The title is NOT clickbait – you know, when you see a headline on social media that looks really interesting and you click on the link and discover there’s nothing in the article even remotely related to the heading, or the topic is only minimally mentioned. No, the title to this blog is real and can become a reality in our everyday lives.
First, let me explain what I’m talking about concerning “the practice” or habit of giving thanks. God’s people are commanded throughout the Bible to practice the habit of giving thanks. (All the following scriptures have a present tense, continual quality.)
Psalm 92:1 – “It is good to give thanks to Yahweh…”
Psalm 97:12 – “Rejoice in Yahweh, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!
Multiple times the psalms call us to “give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good” (106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1).
Psalm 136 also commands the object of our thanks: “Give thanks to Yahweh, … to the God of gods, … to the Lord of lords, … to the God of heaven” (verses 1, 2, 3, 26) AND the reason for our thanksgiving: “… for his steadfast love (covenant loyalty) endures forever” (every verse).
Psalm 140:13 declares, “Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name…”
So we see that under the covenant that God had with the people of Israel, the habitual, intentional practice of giving thanks was based on God’s unchanging, enduring character (goodness, lovingkindness, name).
When we come to the new covenant, the habitual practice of giving thanks is also a part of God’s requirement of his people. That practice is found in two key texts:
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “… give thanks in everything (in all circumstances), for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” AND
Ephesians 5:20 – “… always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;”
This spiritual practice encompasses both CONTENT (“for all things”) and time (“in every circumstance” or “always”). I can imagine people who read this are thinking, “Do you mean that I have to give thanks for …?” or “Do I really need to give thanks when …?” “How in God’s holy name am I supposed to do this?!”
Thank you for asking. That’s where a particular promise from God makes it possible. What is that promise? It’s an incredible faith-building (and faith-challenging) confident statement of fact made by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans. The faith-building promise I’m talking about that makes it possible for you to practice the habit of giving thanks “in all circumstances” and “for everything” is familiar to most of God’s people. But I wonder if we REALLY believe it and live our lives by it. I’m referring to Romans 8:28, where Paul wrote, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Some translations make God the active cause of the promise: “But we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him…” (20th Century New Testament). Either way it’s translated, the promise is the same.
We can practice habitual thanksgiving for “all things” “in all circumstances” because we know that the God who governs “all things” is working those same things and circumstances for our good and the eternal purpose for which he called us. What’s God’s purpose behind his calling? Paul tells us it’s so we are “conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (8:29). Our Father wants us to be more like his Son, so that Jesus will have the preeminent place in our lives. As we remember the ultimate outcome God is working towards, we can practice giving thanks for those very things we find it difficult for which to give thanks.
We might also find help and solace is what Paul says about the God who works all things for the good of his people in Romans 11:36. “For from him and through him and to him are ALL THINGS. To him be glory forever. Amen!”
Therefore, let’s get in the habit of doing the seemingly impossible thing: giving thanks always and for everything in all circumstances knowing God is working to make us more like Jesus so he has first place in our lives.