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1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (NKJV)  16 Rejoice always,   17 pray without ceasing,   18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It’s especially important to remember the true nature of Thanksgiving both from the Bible AND from our founding as a nation in this day where the vision of our God-fearing founders is being dismantled, and frankly, as a nation, we’ve told God to get lost.

Listen to the proclamation of George Washington establishing our holiday of Thanksgiving and consider if America was founded by those who meant to ensure that GOD was kept out of the government, our public life or our culture:

Washington’s Proclamation about Thanksgiving

WHEREAS, It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence (sovereignty, reign, control) of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore (persistently request; beg) His protection and favor;

WHEREAS, Both the houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal (ie. obvious) favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness”!

Now, therefore, I do recommend next, to be devoted by the people of the states to the service of that great and glorious Being (can you imagine a President or someone in Congress recommending that we be devoted to the service of God?), who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be, that we may then all unite (the President asking the entire country to UNITE in humbly thanking God!) in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country (now that we’ve asking God to get lost, do you think His care and protection has left with him???).

—George Washington

Thankfulness is a fundamental characteristic of Christianity. Thankfulness was a fundamental part of founding of our country: thankful for freedom, thankful for opportunity, thankful for God’s protection, guidance and provision to establish a new country based not on the historically FAILED vision of man but on the rights, principles and ideals that come from our CREATOR and transcend man.

This is “thanksgiving” week…

Let’s take a fresh look at what it means to be thankful. To have a full and biblical view of thankfulness, we must experience a growing DEPTH of gratitude.

A growing depth of thankfulness:

SHALLOW: Thankful for Getting What We Want.

This is the easiest and most natural level of gratitude.

  • We are easily and naturally happy about getting what we want.
  • We feel good emotions, excitement, and circumstantial joy.
  • Giving thanks is easy at this level.
  • It’s great to be thankful even at this level, but the Bible pushes us to go beyond.

If we don’t move beyond this level, we are in danger of developing:

  • Entitlement Mentality
    • I deserve it, I’m used to it, I expect it, others should agree and give it
  • Forgetful Spirit
    • Take it for granted, quickly forget and look for the next thing, never think about it being a “blessing”
  • A Discontented Heart
    • Always wanting more so you can feel good
    • Coveting, greed, discontent…
    • More, more, more… newer, newer, newer… bigger, bigger, bigger

DEEPER: Thankful for Getting What We Don’t Want.

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (NKJV)  16 Rejoice always,   17 pray without ceasing,   18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It’s not hard to thank God for getting what we want…  the mature Christian learns to thank God for those things we don’t understand, don’t like and wouldn’t wish for.

Often we get upset and angry because undesirable and painful circumstances invade our lives, but Paul teaches us four truths about thankfulness:

Thankfulness Is All Inclusive: “in everything.”

  • God only uses all inclusive words when He means it….
  • It’s hard to give thanks for getting things we don’t want.
  • It’s hard to give thanks for tragedies.
  • It’s hard to give thanks for the consequences of evil.
  • Gratitude in bad circumstances goes against our natural human reaction.
  • We are told to give thanks under every circumstance of life…  

    Paul’s example: 2 Corinthians 11:23–28 (NKJV)  23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.   24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.   25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;   26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;   27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—  28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

    Paul’s Response: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)  18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you

Thankfulness Is a Command: “give thanks.”

  • The scriptural order is not first feel then obey; it’s first obey then feel. FEELINGS FOLLOW CHOICE… you don’t “feel” thankful, CHOOSE to be thankful, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll feel that way
  • It is a lie of the devil to say that you’ll be a hypocrite by doing something you don’t feel.
  • God knew we would need to CHOOSE thankfulness. That’s why He gave us the command.
  • The commands of God are designed to help us break through barriers that are unnatural and harmful to us.
  • God’s commands overcoming our “feelings-based” sinful and fleshly emotions

Thankfulness Is God’s Will for Us: “this is the will of God.”

  • Thanking God in everything is not just good advice.
  • It is the will of God to thank Him in circumstances that we do not like.
  • Part of pleasing God is to do His will.
  • When we do not thank God in everything, we move outside the will of God.
  • NOT being thankful is not only a sin…
    • It reveals a pride (I don’t need to thank God)
    • It reveals immaturity (I don’t feel like thanking God)
    • It reveals rebellion (I don’t have to thank God)
    • It reveals a spiritual shallowness (I don’t understand WHY I should be thankful)
    • It reveals a childish selfishness (I have no reason to thank God)

Thankfulness Is Accomplished Through Our Connection with Christ: “in Christ Jesus for you.”

  • Jesus is the Source of our ability to thank God when we get what we don’t want.
  • Only our union with Him makes thankfulness possible.
  • Without His example and power, thankfulness would be difficult at best, probably impossible
    • We can be thankful when focus on Jesus and not our circumstances.
    • We can be thankful when we think about the grace of Jesus.
    • We can be thankful when we see Jesus using our circumstances to further the gospel and glorify Him.
    • We can be thankful when we remember we get to live for Jesus.
    • We can be thankful when we remember that Jesus never leaves us or forsakes us.
    • We can be thankful that Jesus has already won the battle.
    • We can be thankful that our hope and faith are in Christ and not in our religious works or human effort.
    • We can be thankful when we realize of our future destination is a home that Jesus is even now preparing for us.
    • We can be thankful when we think about spending eternity with Jesus.
    • We can be thankful knowing that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

DEEPEST: Thankful for Not Getting What We Deserve.

When we get to this level, there is a change of mindset.

  • Paul tells us to give thanks in everything.
  • “Give thanks” is one word in Greek and it is built from the word meaning “grace.”
  • Grace in the New Testament means unmerited favor or kindness (even mercy) extended to the undeserving.”

The idea behind giving thanks in the New Testament is extreme gratitude that God has given us incredible blessings that we don’t deserve.

  • If we grasp that we deserve hell, then we’ll be filled with gratitude for everything we get that we do not deserve
    • from our salvation and home in heaven
    • to the sun and rain,
    • our food, our house, our car,
    • our health, our appliances, our comforts,
    • the people in our lives.

Matt 5:3 tells us where we were at, and that unable and undeserving, Jesus rescues us (I mention this verse often because it is the basis of our need for a Savior…)

Matthew 5:3 (NKJV)  3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Poor in spirit” is humility; true humility that is produced from a correct understanding of our predicament and need; a person who rightly understands his dilemma and understands his need for help or rescuing

  • Greek: Ptochos (toh kaas)  – poor and helpless
    • One who in his helplessness needs “lifting”
    • One who has fallen from a better estate
    • The “ptochos” is so poor he can only make it by begging; he is helpless, dependent on something outside of himself
  • Differs from “penes poor” (pen eese) type of poor (lacking material things), who is poor but can earn things by labor
    • The “penes” has nothing extra, no resources or hope; 
    • the “ptochos” has nothing, period, with no hope of getting it without outside intervention

This is much deeper than just a general sense of need, even need for a Savior. 

  • True “poor in spirit” is the person who truly understands their emptiness, helplessness and need for God, is ready to be used by God.

It’s all God’s grace to us. We deserve none of it.

  • Anything less than overwhelming gratitude should be unthinkable.
  • God owes us nothing. We owe Him everything.
  • Christ took the hell He didn’t deserve to give us the multitude of good things we don’t deserve!

More Biblical Reasons for Being Thankful

  1. Give Thanks for Answered Prayer
    The apostles 2 Corinthians 1:11 (NKJV)  11 you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.
    1. The apostles were thankful for those who prayed for them, and thankful when God answered
  2. Give Thanks for Appointment to Christian Service
    1 Timothy 1:12 (NKJV)  12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry,
    1. Be thankful when God shows you ways and opportunities to minister and serve others, and find your place in the body of Christ
  3. Give Thanks for Christian Concern for Others
    2 Corinthians 8:16–17 (NKJV)  16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus.   17 For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord.
    1. Be thankful for those who show care and concern for you, and others
  4. Give Thanks for Christian Giving
    2 Corinthians 9:11 (NKJV)  11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.
    1. Be thankful when others give, when others do things for you, when others are generous with money, time and help
  5. Give Thanks for Civil Authorities
    1 Timothy 2:1–2 (NKJV)  1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,   2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
    1. Yes, that’s getting harder and harder with our greedy, narcissistic, wasteful, ungodly leaders, but never the less….
  6. Give Thanks for Converts
    1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NKJV)  13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.
    1. Give thanks when people hear God’s Word, hear the Gospel and truly respond
  7. Give Thanks for Faith and Love
    Romans 1:8 (NKJV)  8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
    1. Give thanks for genuine faith is lived out in Christian lives
  8. Give Thanks for Food
    Acts 27:35 (NKJV)  35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.
    1. The Bible is the source of our tradition to pray before meals and “give thanks”
  9. Give Thanks for the Goodness of God
    Psalm 118:29 (NKJV)  29 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
    1. If there is anything to be thankful for, it’s God’s goodness that we don’t deserve
  10. Give Thanks for Grace in Christ
    2 Corinthians 9:14–15 (NKJV)  14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.   15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
    1. If God’s grace really is an indescribable gift, how can we not be CONSTANTLY thankful for it
  11. Give Thanks for the Power and Reign of God
    Revelation 11:16–18 (NKJV)  16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God,   17 saying: “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.   18 The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
    1. Be thankful that God will overcome ALL evil, the whole world who rejects Him
  12. Give Thanks for Rescue from Sin
    Romans 7:24–25 (NKJV)  24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?   25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
    1. Be thankful that God delivers us from the power of our sinful flesh
  13. Give Thanks for the Triumph of the Gospel
    2 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV)  14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
    1. Be thankful that NOTHING can keep Christ out… not governments, religions, men or Satan
  14. Give Thanks for Victory over Sin and Death
    1 Corinthians 15:56–57 (NKJV)  56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.   57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    1. Thank God that we are delivered from DEATH which reigns over EVERY human outside of Jesus

The Thankful Life

What does it look like? What are the practical ways to develop a thankful life?

Expressing Thanks Is Habit

  1. It’s a good habit. We do it automatically.
  2. We need to form good habits and keep them.
  3. It is no sin to be in the habit of thanking people for the things they do for us.
  4. It is no sin to be in the habit of thanking God at every meal.
  5. Thanksgiving is habit, but it is more than habit…

Expressing Thanks Is Courtesy

  • We expect it of others and they expect it of us.
  • That is a valid expectation. It is etiquette. It is good manners.
  • God expects us to be thankful. Surely He has a right to expect us to extend to Him the same courtesy we commonly extend to people.
  • To fail to thank God would be rude and thoughtless.
  • Thanksgiving is courtesy, but it is more than courtesy…

Expressing Thanks Is Worship

  1. It is a part of pagan worship. We can find many examples in which heathen people thank their gods.
  2. It was an integral part of Old Testament worship. The Old Testament is filled with examples of personal thanksgiving and of corporate thanksgiving.
  3. The New Testament is also filled with examples. We can find them in the life of Jesus, in the life of the apostle Paul, and in the life of the church.
  4. Our own contemporary worship experiences highlight thanksgiving. It is in our songs, in our public prayers, in our sermons and in our meditations.
  5. Thanksgiving is worship, but it is more than worship…

Expressing Thanks Is Faith

  1. It is believing that past blessings came from God.
  2. It is believing that present blessings come from God.
  3. It is believing that future blessings will come from God.
  4. Thanksgiving is faith, but it is more than faith…

Expressing Thanks Is Love

  • Love means we never take our gifts for granted.
  • Love means we never take the Giver for granted.
  • Love should be expressed in words.
  • Love should be expressed in deeds.

It is better to thank God from habit than not to thank Him at all;
better to thank Him from courtesy than not to thank Him at all.

It is good to thank God in worship, better to thank Him from faith, best of all to thank Him from love.


  • A thankful heart is essential for true spiritual service.
  • If you are trying to serve the Lord without thankfulness for what He’s done for you, then you are serving in the flesh with improper motives.
  • One who is thankful realizes that God has a cause for everything that happens.
  • One who serves without a focus on God will not find very many things to be thankful for in his life because he is not grateful for the things God has already done for him.

Do you have a thankful heart?
Are you overwhelmed with thanksgiving for what God has done?

There is so much to be thankful for.  

The devil often tempts us by saying, “You deserve better than that. You don’t have to be thankful.” But when he does, make sure you remember how much you have to be thankful for!

Our flesh tugs at us to feel like we aren’t getting what we deserve, that others have it better, that God is not looking out for us… in short, to be UNTHANKFUL for what we have and where we are at in life.

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (NKJV)  16 Rejoice always,   17 pray without ceasing,   18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

A prayer of thankfulness:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you Lord for the most high and holy calling of being Your child. Thank You for Your continual care and constant protection. 

Thank you for the blessing of knowing and having Your Word.  Thank You for the blessings of Your church, for the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit. 

Thank You for the fellowship, love and friendship of other Believers; for the heritage of faithful Christians and their example that draws us closer to You and gives us strength to press on.

We entrust our entire life to You because You are the Redeemer.  We thank you, bless You, adore You, worship You and praise You… the Eternal God in Heaven. 

Thank You for the comfort of these thoughts and the joy that comes from the hope You have given. We are so thankful that we know You.

Lord, with a thankful heart we want to obey, we want to receive Your goodness, And we want to submit to doing Your will.

Our sins number more than the sand on a beach but we thank You, where sin is abundant, grace is more abundant. Teach us to thank You for every moment that we go without sinning; And to be humbled for every minute you give us the power to be free of sin.

Thank you that we are growing to be more like Christ even now, and that someday you will perfect us in righteousness for Your glory.

Let us worship in thankfulness when You deliver us from misery, sorrow and temptations knowing that this is the greatest testimony of Your love for us.

Out of our love for Jesus let us be thankful and full of joy in all circumstances of life.

Thankful for Jesus and in His Name, Amen.