Summary: Thanksgiving is the holiday dedicated to giving thanks. But if your life isn't going very well you might think there isn't anything to be thankful for. Let's see if we can gain some perspective on why we should be thankful; not just at Thanksgiving time, but all the time.
Thanksgiving is the holiday dedicated to giving thanks for things. Interestingly, the words thank and think have the same root, reminding us that thanksgiving comes from thinking about our blessings. But you may not be feeling very thankful lately. You might think there isn't anything to really be thankful for. Sometimes all we need is a little perspective.
Dr. Robert Hill and his wife were visiting Thailand where they were invited to a celebration put on by the King and Queen. Their native guide, Joseph, was driving them there from their hotel room. He didn't know English very well, but he was delighted to talk with them. "Where do you live," he asked. "Richmond, Virginia." "Oh, are you a rich man?" "No," Bob laughed, "we're not rich."
"Do you have an automobile?" "Yes, actually we have two." He then asked about the house we lived in. "It's a simple house; just ten rooms total." Joseph was amazed, especially when he explained that he and his family lived in just two small rooms. Then he asked about our family. We told him we had four children; two in college and two at home.
Joseph was silent for a moment. Then he said, "You are rich." My wife and I laughed but deep down we knew he was right, though we had never thought of it in those terms. We were rich; but were we thankful? Let's see if we can gain some perspective on why we should be thankful; not just at Thanksgiving time, but all the time.
1) "And be thankful."
Col. 3:15-17, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
In each of these three verses Paul is focusing on something different but interestingly, each verse contains something about being thankful. In verse 15 he's talking about letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. And at the end of it, as if it's an afterthought, he adds, "and be thankful". "Oh, yeah, I almost forgot-be thankful". However, that couldn't be further from the truth. Being thankful was never an afterthought to Paul; it was a major focus.
There is a connection between being thankful and being at peace. More on that in a minute. In the next verse we see him telling us to let God's word fill us up. Then he wants us to teach, admonish (scold) and sing songs. He wants us to do all this with gratitude in our hearts.
We sing a song with the line, "Give thanks, with a grateful heart". That begs the question, well, what other kind of heart would you be giving thanks with? An apathetic heart. We're saying 'thanks' but we don't really mean it or there's not much feeling behind it. We could give thanks with an entitled heart. We're saying, 'thanks' but we might as well be saying, 'well, it's about time'.
We can say, 'thank you' as a formality without being very sincere. We can do this when we bow our heads at the dinner table. "Thank you, Lord for the food we are about to receive-yada, yada, yada." Let my 'thank you' not be a formality; but a heartfelt expression of thoughtfulness towards God for what he's blessed me with.
In the verses that follow, Paul describes how to conduct our relationships at home and work. Towards the end of his letter, shortly before his final instructions, he says in 4:2, " Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Again we see Paul attaching thankfulness to another aspect of the Christian life-prayer.
It's typical for us to ask for things when we pray. There's nothing wrong with that; we should be coming to God with our concerns and requests. However, that should not be the only component of our prayers. They should be also filled with praise and gratitude. In fact, I think it's good to have some of our prayers be only about praising God and thanking him for what he has already done.
Did you know that praying with thanksgiving helps us to relieve our anxiety and give us peace? Phil. 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."