I’m sure you know people who are always grumbling and complaining. Nothing seems to please them. Some people play the game of “ain’t it awful”. That’s a way of conversing where one person describes how something is bad or awful and the next person responds by describing something else that is bad and perhaps worse, and they go back and forth, describing things that are awful and trying to find something worse than the previous bad thing. In my mind, this is a way of complaining and being unthankful. But God wants us to be a thankful people. Ephesians 5:20 “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
What should we be thankful for? We should be thankful for our blessings. God has richly blessed every one of us. James 1:16-17 “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” God has blessed us with sunshine and rain, with a beautiful earth with birds and fish and beasts, with plants and trees and flowers and clouds and rainbows and mountains and seas. He has given us food and clothing and a place to live. He has given us a marvelous body with reasonable health and intelligence. He has blessed us with friends and loved ones. And then there are the spiritual blessings to include the gift of God’s Son, the forgiveness of our sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, prayer with our heavenly Father, the fellowship with God and His Son, and the promise of eternal life. I could go on and on. I like the old song entitled Count Your Blessings where we are encouraged to name our blessings one by one and see what God has done. If we do this, we should all be truly thankful.
Jesus gave us examples of giving thanks for food. When He fed the 4000, with seven loaves and a few fish, He gave thanks for the food. When He gave the “Lord’s Supper”, He gave thanks. We are permitted to eat everything if we receive it with thanksgiving. 1 Timothy 4:3b-5 “… foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Before we eat, we may pray and say lots of things, but the important thing is to be thankful for what we receive, whether we have much or little, and the food is rich or poor.
But Ephesians 5:20 states “Giving thanks always for all things”. And 1 Thessalonians 5:18 states “in everything give thanks”. Are we really to be thankful for all things and everything? What about the bad accidents and the trials and the problems? Being thankful for these things requires faith and trust in our heavenly Father. James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” We can count it joy and be thankful for trials if our eyes are on eternal life and not on the moment. We have to trust that our heavenly Father is working within us to form us into the complete, mature child of His that He wants us to be. If we believe that, we can be thankful for trials.
The true story is told of two sisters who were imprisoned during World War II for hiding and protecting Jews. In the prison, the sisters’ beds were in a large, crowded room where there were fleas; the one sister reminded the second sister that the Bible said we should be thankful for everything and they should be thankful for the fleas. The second sister found it very difficult to be thankful for fleas – what could be good about fleas? They were able to share the gospel with other women in the room in freedom; they later learned that the prison guards didn’t go into the room and monitor activities because of the fleas. The sisters then realized that they could be thankful for the fleas because it allowed them to share the gospel in freedom.
Do you have trials in your life for which you need to be thankful? Be thankful for all things to God the Father.