Summary: 3 reasons why thorough thanksgiving works joy in us (Material adapted from Ben Patterson's book, He Has Made Me Glad, chapter 5 Indiscriminate Thanks)
Thieves robbed Matthew Henry, the one who wrote a commentary on the Bible that many still use today. After being robbed Matthew Henry wrote this in his diary: “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse (wallet), they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not someone else.”
Along with me many will say that these statements are of a mad man, a person out of touch with reality. A person under some kind of delusion or trance.
No, Matthew Henry obeyed, even to the letter, the command of Scripture to be thoroughly thankful, to “rejoice in the Lord always.”
Doing more than this. Matthew Henry, in his obedience to the command of Scripture, engaged in a spiritual discipline, a habit of joy that is deeply transforming.
Thesis: 3 reasons why thorough thanksgiving intensely works joy in us
1. It is an act of recovery
Our natural tendency is to be ungrateful. Through the HS Paul said as much, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21, NIV.
Our natural tendency is to be thankless. Why is it so evil? Why does it corrupt us? We are brushing off God. The most radical of all snubs is to be ungrateful. To be thankless to God is to act as if He doesn’t exist or that He doesn’t matter. Samuel Johnson called gratitude a “species of justice” because to give thanks is to recognize the fundamental truth of our existence; that all we are and have come from God, God made us, and “we live and move and have our being” because of God (Acts 17:28). What could be more perverse than to ignore these facts? But that is what ingratitude does. Every other evil begins here.
To practice the discipline of gratitude is to shine light into the heart of our darkness. Now we are not saved by gratitude; we are saved only by the grace given through Jesus Christ. But since Jesus died for our sins to practice gratitude is to cooperate with God’s grace. “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12, 13
Notice what is said next, “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” Philippians 2:14. A spirit of complaint is different from ignoring God, it just accuses him of mismanagement. It leads us to live in God’s world like a dissatisfied customer in a well run hotel.
A spirit of complaining is poisonous even though we regarded it as harmless. Easy for us to complain. With God this is severe. A spirit of complaint caused God to stall the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years. Tired, hungry and afraid, they blamed God for their troubles. Several places named for their complaining- Massah, the place of testing; Meribah, the place of arguing- the Israelites grumbled their way into a hole they never got out of. To this day, the result of their complaining- consequence of ingratitude- is a warning of the loss that comes when God is accused of mismanagement.