By Shawn McMullen
We often think about gratitude as an idea, something we hold in our hearts. That’s true, but there’s more to it. Paul wanted his readers both to feel and to express gratitude to God. This kind of thanksgiving is marked by intentionality.
In All Circumstances
In another letter Paul wrote, “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). There’s no limit to the things we can thank God for. Here are just a few.
We can thank God for our spiritual blessings. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Our spiritual blessings include salvation, the abundant life, the fellowship of believers, and the hope of Heaven.
We can thank God for our physical blessings. Paul reminded Timothy that it was God “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). Among God’s many rich provisions are our lives, our families, our health, our protection, and our material possessions.
We can thank God for our trials. Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we plan or hope. Our circumstances seem beyond difficult. They feel overwhelming, even unbearable. Can we really thank God then? James says we can:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
Paul put it this way: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
For This Is God’s Will for You
It is God’s will that we be thankful. He seeks our gratitude because it brings glory to him.
It’s natural to thank God when things are going well. It’s more difficult to honor him in the dark times of our lives. But when we do, we offer a powerful testimony of faith to a watching world—much like the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk who declared, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17, 18).
In Christ Jesus
F. F. Bruce writes, “God’s will in Christ Jesus may be paraphrased as ‘God’s will for you as members of the Christian fellowship.’” To another congregation of believers Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Whether we express our thanksgiving in the worship center or the prayer closet, the important thing is that we recognize the good hand of God upon our lives and glorify him for his mercy and kindness through Jesus Christ.