Him.”
Is it any wonder that John Wesley declared that his conversation with this pauper had revealed to him something to which he had been a total stranger?
Where do you stand today, dear friend? Oh. be thankful, for the offering of thanksgiving to God is the duty of all His children, whether circumstances are good or bad, right or wrong, happy or heartbreaking.
Why? He is God, and He is in control. The Bible says, Offer unto God thanksgiving (Psalm 50:14). [Give] thanks always for all things (Ephesians 5:20). Continue in prayer… with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2). In every thing give thanks (I Thessalonians 5:18). Yes, Thanksgiving… [to] our God for ever and ever (Revelation 7:12).
Thankfulness, as a duty then, is prominent in the Bible. It should have a big place in our lives, for thankfulness is the declarative mood of gratitude, a great incentive to faith, a glorifier of God, and a subduer of the lower nature.
Be Thankful in All Things
At this point, I can almost hear someone saying, “I can agree that praise to God is suitable when blessings abound, but should one literally thank God for everything?” Is it possible to praise God when the road is tough, when circumstances are unbearable, when the night is dark, when situations are disagreeable, when the cup of woe is bitter, when the black wings of disease flutter over the baby’s cradle, when the bill collector is at the door, when our neighbors mistreat us and our friends despise and forsake us? Yes, even then, we should say, “Thank You, Lord.”
Paul wrote the majority of the verses just quoted and he praised God for everything. Speaking of his sufferings as an apostle, he said in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13, For we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted [beaten] and have no certain dwelling place [no home like others]; And labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer [allow] it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
What do you have to say about all this heartache, Paul? In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
In 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, Paul again mentioned the hatred he encountered as a good soldier of the faith. He declared, We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. What about this abuse, Paul? And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Be ye thankful (Colossians 3:15) seemed to be Paul’s motto. When he was in peril of his life in Damascus, suspected by his fellow believers in Jerusalem, persecuted in Antioch, stoned in Lystra, assaulted in Iconium, beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, attacked by a lewd and envious crowd in Thessalonica, pursued by callous enmity in Berea, despised in Athens, blasphemed in Corinth, exposed to the fierce wrath of the Ephesians, bound with chains and sent as a prisoner to Rome, Paul still praised God.
Yes, at all times, in all places, in all things he made known his requests unto God with thanksgiving. Though he was in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by [his] own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness (2 Corinthians 11:26-27), STILL Paul always abounded in thanksgiving.
Though he was in prison without his freedom, in winter without an overcoat, in court without a friend, in poverty without a donor, in exile without a home, yet he was ever singing his hymn of gratitude to his God.
How different we are from Paul-and how indifferent to God’s command, “Be ye thankful.” Most of us have a place to sleep, clothing to wear, food to eat, and a vehicle to drive. Yet we grumble endlessly.
I wish I could take you to Egypt today to observe the Coptic Christians at work. Because of their faith in Jesus Christ, they are unable to obtain employment in this predominantly Muslim land. Hence, they sift through the garbage and discarded junk of the land for food in order to exist. Their occupation is passed on from generation to generation, and there is no hope for improvement because of their beliefs.
Nevertheless, in the midst of their poverty, they have great love for their Lord Jesus. If they would renounce the Savior for Mohammed, their lot in life would change drastically. But they will not do that. Instead, they eke out an existence on garbage and castaways because they love God. Philippians 4:11 and 13 is their source of strength. I have learned, in whatsoever state [condition] I am, therewith to be content. [For] I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
This is the spirit of revival.
Jack Van Impe