Being Thankful – The Character of a Christian
By Steven J. Hogan
Being thankful is an incredibly important subject that should occupy our minds and hearts, and not just one day a year, but every day of the year, and to the end of our lives, or to the end of the age. There are many basic duties for the Christian, and thankfulness is one of them. It’s what God commands us to do. Now being thankful is much more necessary and essential than most people realize. To be a growing, joyful, fruitful, contented and truly blessed believer, you need to be thankful. But sad to say, many Christians are not as thankful as they should be, resulting in problems and struggles in their lives, in their relationships with others, and with God Himself.
What does it mean to be thankful? It comes from the Greek word “charis”, and is translated grace. A person who is thankful realizes that who he is, what he has, what he has accomplished and what he owns and possesses, ultimately is not from himself or others, but is from God, and is by God’s grace. In John 3:27, John the Baptist says, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.” 1 Corinthians 4:7 tells us, “What do you have that you did not receive?” In 1 Chronicles 29:13-14, David says, “Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name… Who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.”
As Christians we must realize that anything we have that is good, or anything we can do that is good, is from God. He is the source of everything that is good. In 1 Chronicles 29:16, David went on to say, “All this abundance that we have provided to build You a house for Your holy name, it is from Your hand, and all is Yours.” James 1:17 tells us, “Every good thing given, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” In that classic doxology, we sing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him all creatures here below; praise Him above, ye heavenly host; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.”
The thankful person knows that there is a God, and realizes that all that he has that is good is from God, and then from his heart and in his own words he expresses thanks to God, he honors God. But in Romans 1:21 the unbeliever is described this way – “For even though they knew God, [that is, knew there was a God], they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks, but they became foolish in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
The thankful person is aware of God’s work, and sees God’s work in the world, in the church, in his family, in his own life, and then expresses gratitude and appreciation to God. That is, he is truly grateful to God for what He does, and then gives Him all the credit. Look at Paul’s life, and you see that he continually thanked God for people. Paul was aware of the fact that God was working in a person’s life – he knew that the salvation of souls, and the goodness and growth in a person’s life was from God. Look at how Paul expressed thanks to God for people. Ephesians 1:16 – “(I) do not cease giving thanks for you…” Philippians 1:3 – “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Each of us need to be thinking of how God works in our lives, and be thankful to Him for His glorious work. “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart… Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work.” Psalm 92:1-3
The thankful person is humble, for he realizes he is not a self-made person. He is not proud, thinking in his heart, “Look at me, and look at what I have done.” He knows that God has been working in his life, that Christ is praying for him, and that the Spirit is sanctifying him. In 1 Timothy 1:12 Paul said, “I thank Christ Jesus my Lord who has strengthened me.” The thankful person is not proud or arrogant, and so thankfulness comes from his humble heart to God Himself. Again, from 1 Chronicles 29:14 we read, “Who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this?”
A thankful person realizes that he doesn’t deserve anything good, and especially when it comes to his salvation. He knows that left to himself, he is a sinner, an unrighteous person, and that it’s only by the grace of God that he has received mercy and forgiveness, and is perfectly righteous before God. A thankful person realizes his salvation is what God alone has done. Jonah said, “Salvation is of the Lord.” In Ephesians 2:8, Paul said, “By grace you are saved.” In 2 Corinthians 9:15 Paul said, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” In Revelation 7:9-12, the newly arrived saints in heaven “cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” There’s no doubt that God should and will get all the credit and glory for what He did to save us from sin, death and hell.
A thankful person is sincere – he is not faking it, he is not a hypocrite. He knows that it is God who has done this miraculous and supernatural work in his life and in the lives of others, and so his heart is humbled, and therefore he is genuinely thankful to God. And He personally tells God that He is thankful, expressing his wholehearted appreciation and gratitude to God, and this honors God and gives Him glory. But he also is thankful to God when he is with others. Psalm 35:18 says, “I will give You thanks in the great congregation.” Nehemiah 12:46 tells us, “In the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were leaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us, “In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” A thankful person gives thanks to God for everything, and everything means everything. A thankful person is thankful to God for the past, for what happened yesterday, for what happened 30 years ago, and for everything that happened in between. And thankfulness is one of the main ways by which God wants you to process the past; and if you’re not thankful for what has happened, then you will often be angry or bitter with regards to people from the past, and events that took place in the past. And you will tend to worry more, and have less faith for the future. Thanking God means recognizing that God has been personally involved in your life, and that He has been sovereign, and that the things that have happened were His will for your life. The thankful believer knows too that God has been faithful, merciful, and good in his life, and that He is working all things together for good. “Give thanks to God, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5
A thankful person is thankful for yesterday and for all the days and years of his life. He is thankful for every little thing and every big thing. He is thankful for both the food God has given him, and the salvation God has given him (1 Corinthians 11:23-24). He is thankful for his one friend, and for the entire church. He is thankful for one soul that gets saved, and for all that God is doing in the entire world. In everything, and for everything and for everyone, a person is to give thanks to God.
If a person is not thankful, then he will tend to grumble and complain about things when they don’t go the way he wants, whether it’s the weather or work or the government or the church or people’s lives. Be thankful then for little things and for big things, for specific things and for general things. Be thankful for hot weather and cold weather, for sunny days and stormy days. Be thankful for individual people, for family members, for friends and for the church. Be thankful for trials you’re in, for problems you face, and for bad things in your life. Be thankful for food, for clothing, for the house you live in, and for the car you drive. Be thankful for the job you have, for the money you have, and that you can pay your bills. Be thankful for the President, for government, and for what’s going on in the world. Be thankful for all the problems in our country, for God is in control and knows what He is doing, and be assured, is working all things together for good. Most of all, be thankful for God the Father, for Jesus Christ His Son and for the Holy Spirit. Be thankful for who God is, that He is holy, wise, good, powerful, faithful, forgiving, omniscient and sovereign. Be thankful that you know Them, that you have eternal life. Be thankful that They saved you, and love you, and are committed to you. Be thankful that They have a plan for your life, that They will use you for Their purposes, and will soon bring you to heaven. Be thankful that you will be with Them forever and ever. Psalm 73:23-26
And what are the results, the benefits of being thankful? There are many, and let me mention some of them:
– Thankfulness helps you to see God more clearly – who He is and what He is like. Thankfulness is like a telescope or a microscope, for it makes small things bigger. When you are thankful then it brings God into focus, and His glorious character and His wonderful work.
– Thankful people are giving glory to God, and so God is very honored when you thank Him.
– Thankful people are contented and satisfied people. Thanking God for what you have helps you to not covet things, and want things which you don’t have.
– Thankful people don’t sin as much, for they’re not focused on themselves – they’re focused on God and Christ, and are filled up with God and with the things of God instead of wanting things in the world, and things for themselves. Therefore, they don’t want to sin, they want to love God. “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness… but rather giving of thanks.” Ephesians 5:3-5
Thankful people are joyful, are spiritually happy, for they realize how rich and blessed they are by God, and they are not then wanting things from the world and the flesh.
– Thankful people have more faith, for thankfulness reminds them what God has done for them in the past, and that motivates and enables them to be trusting God for the future.
– Thankfulness promotes believing prayer, for when you are thankful and see what God has done in the past, then that motivates you to pray for things regarding the future. “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2
– Thankfulness promotes praise, for when you thank God for what He’s done, then you see God’s character and you praise Him for who He is. Thanking God for what He has done helps you to thank Him and praise Him for who He is. Thanksgiving and praise often go together. “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart… I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” Psalm 9:1-2
Thankfulness helps you to be humble, for being thankful helps you to clearly see how good God is and how great God is, and that you are what you are because of Him, and that is very humbling.
– Thankfulness promotes good relationships, for when you’re thankful, then you see that God is sovereignly working in a person’s life, that God is patient and faithful with them, and you see them more from God’s perspective, and therefore you love them for who they are, for what God has done, and aren’t upset at them for what they’re not.
Thankfulness also has a stabilizing, anchoring influence in your life. Focusing on self and others always has a destabilizing effect in your life for you are seeing you imperfections, inabilities and sins. Thankfulness means you are not looking at what you and others are doing, but at what God is doing, and this focus on God helps you to see His steady, faithful and continual work in your life and in the lives of others. Life then doesn’t become so up and down, so rough and rocky, so frantic and frenzied, but being thankful keeps you on an even keel, on a level path, on a straight road, for you see that God is in charge, that God is doing what is good and right.
I cannot say it strongly enough – you need to be thankful day after day, day in and day out, until the Lord takes you home or until the rapture, and then you will keep thanking Him forever and ever. The Lord desires your thanks and deserves your thanks. And those who are thankful will be a great blessing to God, a blessing to others, and will then be greatly blessed by God. Remember Psalm 136, the number one Psalm on God’s love, and how it starts with thankfulness and then ends with thankfulness – might this be true of your life. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love is everlasting… Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His love is everlasting.” Psalm 136:1, 26.
I encourage you to be thankful right now. Don’t wait. Bless and honor your Lord by being thankful right now! “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, and bless His name.” Psalm 100:4