The Holy Scriptures encourage us to be thankful. Thankfulness demonstrates our love and respect to God, who has done so much for us. If we appreciate what He has done and continues to do, we will give thanks to Him. Our gratitude will increase by contemplating just how much we have to be thankful for. Many of us give no thought whatsoever to how much God does for us and how dependent we are on Him. We often do not think about what we owe to God— perhaps we are thinking only of ourselves, or have never really stopped to think about it, living our lives on auto-pilot. In this state, we cannot find true joy in life and are not moved to give thanks.
Everyone wants to be happy, but most people do not want to take the only way to real and lasting joy. The Bible says, “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23).
When the apostle says “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), he is talking primarily to children of God. We know this because the letter was originally addressed to Christians, and only someone who has recognized the might and majesty of the Giver and is fully dependent on God can be truly thankful. Children of God have cause to be grateful because they were saved at great cost through the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave His life so that we may live. He allowed His blood to be spilled to blot out our sins. That is certainly cause for thankfulness! What are all earthly blessings worth in comparison to the great blessing of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ, our Savior? To achieve what the law could not, God sent His only son into this world to suffer and die for us, who were deserving of death and hell. Innocent of any transgression, the Son came to Earth and let Himself be agonizingly tortured and nailed to the cross in order to save the guilty. Who can still be ungrateful in light of all this?
Yes, we should be thankful that God set our feet on the way of peace. If we have peace in God, we are also at peace with ourselves and with others. Peace is something precious, and children of God have a sweet peace in their hearts, even in the midst of the world’s strife and unrest. The world does not know the peace that Jesus gives; we, who do, should be all the more thankful for it.
We have cause to be thankful for the truth that made us free—if we have truly recognized, accepted, and adopted it in our daily lives. Pilate did not understand anything about the truth that Jesus preached. But the Lord said to the Jews, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Before God’s freeing truth can take hold of us, we need to acknowledge our bondage to sin and ask the Lord to free us of it. He is glad to do so if we ask Him sincerely, from the bottom of our hearts, to be made free so that we can live and walk in the truth.
Afterwards, we need to thank the Lord for what He has done for us. If we do not thank God with all our hearts for the truth that has set us free, this is a sign that we do not appreciate the freeing truth as much as we should. And if we fully appreciate the truth, we will do what we can to share it with others.
We can also be thankful that we have a God we can tell anything to. We can pour out our hearts to Him, and He is willing and able to support us with His limitless power in any situation, as long as we trust Him and ask for His help and support with a simple, child-like faith. Many people call on God in times of trouble, but few thank Him for His help after He provides it. Let us be thankful for the privilege of calling on Him in times of trouble, and let us be even more thankful for His gracious help!
Although children of God have the most reason to be thankful, and although the apostle’s command is directed especially at them, everyone has great cause to give thanks. Even if non-believers know nothing of God’s blessings or of the joy His blessings give to children of God, they still have cause to thank God: for the life He granted them and for the grace they still enjoy. And someone who recognizes how much thanks he already owes God will not wait any longer to accept the offered grace through repentance and faith.
If all of us, whether saved or not, look back on all the good things we have experienced at the hands of God and of other people, we will find cause enough to be thankful. As children of God, let us heed the apostle Paul’s words when he writes, “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” (Philippians 4:8). When we focus our thoughts on what is good, it is not hard for us to be thankful.