Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say this--
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
Is there a difference between saying thank you and being genuinely grateful? When we were children, we were taught to say thank you when we were given a gift. At first, we had to be reminded to say thank you. After a while, it became an automatic response. We know longer even thought about it, we just said it, because it was the expected thing to do.
There is a huge difference between a person saying thank you when someone holds the door for them and when a person says thank you because they were just rescued from a burning building. In the first case the person is being polite. In the second case the person is expressing gratitude.
As we approach Thanksgiving, it is a good time for us to stop and examine our own attitude. Has our thanks to God become just a polite response or is it genuine gratitude for all that He has done for us? The level of our gratitude is a measure of our understanding of just how much Jesus has done for us. Did Jesus just hold open the door to heaven or did he rescue us from sin and death?
When the Psalmist encourages us to give thanks to God, he always points us to the reasons for doing so. In the opening lines of Psalm 103, David calls us to a depth of gratitude that we often fail to appreciate.
Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits--
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
David calls us to remember what God has done for us. And the things that he focuses upon are not the things we usually focus upon. Our thankfulness is most often focused on the material blessings of life. David redirects out attention to something far more important, the spiritual blessings that come from God.
David calls for a depth of expression of gratitude. Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul. There is nothing superficial about the gratitude that David is espousing. He calls us to express our gratitude from the very depths of our being and with all of our being.
Then David turns our attention on the thing above all things that we are to be grateful for. God forgives our sins, heals our lives, and redeems us for our life of sin. In essence, God transforms us and makes us new. Paul expressed it this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17) From being trapped in the pit of sin, God raises us up into His love and compassion. Our relationship with Him is restored. In contrast to the things of this world that do damage to our lives, God fulfills our desires with good things. Instead of being constantly torn down by the weight of sin, our strength is renewed so that we can soar.
It is possible for us to say thank you mindlessly, without much thought about it. But genuine gratitude can never be mindless. Genuine gratitude looks beyond the gift to the giver. Genuine gratitude expands the breadth of the gift. Genuine gratitude acknowledges the generosity of the given and the unworthiness of the recipient. None of us are worthy of God’s grace and yet He gives it to us freely.
We have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We have been so materially blessed by God that we have taken those gifts for granted. We enjoy on a daily basis what much of the world only longs for. But the greatest reason for us to be thankful is wrapped up in an all too familiar verse. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) The thing that we should be the most thankful for is that God gave us Himself.
We live in a world that constantly focuses on what we do not have. We are constantly told to be discontent and to want more and more of the things the world has to offer. As followers of Christ, we are called to focus on what we do have. Not only to be content with the blessings that we have, but to be genuinely grateful. God has blessed us beyond measure.
This Thanksgiving let us genuinely give thanks to God for all of the material blessing we enjoy. But above all else, let us thank God for His love, which He has lavished on us, and the new life we have in Christ.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 3:1a
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!