“Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: we humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry,sound learning, and pure manners.
“Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.
“Endure with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In times of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness … and compassion for all infirmities.”
~ Book of Common Prayer
There’s a paradox about being thankful. On the one hand we know we should be grateful, but on the other hand ingratitude seems to be where we so naturally find ourselves.
The Bible expresses this paradox throughout its pages.
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” the Bible tells us (Ps.107:1). “In everything give thanks,” it says (1 Thess.5:18). Yet, despite these exhortations we find plenty of grumbling (Ex.16:7), forgetfulness of God’s mercy (Dt.8:12), and refusals to honor Him or give thanks (Rom.1:21).
God calls us to thankfulness, but gratitude is rare.
This is something we can identify with all too well when our own busyness, self-sufficiency, and preoccupation with our own plans keeps us from giving thanks when it’s due.
So, how does one get and keep a grateful heart? The answer is to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances to the supremacy of Jesus Christ.
If our state of gratitude is only linked to our immediate circumstances, we’ll constantly be vulnerable to ingratitude because we’ll always be tempted to focus on what’s wrong with our present situation. This is true whether you find yourself in good times or bad.
Yet, when our focus is on Jesus as the supreme ruler over all, a thankful heart can be the norm for us as we recognize that what we might experience at any given time is all incidental to knowing and walking with Him.
The Apostle Paul has more to say about being thankful than anyone in the Bible. This is remarkable because he spent so much of His life facing persecution and hardship. So, how was it that thankfulness became such a big theme in his life and ministry? Because the supremacy of Christ was preeminent in his thinking. Read more…
I’ve been reading about Jacob. It’s apparent that though he was a blessed man, his life had a lot of difficulty in it. Jacob’s relationship with Esau and his grief over Joseph are just a couple of examples of the hardship he experienced.
There’s a point worth remembering in this. The blessing of God does not necessarily come without trouble. So, just because you are experiencing hardship does not mean you aren’t blessed. This is likely why the the Bible commands us to be thankful in all things. In the midst of our difficulties we easily miss the way that God is blessing us.
Most of us know we ought to be more thankful than we are. And it’s for this reason Thanksgiving Day is a particularly uplifting holiday. It gives us an occasion to notice our tendency toward ingratitude and — for at least one day – give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy in this life.
But as much as this occasion is appreciated, the Thanksgiving experience of many is incomplete. Oh, sure, there is plenty of food, family, and football. And there may even be some discussion about what we’re thankful for. There might even be a prayer. But there’s still something missing.
What’s missing is a clear conception of the recipient of our thanks. Or, put another way, we need an object for our thanks. As any English teacher will tell you, if you have a subject telling you who is doing the action, and if you have a verb telling you what the action is, you also need a direct object to show you who is the recipient of the action.
The observance of Thanksgiving is no different. We have a subject – the “we” who are participating in the holiday. We have a supposed action – giving thanks. But what is the object of our thanks? To whom is our thanks given?
Lately, I’ve noticed this object has been missing. I’ve read and heard lots of exhortations to give thanks. But the object of thanks is never stated. It’s as if we are to simply experience some vague notion of indebtedness, without anyone in particular that we are indebted to.
But being obliged to give thanks – as we surely are – necessarily calls us to identify the proper recipient of our thanks. Simply emoting feelings of thankfulness is insufficient, and leaves our Thanksgiving incomplete.
This, of course, raises the question, “To whom shall we give thanks?” Shall we thank mom and the rest of the ladies for the meal and all their hard work? Shall we thank dad for his provision and care? Shall we thank all the other people in our lives that show us much good? Of course we should!
But at the same time we know that our thanks must go further. We know deep in our hearts that the blessings we receive come from a source far beyond us. We know that they come from the goodness and power of God. And because every blessing is derived from Him, He is the rightful object of our thanks.
Giving thanks is a wonderful activity because it forces us to realize that we do not have sufficiency in ourselves. Giving thanks to God is a necessary activity because it gives due honor to the One through whom all blessings flow.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me,
Bless His holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities;
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from
Who crowns you with lovingkindness
Who satisfies your years with good
So that your youth is renewed like
the eagle” (Psalm 103:1-5).