As I look back at 2019 and past, I am reminded of the faithfulness and blessing of our Heavenly Father. There are victories and there are defeats; gains and losses; empty places and overflowing banks. Personally, I find myself with an ever-increasing gratitude of blessing for every aspect of my life and the ministry to which God has called me. Apart from God’s perfect plan and presence I am inspired, motivated, and encouraged by my Church family, and you. What a privilege to undershepherd (pastor) a people that is so in love with God and so committed to loving others well. A people that love the Word of God, love to study God’s Word, and are desirous of applying and obeying the Scriptures in their day to day lives. A Covenanting group of folks who are committed to “one-anothering” each other every day and reaching our community with the love of God. A congregation that is as generous as they are supportive.
In Ephesians Paul cautions us to be filled with the Spirit. And what will happen? “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Joy, rejoicing, prayer and praise will happen. In v.20, he says, “Giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” According to Paul, a Spirit-filled believer is a thankful believer, a joyful believer, a praying believer. If you are filled with the Spirit, thanks will gush out of you for everything.
Gratitude for the believer should be normal. How does thankfulness happen? Paul says, “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” In II Co.4.15, Paul is explaining that as people receive the grace of God in salvation, it leads to abounding thanksgiving. The pattern of every Christian’s life should be that we endlessly give God thanks. We not only have salvation, but we have everything. In II Co.9.11, we read, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” Unending thanksgiving is the result of all that God is doing in our lives.
Paul tells us that when we open our mouths, what ought to come out is thanksgiving. “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talking nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” When a person becomes a Christian, there is something different about the inner man. Built into that newness is a heart of thanksgiving that cries out in gratitude to God. It’s hard to find someone more thankful than a brand-new Christian. Thanksgiving becomes the fruit of the work of the Spirit within us. But how quickly Christians can become unthankful!
A thankless attitude is abnormal for a Christian. It cuts across the grain of the new life, the new nature, the new person. Because we can so easily fall to the sin of ingratitude, the New Testament repeatedly calls us to thankfulness. When the early Church gathered, their purpose was to give thanks. It was a part and parcel of their worship. Someone had a psalm, someone had a prayer, someone had a passage from the Word (Lord), and a lot of people had an opportunity to say thanks. When we have fellowship with believers in smaller groups, it is good to have a time of giving thanks.
Even in times of trouble, Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In times of great anxiety, fear, worry and stress, be thankful. “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. … Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
In I Th.5.16-18, the responsibility of the believer to the Lord is described in terms of his heart attitude. He is to have inward incessant joy, continual unceasing prayer, constant daily thanks. And these three commands – rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks – penetrate the innermost recesses of the redeemed heart. They are the best gauge of a person’s spiritual condition.
A lot of people can carry out religious functions, but if you want to know whether you are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, ask yourself, “Do I rejoice always? Do I constantly pray? Am I increasingly thankful?” Because that is the spring from within. It will lead to a right attitude in all your duties, responsibilities and ministries. If you’re not a joyful, prayerful, thankful person, you’re struggling with the flesh. When the Spirit controls you, those things fall into place.
Then Paul says, “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This is attached to all three of those commands, not just the last one. God’s will in Christ Jesus is that you would have constant joy, constant prayer and constant thanks.
We cannot “drum” up an attitude of thankfulness on our own. That is why God works to will and to do of His own good pleasure in us. He’s working to make us thankful through the power of the Spirit of God. He produces a grateful heart. And what happens when we’re grateful? God is glorified, we are blessed, the Church is built up and the lost are reached. We can have a tremendous impact on the world if we will only practice thanksgiving.
Nancy and I are thankful for Jesus Christ’s love and forgiveness – and the special blessing of Calling the White Mountains home.
HAPPY – Holy Spirit Inspired – THANKSGIVING!