Paul told the Ephesians, we are to give thanks “always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians is similar but with a slight adjustment, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). The message of these verses is that we are to give thanks always and in every situation.
Scottish minister, Alexander Whyte, was known for his inspiring prayers in the pulpit. He always managed to find something for which to be grateful. One Sunday morning the weather was especially forbidding, and the mood in the church was gloomy. One particular member thought to himself, “Certainly the preacher won’t be able to think of anything to give thanks for today!” Much to his surprise, however, Whyte stepped into the pulpit and began his prayer with these words, “We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this!” There is always something for which we can give thanks.
In his book, Chase the Lion, Mark Batterson made this observation, “Gratitude is thanking God after He does it. Faith is thanking God before He does it.” Like the healed leper of Luke 17 who returned to give thanks, we all can thank the Lord for the things He has done. He has done great things. This is after-the-fact thanksgiving.
But what about thanking God in advance for what He is going to do? That requires faith. It’s what the army of Israel did in 2 Chronicles 20:21 as they went to battle against the confederacy of armies that had invaded their land. They marched to the battle singing, “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!" (2 Chronicles 20:21 NLT) Faith thanks God in advance, “being fully convinced that what He has promised He [is] able to perform” (Romans 4:21).
I encourage you to start a new spiritual discipline this Thanksgiving week. Take a few moments each day to reflect back on the past and thank God for all He has done in your life. That’s gratitude. But don’t stop there. Having looked back, now turn your gaze to the future and thank Him for all He is going to do. That’s faith.
Before sitting down to dinner this Thursday, teach the practice of thanksgiving to your friends and family gathered around the table. At all times and in all situations, give thanks.
Pastor Todd Weston