This coming Sunday brings us to our annual Thanksgiving service. I will not preach. Rather we will give the sermon time to congregational sharing. We will give thanks for God’s goodness and kindness to us in manifold ways.
The Psalmist expressed his determination to do that very thing in the temple in places like Psalm 111:1. Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
The question remains. Give thanks for what? Some things come quickly to mind. Health, provision, relationships, family, etc. These are all gifts of God and worthy of His praise.
But when we examine the disciplines of thanksgiving modeled by the apostle Paul we find other reasons for thanks on his agenda.
Consider Romans 1:8. I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
Or how about 1 Cor. 1:4-7? I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given in Christ Jesus . . . so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift.
Then there is 2 Cor. 1:3-4. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Hmmm. No thanksgiving at the beginning of Galatians. He was too hopping mad over their defection from the gospel into legalism.
Oh, good, back on track in Eph. 1:3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (see vv. 4-14).
He gives yet more thanks in Phil. 1:3-5. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Pouring it on in Col. 1:3-5. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
Overflowing in 1 Thess. 1:2-3. We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Seeing a pattern developing with 2 Thess. 1:3-4. We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
For a specific individual, Timothy, in 1 Tim. 1:3-5. I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
Finally, another particular person in view, Philemon, in Philemon 4. I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints.
My, the sheer volume of thanks coming from Paul’s lips in the New Testament takes the breath away! Surely he would echo the resolve of the Psalmist to let his praise and thanksgiving be heard amidst the congregation of the upright.
Along with the normal things we thank God for, let’s take our cue from the apostle and reflect more broadly in scope for causes of thanksgiving – Christian faith around the globe, spiritual gifts working in the church, comfort in affliction from Christ and toward others, unspeakable mercies in every spiritual blessing from above, partners in the gospel, faith in Christ, love among the saints, hope of eternal life, steadfastness in suffering, tears of joyful remembering, and faith transmitted by godly parents.
In light of this survey, prayerfully consider what God might have you share with a whole heart in the company of the upright this Sunday morning. And may our praise redound to His glory and add to the overflow of our joy!