Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the attitude, mindset, and language of a Christian is to be marked by thanksgiving.
While we as a culture may celebrate a day of thanksgiving once a year, the life of a believer is always marked by it.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, Paul declares, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Did you catch that? Paul says that God’s will for us is that we are to give thanks in everything. Always and in everything, we are to be thankful.
For clarity, Paul does not say that we need to be thankful FOR everything, but rather we are to give thanks IN everything. The difference is important—God is not an author of sin, and we are told that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy (see John 10:10). So God does not cause abuse, murder, destruction, etc. in our lives; that is what the enemy and those who live in sin produce. We may experience the effects of their sin, and while God has allowed it in our lives, He is not the author of it.
As such, we don’t have to be thankful FOR the abuse we may have received, but we can be thankful in the midst of it. We don’t have to be thankful for cancer, bankruptcy, or the storms of life; yet, we are to be thankful IN them.
And the reason is profound—when we realize that God has not abandoned us and is with us in every circumstance and situation, in every hardship and difficulty, we can stand confident in our faith and trust in Him. When we realize that God will take every circumstance and use it for good (according to His purpose) to bring about a transformation of our lives so that we are conformed to the image of Christ … how can we not be thankful?
Paul wrote in Romans 8:28–29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers …”
We can be thankful IN every circumstance because we know God is leveraging those moments for His purpose and plan to make us more like Jesus.
The Pattern of the Kingdom
When we examine the idea of thanksgiving throughout the New Testament, we find that it shows up in everyday life (like Jesus giving thanks for a meal; see Matthew 15:36) or in the Upper Room Passover / Communion meal of Jesus and the disciples (see Matthew 26:27).
But there are a few key passages that reveal that thanksgiving is the pattern of God’s Kingdom—that it should mark the life of every believer.
For example, in Ephesians 5:3–4, Paul is talking about the lifestyle and language of a Christian and how we are not to be like the world. He says, “But sexual immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; nor filthiness and foolish talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” Our lives are not to be engrossed in the twistedness and impurity of the world, and neither should our language. Our lives and lips should be marked by purity and thanksgiving.
Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 5:20 that we are to be “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ …” Again, we are to ALWAYS give thanks. Paul repeats this idea in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
What about your life?
Is your life marked by thanksgiving—not a once a year celebration, but a daily expression of gratitude for all God is doing in and through you?
I’ve previously talked about Psalm 136 and how regardless of whether things in your life is good, bad, or ugly, there is a reason to see God’s lovingkindness, faithfulness, and mercy in every moment.
- Consider forming the habit of journaling or creating a bullet list (every day or once a week) of how your thankfulness of what God is doing in and through your life. Go back and review what you write to remind yourself of God’s goodness and faithfulness, and allow that to freshly draw up thanksgiving in your soul.
- Consider spending time in worship to our faithful God and sing praise from a heart of thanksgiving.
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NRJohnson (Nathan Johnson) is a Christian who has an overwhelming passion for Jesus, the Gospel, and Studying God’s Word. He is a writer, teacher, and communicator who helps other believers understand and apply the Bible as they grow and mature in their faith—desiring that they gain greater intimacy with Christ, experience the victorious Christian life, and transform the world through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Read more about him here.
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Many Christians feel frustrated because they don’t grow spiritually. The Deeper Christian Podcast helps equip Christians to understand the Word of God and cultivate a passionate love for Jesus that turns the world upside down.
Whether you want to learn how to study God’s Word, grow in your faith, cultivate a powerful and effective prayer life, share the Gospel boldly, deepen your intimacy with Jesus, live victoriously, or transform the world through the indwelling life of the Holy Spirit, the Deeper Christian Podcast with NRJohnson (Nathan Johnson) will encourage and equip you to grow spiritually and live a Christ-centered life.