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Grace Notes

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A GODLY PERSON IS THANKFUL
by Philip Owen

 

            Godliness may often result in the performance of visible external acts. But any given act is godly only when it blossoms from the proper motive (a desire to honor God) and is engendered by the Holy Spirit. The godly characteristic presented here—thanksgiving—illustrates that point. Anyone can express thankfulness, but God is not impressed with mere lip service. The godly person does not merely say thanks; he is truly appreciative of all the blessings he receives. In fact, he is truly thankful for all that God does in his life.
 
            As with other aspects of godliness, Christ is our example in this. The gospels record that the Son of God gave thanks to His Heavenly Father at three signal points in His life. In the first instance, at the miracle of the feeding of the 4,000, Matthew (15:36) records that Christ “gave thanks” when “he took the seven loaves and the fishes” before breaking them and giving them to His disciples to distribute to the multitude. Though more was probably involved, Christ was thankful to the Father for providing for their physical needs. Second, John (11:41) records Christ’s words, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me,” that He prayed just prior to raising Lazarus from the dead. He was thankful for the opportunity to manifest His authority as the One sent from the Father.  More particularly, because “the Jews require a sign,” Christ’s thankfulness here was for the faith engendered in some who would witness His miracle-working power. The third occasion on which the gospels record that Christ gave thanks was at the last Passover when He instituted the Lord’s Supper: “And he took the cup, and gave thanks . . . . And he took bread, and gave thanks” (Lk. 22:17, 19). This giving of thanks is for the provision of what was at that time a literal meal. But more than that, surely, it was thankfulness for the sacrifice He was about to make and for the fellowship that sacrifice was about to provide.
 
            If it was fitting and proper for God in the flesh to return thanks to the Father, it is small wonder that we are exhorted to do the same. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thes. 5:18) is the golden command by which this characteristic of godliness is to be measured. In everything! Thanksgiving is essential because it acknowledges that God is sovereign, gracious, and bountiful. It grants that He orders everything, both large and small; that He makes no mistakes; that He does all things well; and that what befalls us, even when unpleasant, is intended for our ultimate good. True thankfulness springs from faith, expresses genuine appreciation to God (modern emphasis on thankfulness exclusively to other human beings is a debauchery of this), demonstrates humility, and admits need. Few qualities are more attractive or more beneficial than genuine thankfulness. Thankfulness is the contrary of pride and self-righteousness. In short, it effaces self and exalts the Lord. It is a type of praise to God in grateful acknowledgement of specific blessings that have been received from His hand.
 
 Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians, quoted above, was no mere slip of the pen. Few have suffered as he suffered for the testimony of the gospel. Yet few are recorded as having had such thankful, rejoicing hearts as did Paul. Paul told the Ephesians essentially the same thing that he told the Thessalonians: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:20). And here we come to the crux of the matter: thanksgiving acknowledges that God is our benevolent Heavenly Father by virtue of the grace that has been bestowed on us through the redemption paid for by our Lord Jesus Christ. Such gratitude honors God, edifies others, and blesses the thankful.

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