Living Thankfully

Living Thankfully

Characteristics of the Christian
by Bob Burridge ©2001, 2011

It’s encouraging when people remember to thank others for what they have done for them.

“Thank you” is a very important expression.

It can be a sincere way to show appreciation for a kindness done. Sometimes words don’t even need to be spoken. It can be said with a smile, a hug, or a shed tear of gladness. Yet it helps to say what’s on our hearts so that our gratitude won’t be missed.

Sadly, a “thank you” can also be said in a mechanical or hollow way.

We’ve seen children prodded into thanking someone when it is not in their hearts to do so. They look down at their shoes, fidget with their hands, and mumble the words quietly. Of course it is all part of the process of learning how to treat others with respect. Our hope is that our children will develop this as an important natural habit in their lives.

Sometimes the words can be said in a sarcastic way. Someone not appreciating what somebody else did may say “Well, thanks a lot!” They say it so the person knows they didn’t do good when they should have. Leave it to our sin filled hearts to turn a good expression into an insult.

As Christians we should learn another dimension to giving thanks.

A “thank you” should be an acknowledgment of a person’s part in God’s blessings toward us. Living gratefully ought to be a characteristic of every Christian’s life.

Tragically, in our fallen nature, self replaces God as the center of what concerns us most. Fallen souls pervert thankfulness into its opposite. The absence of gratitude is an attitude of presumption or entitlement.

In 1 Corinthians 4:6 Paul warned the believers that no one should become arrogant having received something. He then asked in verse 7, “… why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

People often act as if they deserve all they get. Good things are taken for granted. Warren Wiersbe once told about a ministerial student who was part of a life-saving team.

In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, Illinois. Edward Spencer waded again and again into the ice cold waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, he damaged his own health permanently. Years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.

A good deed is often spoiled by seeing its flaws instead of its intended good. One devotional booklet tells the story of an old man who approached a young stranger in the post office and asked, “Sir, would you address this postcard for me?” The young man gladly did just as he was asked, then offered to write a short note for the old man. Finally the stranger asked, “Now, is there anything else I can do for you?” The old man thought a moment and said, “Yes, at the end could you add, ‘Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.’ ”

Fred De Witt Van Amburgh once wrote: “None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.”

Henry Ward Beecher said, “Pride slays thanksgiving, but an humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.– ”

Thankfulness begins with knowing what we have to be thankful for. It is an appreciative acknowledgment of a benefit received from another

Originally the English word “thank” come from “a think” it was “a thought”. It was a consideration of a kindness received.

In Old Testament Hebrew, ‘thanks” is todah (תודה). It comes from yadah (ידה) meaning “to throw, to cast”. It is the casting of praise or gratitude toward someone.

In New Testament Greek, it is eukharisteo (ευχαριστεω) meaning a good favor or grace offered to someone.

Our first thankfulness ought to be for what we receive from God

This is the most obvious, and foremost duty of gratitude. Ultimately every good thing we receive is from God.

James 1:17, “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.”

Paul pointed out to the ungodly pagans at Athens that God deserves the thanks of all men;

Acts 14:17, “… He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

Therefore, we should always thank God for all good things we receive.

  • for his amazing and beautiful creation,
  • for his merciful and full preservation of all that he made, including us,
  • for a gracious salvation (forgiveness from our sin and guilt, and the promise of eternal blessing)
  • for our daily provisions and the abundance we enjoy beyond our basic needs.
  • for our opportunities, and our ability to take advantage of them.

The Bible is filled with the giving of thanks to God. For example …

Psalm 116:17, “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, And will call upon the name of the LORD.”

But, while not detracting from God as the cause of the goodness done by others …

we need to remember to thank the people God uses
as his means by which we are blessed.

There are many biblical examples showing that it is right and good to thank people for the kindnesses they show to us …

There was that one leper in ten who returned to Jesus to thank him for healing him.

Luke 17:11-19, “Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’ ”

Notice that the first direction of gratitude was toward God. But the thankful leper also wanted to thank the means God used, the person of Jesus. So rather than being satisfied with just a private thanks to God in prayer, he was commended for turning back, going out of his way, to thank the agent of his blessing.

The Apostle Paul remembered to thank those who had helped him. He sent his thanks to his friends in Rome whom he had known when they were in Corinth and Ephesus. He thanked them for their help in risking their lives for him. He saw them as true, responsible agents in the hand of God.

Romans 16:3-4, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”

He showed his appreciation for their goodness to the church in Philippi.

Philippians 1:3-6, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”

When Paul was teaching the believers in Colossae about Christian character he said in Colossians 3:12-15 …

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

Paul listed these 7 important attitudes and behaviors they should develop. Beyond all the specifics he mentioned, they should put on love, the sum of the other attributes. He told them in verse 15 to let the peace of God rule in their hearts, then he ended by telling them to … “be thankful.”

These examples show us how important it is
for us to thank others for their goodness.

When neighbors, family members, or friends act as God’s agent to do something good for you, even the smallest kindness, you ought to show gratitude, and not take it for granted. It is important to let them know you appreciate what they did, and that you recognize them as God’s honored means.

We need to notice the good that others do and how God uses them. Not just thanking them for gifts or cards they give us on birthdays and holidays. But for their daily kindnesses, encouragements, and fellowship. Learn to treasure these little things, and build others up in the Lord because of them.

This is something we can do everywhere:

  • In the home: between husbands and wives, children and their parents, brothers and sisters.
  • In the extended family: including the parents of parents, cousins, uncles, and aunts.
  • In the church: all who are both members, and leaders of our spiritual family.
  • In the community: all who work together, support one another, and do business with one another.

In our imperfections we often do more complaining when we should be appreciative and thankful.

Years ago a magazine told the story of a young man named Ben. He was a complainer. He grumbled about the weather, found fault with his family and friends, and let the littlest things upset him. But his life was changed by a little rhyme he read:

“When you have truly thanked the Lord for every blessing sent,
then you’ll have very little time to murmur or lament.”

He realized that in his discontent he had overlooked the gifts God showered on him daily. Ben determined to overcome his habit of complaining, with God’s help. Whenever he became irritated or started to complain, he would stop and thank God for the many good things he was enjoying. Soon, by centering his attention on praising rather than pouting, he found it much easier to avoid his grouchy mood. He found thankfulness by following the principle of Philippians 4:8.

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.”

I like this simpler rhyme which might help:

“The humble don’t grumble, they think on the good.
They thank for each kindness, because God says they should.”

Our thanks as children of God should not be vain flattery or mechanical thanks . They should be real attempts to honor God, and to encourage those who are God’s instruments by the good he does through them.

In situations this week …

Look for good things that others do. Make sure you appreciate it, and tell them so. Learn to see others as agents of God in bringing his blessings into your life.

While you direct all the glory to Christ, remember to thank the person God has used, and encourage them in their good. Help them understand the honor they have in being used by God to do good.

Note: The verses in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

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About Bob Burridge

I've taught Science, Bible, Math, Computer Programming and served 25 years as Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pinellas Park, Florida. I'm now Executive Director of the ministry of the Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies

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