What I know about thankfulness - Warren Bird

Warren Bird

While many churches participated in events held on the National Day of Thanksgiving (NDOT) recently, a good many didn't. Perhaps, like most other Australians, many Christians in this country don't like to "institutionalise' virtue. They would rather express their feelings on their own terms than in an orchestrated fashion. I can sympathise with that!

There may also be other less charitable explanations for the indifference of many Christians to NDOT, but in any case it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the importance of thankfulness. It's a virtue that Christians do well to cultivate.

The Bible encourages us to be thankful. For example, the Psalms in many places urge God's people to "come together with thanksgiving' (95:2), to enter God's courts with thanksgiving (100:4), or simply to "give thanks to the Lord' (eg 75:1, 105:1, 106:1, 107:1,15,21,31; 118:29; 136:1,2,3,26). In the New Testament, Paul puts it this way:

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."  (1 Thess 5:16-18)

Examples abound in the Bible of thanks being given:

- for simple, every day things;
- for significant events in the lives of individuals and nations;
- for people - their character, gifts and contributions to our lives;
- for abundant spiritual blessings in Christ, such as love, faith and fellowship;
- for things which on the surface are negative, because of the way God works in us during the tough times.

Above all, Christian thankfulness is gratitude for God Himself. The relationship He has called us into through Jesus is the most profound and wonderful gift of all; it is the fountainhead of all other gifts, which are an expression of God's desire to share His very life with us.

Christian thankfulness is not a vague "to whom it may concern" attitude. It's not just feeling glad about things, but an active acknowledgement that the living God is the giver of all good things.

Christian thankfulness is, therefore, a profoundly relational concept. In that light, developing an attitude of thankfulness becomes not a task to be accomplished, but an outworking of the gospel in our lives. It contributes to our character transformation under the Lordship of Christ. For example, in Colossians 3:15-17 thankfulness is connected with living at peace with others in the church, with the process of learning and growing, and with honouring God in all that we do.

Here are a few practical suggestions that can help in the gratitude cultivation process:

"¢ Keep a journal, a daily log of things for which you thank God.

"¢ Deliberately set aside regular times for thanking God " maybe along with fasting. Consider skipping lunch once a week, using the time to offer prayers of thanksgiving instead.

"¢ Give to and pray for the poor. Actively acknowledge that what we have is from God by giving it back to Him as the people in David's time did (see 1 Chronicles 29).

"¢ Be creative. Michael Zigler (Regent University, Vancouver) always thanks God for his wife whenever he sees the numbers 518.  Why? Proverbs 5:18 says "rejoice in the wife of your youth". In this way he has developed a thankfulness habit. The possibilities are endless for this approach!

The National Day of Thanksgiving is a good idea. But an even better one is for all Christians to cultivate gratitude as daily character trait. If we were to do that, our lives would more clearly proclaim the greatness of our God and the impact on our world would be enormous.