Your car has a flat tire, which causes you to be late for an appointment. Several bills are due, and there is not enough money in your checking account to pay them—payday is a week away. The washing machine overflowed earlier in the day, flooding the laundry room and soaking through the floor to the basement. And if that were not enough, your children have the flu.
What if the troubles you are facing are more serious?
Maybe you recently lost your job, and with a family to support, you wonder how you will survive. Perhaps marital problems are escalating, with the end of the marriage the only resolution in sight. Maybe you have just received news that you have a life-threatening health condition.
Or the country in which you live, not one of the “have” nations, continues to make day-to-day life more like just eking out an existence.
At times, it can be easy to focus on your problems, fall into a “woe is me attitude,” and complain about all that is going wrong and how unfair life is. You can begin to grumble and gripe about what you feel is your sad state of affairs. This mindset can crowd out the joy, happiness and thankfulness that should dominate your thinking due to the many blessings that remain. No matter how bad things may become—no matter how tough your circumstances in life, no matter where you live—if you look, you will find many things for which to be thankful.
Spirit of Unthankfulness
As the end of the age approaches, the increasing problems of the world will impact our lives. The apostle Paul warned that “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful” (II Tim. 3:2).
One of the prevailing moods of society at the end will be the spirit of ingratitude, born of a feeling of entitlement instilled in human minds by politicians, religious figures, labor leaders, marketers and companies selling goods and services, etc. We live in a time of “I deserve it. It is my right!”
What most do not understand is that the only “right” we have is to receive the wages of sin we have earned—death. Everything else a person possesses—beginning with his very life—is a blessing and gift from the God who owns all things (Psa. 50:10-12; Hag. 2:8).
Some may think they gain wealth and possessions by their own power, so they thank no one but themselves (Deut. 8:12-18).
God’s people must be careful not to fall into the prevailing moods and attitudes of the degenerating society bombarding their minds daily. We must purposefully fight against the spirit of unthankfulness. We must determine to practice being thankful.
Thankfulness is an intrinsic part of being a Christian. It is something that the saints of God are to be known for—it is conduct that becomes them (Eph. 5:3-4). Note that thankfulness is commanded:
- “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). We should always be in a thankful attitude.
- “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thes. 5:18). Be thankful for all things.
- “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15). Offer up the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
- “Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Col. 2:7). Be filled with thankfulness.
- “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also you are called in one body; and be you thankful” (Col. 3:15). A clear admonition.
- “And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him” (Col. 3:17).
- “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).
Put Trials Into Perspective
Every Christian will experience trials, troubles and difficulties. There is no way to avoid them (I Pet. 4:12; Ecc. 7:14). But we are to be thankful for them (Jms. 1:2).
How do you view difficulties? Approaching trials with the correct perspective leads you to be thankful, knowing that God is working to produce His perfect character in you.
Complaining about your difficulties does not please God (Num. 11:1) and accomplishes nothing.
Look at how Daniel, whose place in God’s kingdom is assured, chose to react to a severe impending trial that could have ended his life.
“It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; and over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
“Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of you, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which alters not.
“Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Dan. 6:1-10).
Rather than ceasing to pray, Daniel knelt and offered praise of thanksgiving before God. He did this knowing he would likely be cast into a den of lions. Yet, he was able to maintain a grateful attitude—happy to be counted worthy to suffer persecution for righteousness sake. To Daniel, this trial was an evident token of salvation (Phil. 1:28). When viewed in this light, it is easy to be thankful for the trials, troubles, difficulties and persecutions we experience in our Christian walk.
Blessed With Much
Of all people on earth, we have the most to be grateful for. Every day we are loaded with blessings: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, even the God of our salvation” (Psa. 68:19).
Stop and think about the nature of the God we serve and how appreciative we ought to be: “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord executes righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger for ever. He has not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear Him” (Psa. 103:1-13).
A grateful attitude is tied to God helping us in times of trouble. “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay your vows unto the Most High: and call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psa. 50:14-15).
If we are not appreciative of all God has done for us, can we have any expectation of continued providence?
Regardless of any present difficulties, having the right attitude has an effect on our prayers: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6).
Leaving words of gratitude out of your prayers—not thanking God for blessings already received—may mean your requests, whether for deliverance out of trials or some real need, will not be answered.
Jesus Christ set an example in giving thanks. He was thankful to the Father that His prayers were heard (John 11:41), for those to whom God revealed the truth (Luke 10:21) and for physical nourishment (Matt. 15:36).
Christ would have been especially thankful for the last Passover spent with His disciples, knowing that the first step in God’s plan of salvation would soon be completed (Matt. 26:26-28).
This is the perfect model of appreciation, gratefulness and thanksgiving to follow and practice.
Count Your Blessings
In this day and age, it seems that life—the day-to-day happenings—moves at a rapid pace. There always seems to be something demanding our attention. How many times have you said, “There are just not enough hours in the day,” as you quickly complete one item on your “to do” list, and rush on to the next? There is no time to stop to smell the roses. No time to stop to think. Our minds are constantly filled with the issues of the day. Under these circumstances, it can be easy to lose sight of all there is to be thankful for. We need to take time to meditate on the blessings we have received. Make time to “count your blessings,” as the saying goes.
If you live in one of the birthright nations, then you have much to be grateful for. Your standard of living most likely far exceeds your contemporaries in other countries. Just the ability and opportunity to earn a living is beyond what most people on earth can possibly hope for. You just happened to be born in one of the nations blessed by God through Abraham. Consider. Your pets likely live better than most people in the world!
But what if you live in a less-blessed nation? Your living conditions may not be the best, but if you look, you can probably find others whose lives are more difficult than your own, within and without your national borders. Maybe you do not have much in the way of physical items, but at least your country has a degree of peace and stability and is free from the turmoil and upheaval experienced in other lands.
If you have good health, count it a blessing; be thankful for it. If you are battling health problems, then thank God for each day of your life, each breath you take, each beat of your heart.
How about employment? Maybe you do not have the best job, but can you be thankful for at least having one? Are you thankful for family? These are just a few of the physical blessings to consider.
Of greater importance are spiritual blessings.
Are you thankful for a faithful ministry who holds “fast the faithful word as [they] have been taught” (Titus 1:9), who teaches and preaches sound doctrine, “not giving heed to…fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth” (vs. 14)?
What about “the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering…knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4)? Are you grateful for the gift of repentance? Do you thank God for giving you the ability to see yourself—to see the faults, weaknesses and character blemishes that need to be eradicated and replaced with godly character?
Do you appreciate that you are no longer cut off from God, but have access to Him through our Mediator? Are you grateful for Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, which makes possible the payment of the death penalty in your stead? Are you thankful for the Father’s and Christ’s willingness to follow through with this first step in the plan of salvation (John 3:16-17; 6:38-40)?
Truly we should give “thanks unto the Father, which has made us meet [rendered us fit] to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12).
“We are bound to give thanks alway[s] to God…because God has from the beginning chosen [us] to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (II Thes. 2:13).
You are one of a very small handful of the billions on earth who has been offered a place among the firstfruits. Do you sing joyful songs of praise and thanksgiving knowing that, if you remain faithful to the end, your name is written in heaven (Luke 10:20)?
Do you thank God for His soon-coming kingdom (as well as the understanding and knowledge of it), that it will solve humanity’s problems, and for your part in proclaiming that message of hope to the world? How privileged we are to know the truth! To know that very soon the pain, suffering, misery and ever-increasing problems afflicting mankind will end. What precious knowledge!
“O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: because His mercy endures forever” (Psa. 118:1).
The list of things that we, the people of God, have to be thankful for is practically endless. It is often the physical things or lack thereof that are most noticed. But when physical blessings are present, never neglect to thank God for them.
Always, in all things, give thanks for the manifold spiritual blessings we have received. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
Let us give thanks “unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20), for God will dwell with those who have thankful hearts.