By: Scott Morton
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, it is a good time to reflect on what this concept truly means. It does mean so much more than turkey, NFL football games, and shopping. Thanksgiving is something God intends to be necessary for every member of the Body of Christ:
1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
The Apostle Paul states it is the will of God that we are to be giving thanks. It is not a suggestion to us. It is not something that it would be nice that we were doing. This is something God intends for us to be doing and has made it part of the will He has for us.
This is sometimes hard for people to grasp because in this dispensation it is felt there are no commands for us. The contrast with the law program for Israel is made and the knowledge of how there were consequences to them if they did not do exactly as God intended for them. They were given a set of commands and they were expected to follow every single one of these things. If they did not, there were consequences which could come up, which were loss of salvation or even death.
It is clear that God does have a will for us and some expectations on how we are to live our lives. 1 Timothy 2:4 states the will of God, that all men would be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth. This twofold declaration shows that God has a desire for all men to be saved and has made it part of His will. The other part of this will is that everyone would come unto the knowledge of the truth. It is not good enough just to have salvation. God wants individuals to understand the Word of God and the message which has been given to us today.
The first part of the verse above gives people a lot of problems as well. The Apostle Paul says that thank should be given in every thing. This means there are no restrictions to what we are to be thankful for. When things are going good it is easy to give thanks, even though people tend to forget to do this. The tendency of many people is to forget about thanking God when things are going well, as the focus is on the fact that things are going well.
When things go bad, people are not usually thankful. They may turn to God for things, but it is more to question why bad things have happened or to try to convince God to change the things which have occurred. Being thankful in the situation is not what they are thinking about.
In order to understand what God is intending for us, we will need to look at a couple of definitions related to the idea of thanksgiving:
THANKS, n. generally in the plural. Expression of gratitude; an acknowledgment made to express a sense of favor or kindness received. Gratitude is the feeling or sentiment excited by kindness; thanks are the expression of that sentiment. Luke 6.
Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory. 1 Cor 15.
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Cor 9.
He took bread and gave thanks to God. Acts 27.
THANKSGIV'ING, ppr. Rendering thanks for good received.
THANKSGIV'ING, n. The act of rendering thanks or expressing gratitude for favors or mercies.
Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if received with thanksgiving. 1 Tim 4.
1. A public celebration of divine goodness; also, a day set apart for religious services, specially to acknowledge the goodness of God, either in any remarkable deliverance from calamities or danger, or in the ordinary dispensation of his bounties. The practice of appointing an annual thanksgiving originated in New England.
THANK'-WORTHY, a. [thank and worthy.] Deserving thanks; meritorious. 1 Pet 2.
These definitions show the issue of what should be going on related to the idea of the giving of thanks. It is an expression of gratitude for kindness which someone has received. This is something truly every believer should be able to do, as we have definitely received something from God. He displayed grace to us, by giving us something which we did not deserve (salvation and the position we have in the Lord Jesus Christ by being identified with Him) while also displaying his mercy by removing what we did deserve (the wrath of God as a punishment for sin).
1 Thessalonians 1:1
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:10
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
This shows us how we can be thankful no matter what the situation in our life is. We should be able to look back to what the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross at Calvary. This is the focus we have, as the Apostle Paul identifies it is the only thing which he can glory in (Galatians 6:14).
Life can be difficult for us in this dispensation. In Time Past, there were promises which were made to Israel about how their life would be. Deuteronomy 28 showed them exactly how their life would go. If they were doing the right things, they would experience physical blessings, as shown by the first 14 verses of the chapter. If they were not doing the things which God intended for them to do, there would be curses in the physical realm as shown staring in verse 15 and going through the end of the chapter. These blessings or curses would be in all of the same areas of their lives and would be visible for everyone to see. There was no way someone could cover up what was happening to them.
This is not what we are promised today. The Apostle Paul lays out what blessings we have:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
This verse clearly shows the blessings which are being spoken of are spiritual in nature. They are a present possession for every believer and can never be taken away, as we have been sealed with the holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13-14). This is truly good news for us, as this means there is nothing we could do which could take away from our salvation or the blessings which have been provided to us.
While we know this is what is promised to us, sometimes it is difficult for members of the Body of Christ to realize this is going on. They have read or been taught so many things about the physical blessings that they are discouraged when these are not there. They also can look at the world system and se how this is built around the fact that there are physical blessings out there which some people seem to be receiving all the time.
These things can start to discourage someone and start to cause them to think they have nothing to be thankful for. They have taken their focus on what the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished for them. This is exactly what Satan wants, as this leads to an individual not going out and functioning as an ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20), as they stop telling individuals about what the Lord Jesus Christ did on Calvary. When this happens, the message of this dispensation stops going out and people are not receiving the salvation which is being offered. The function we are to have to make all men see the fellowship of the mystery is not happening (Ephesians 3:8-9) and the will which God has is not being accomplished (1 Timothy 2:4).
The issue of being thankful is also tied in with the prayers we should be offering up. Many people look at prayer as almost a wishing machine, as they ask God for things and then get frustrated when they are not getting them. The Apostle Paul ties the issue of prayer and thanksgiving together many times:
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;  That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;  Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;  Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Pray without ceasing.  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
1 Timothy 4:1-5
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;  Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;  Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
These passages all show how these two things are to go together. When someone is engaging in prayer there should be a sense of thanksgiving in the individual. This is how the individual is expected to approach God. There are many things which we are to be thankful for in relation to God, as he has demonstrated grace and mercy to us, the members of the Body of Christ. This is something that should be easy to do for us when we truly think about what has been accomplished for us, even though we did not deserve any of it.
These passages also show what prayer is to accomplish. The Apostle Paul speaks of praying for all things and to pray without ceasing. This means there is nothing which is going on that the individual should not be praying for. The Spirit will make intercession for the believer (Romans 8:26-28), which is why the prayers sometimes appear that they were not answered. God is hearing what the Spirit has said and is answering this prayer, with the answer sometimes still being no. There are things which we do pray for that God will not give, as He knows what would happen with this.
Prayer is also given for the individual to increase in the knowledge of Godís Word. This is the only way a member of the Body of Christ is going to be pleasing to God. Having the knowledge of His will through the Word means we are then doing exactly what we should do.
Prayer is also associated with eating. We can eat anything in this dispensation as long as it is with thanksgiving and prayer. This shows the dispensational distinctions that occur in the Bible (for more information on this, see episode 7 of our pod cast).
Hopefully this brief study showed the importance of being able to demonstrate thankfulness in your life. This is what God has intended for us and we should be living our life this way.