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"Giving Thanks"

1Thes 5:18 ...in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (NKJ)

Several years ago I saw a documentary about the westward push of the pioneers. It was based on their own letters and journals. Many of them were Christians and so reference was made to God frequently. These people faced countless setbacks, great adversities, and horrendous trials. But what caught my attention was the attitude and humble posture of these people toward God. In situation after situation (where sometimes a majority of the people concerned actually died) these folks maintained a thankful heart to their gracious God. There were statements like, "the unrelenting blizzard continues to rage…death has claimed nearly half of our party…it is uncertain whether we ourselves shall survive but, thanks be to God, He has preserved us alive unto this day and, if He so wills, we shall be spared." In many of the excerpts, the recurring theme was thanks to a gracious God in their most trying circumstances – a God whose providential hand guides all things – a God whose countless mercies to sinful man are nothing short of astounding. We who deserve death are granted mercy continuously.

This same attitude is found even more intensely in the writings of the pilgrims and puritans who settled this country. Enormous adversities and grave circumstances are acknowledged as the will of God and, because they are His will, such trials are received with thanksgiving.

This way of thinking seems foreign to us today. Most modern American Christian's would be appalled at such words and humble posture.

What has happened to bring about such a shift in attitude? What has made the difference in the way we think? First of all, we are a spoiled generation with an entitlement mentality. We have too much and we think we deserve it. Secondly, we see ourselves as the center of all things. We have come to believe that the most important things in life have to do with our own little world.

The result is that the "thanks" given by most Christians in modern America is hollow and inept. This shift in worldview has taken God from the center of our perspective and placed man in that most lofty place. This shift in the worldview of American society has had a negative impact on Christians. We grow up in a world where the predominant life-view is anti-Christian. When we come to Christ, we bring our ego-centric worldview with us. God is too often relegated to the peripherals in our daily living.

This translates into extreme selfishness that robs us of a clear-headed, thankful attitude. We are ungrateful because the premise from which we begin is man centered. We consciously or subconsciously believe that God owes us something.

We really believe that we deserve better than our current circumstances. Therefore, we refuse to give God thanks as the Scripture commands. For the sake of sanity, we often twist the Scripture into conforming with our man-centered worldview. Some invest the "devil" with power almost equal to "God." They believe this will get them off the hook. "I don't have to thank God because He isn't really involved at all!" This makes it easy for me to thank God only for the things I like! Of course, warfare with the enemy is real but the devil's strength lies in deception, not sovereign power to direct the events of a person's life. Another approach is to play with the text of Scripture and develop some doctrine that will give me an excuse for my ego-centric behavior. A popular one is: "I'll praise God in every situation but not for everything!" But this is an artificial distinction that not only contradicts the spirit of the Word but the plain text of Scripture as well. While 1 Thessalonians 5:18 admonishes us to give thanks in everything, Ephesians 5:20 commands us to always give thanks "to God the Father for everything."

This Thanksgiving season, let us seek to give God glory, not only for what we find convenient, but for all things. Regardless of what we face in this life, our eternal destiny has been secured by Christ. If we never receive another temporal blessing, we are highly favored – blessed beyond measure for God has made us His own. We have an eternity of delight awaiting us in His radiant presence! May God grant us a broader and more eternal perspective that our very lives exhibit genuine gratitude and glorious praise. Happy Thanksgiving!

- Stan McGehee Jr

Next month in our last installment in this series on the What Does it Mean to Be Human? we will consider how to biblically assess the nature of true humanity.