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.
“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care...” Psalms 95:6, 7, NIV. This says that God is in charge. God is compassionate; he cares for us- after all, He is our Maker, He is our God, we are his people; we are the sheep of his pasture. Everything is done in love and wisdom. Notice the rest of this: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.” So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.”” Psalms 95:7-11, NIV. Complaining is a devastating thing.
2. It is an act of hope
When we give thanks no matter what, we act on the promise that the future will turn out beautifully. The next week, the next month, the next year, the next decade or two may be horrible, but He who holds the last hour has assured us that everything will turn out glorious.
“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:2-5, NIV.