The Thankful Christian

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  5 : 18
Subject: Thanksgiving; Gratitude

The Thankful Christian

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

We are looking forward this week to being with family and friends to celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving. As we approach this day, I want us to think about the Thankful Christian.

Rudyard Kipling was one of the most popular writers of his day. One report tells maintains that he was so popular that he was paid the equivalent of 10 shillings for every word he wrote. A student at Oxford University, who had heard of this, sent Kipling ten shillings with the request that he send back "one of your best words." Kipling cabled back to him the single word, "Thanks!"

Indeed, it is one or our best words. To be thankful, is to be humble. It reminds us that we didn’t get where we are or obtain what we have all on our own. God has blessed us with days of life on this earth, given us friends and family, teachers and encouragers, food and safety, and so many other blessings through the years. We arrive at this Thanksgiving season with the desire, I hope, and need, I know, to be thankful to God for all His blessings.

Our text today comes from a man who knew how to be thankful. His thankfulness did not come from being affluent because he never had much of this world's goods. His thankfulness did not arise from peaceful surroundings, for he often found himself being persecuted, stoned or imprisoned. He was not motivated to thankfulness from any false sense of spiritual superiority, for he did not pray like the Pharisee, "Lord, I thank you that I am not like other men..." He, in fact, called himself the "chief of sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15) Our text is taken from the pen of that man, the Apostle Paul, as he wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians.

Look at our text, found in Thessalonians 5:18 ...

"... give thanks in all circumstanes; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

There was a knock at the door. The lady of the house came to the door on that cold, winter morning to find two small children at her door. As she opened the door the icy cold wind cut through her flesh. "What do you want," she asked? The children told her they were collecting old newspapers to try to raise money. The woman was about to send them away when she noticed that their little shoes were wet and cold. "Come in and have a cup of hot chocolate while I see if I can find any old newspapers," she said. They sat by the fireplace and drank the chocolate she had provided. As the little girl lifted her empty cup and saucer back to the lady she asked a question, "Are you rich?" The woman answered with a quick no. Looking around at her couch with its worn fabric, and at her walls that needed painting, she wondered how the children could think her rich. Then the little girl spoke again, "But your cup and saucers match." The poor child had likely never seen dishes that matched and she thought the lady very well to do because of her china.

Soon the boy and girl were gone. Now the woman had a moment to think, and she decided that she was rich. She had food to eat and a roof over her head. She had a husband and family that she loved, and that loved her. The lady noticed that the poor children had left wet foot prints in her carpet. She started to clean it up but decided to leave them to dry on their own so she could look at it and remember just how rich she really was.

Most of us are far richer than we think we are. If we know Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are rich beyond our wildest dreams, for in Him we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17). But, sadly, most of us do not know how to be thankful, for it is far too easy to complain and find fault with so many things in our lives from day to day.

I want us to learn afresh the importance and practice of living a thankful life each day. Paul gives us three lessons in thankfulness with this one small verse in 1 Thessalonians.

Note firstly ...

I. Thanksgiving is a Christian Attitude

Why do I state that thanksgiving is primarily a Christian attitude and action?

A. Christians Know the Grace that Salvation Brings

2 Corinthians 9:15 reads ...

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

How can we fail to be thankful when we think of God’s gift of grace and salvation found only in Jesus? Regardless of our circumstances, the Christian has something the world didn’t give and the world can’t take away. This alone creates a chorus of thanksgiving in the hearts of Christians, at least it does in the thoughtful believers who remember spiritual possessions they have in Christ.

Not only do we know the grace of salvation, but ...

B. Christians Know the Giver of All Things

James told us that " ... every good gift comes down from above." (James 1:17)

As believers, we know the giver of all good gifts. Someone said, “Wouldn’t it be awful to be an atheist? If you avoid a terrible accident, and you feel a compunction to exclaim a word of gratitude, you don’t know who to thank." It's true, isn't it! Who can he atheist thank? But the Christian immediately cries out, "Thank you God, you have helped me yet again.”

2 Corinthians 4:18 states,

“… while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

As Christians, we thank God even when things don’t seem to go the way we want them to. We know that God is at work in every event of our lives. Things often turn out differently than the way we hoped or planned, buy as believers in Christ we have the assurance that all things for good in those who love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

Also, notice that ...

C. Christians Know the Glory of Eagles Wings

Life cannot sometimes feel like a deep valley. The Psalmist David wrote ...

"Yea, even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me..."

And, we know that we will not stay in the valley. Listen to what Isaiah penned.

Isaiah 40:28-31 reads ...

"Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,

The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint."

Note that we shall mount up on wings like eagles. We are aware as Christians that God’s plans may have us in the valley, but He has an ultimate plan to lift us up on wings like eagles. Though we may feel weak, we read in His Word that He gives strength to the weak.

Perhaps as you approach this Thanksgiving Day you are going through such a valley right now, but you can keep looking up, can't you! God has not left you and He will not desert you. In due season, He will lift you up on eagle’s wings. Don’t look at things as they are, but thank Him in advance for what they are in heaven and what they will be in your life.

Thanksgiving is a Christian attitude, but we can also say that ...

II. Thanksgiving Can and should be Constant

The Christian needs to keep Thanksgiving all 365 days of the year. I appreciate that we have a Thanksgiving Day in America, for this reminds us that those who came before us believed in God and knew that we owed Him a debt of gratitude for all He has done to provide this wonderful land in which we live. There are many who want to remove God from every form of public discourse in our nation. They wish to take “In God We Trust” from our currency. They do not want to be reminded of the scriptures and so they seek to remove The Ten Commandments from our public buildings. Whether those in our present government reject or neglect gratitude, we as Christians intend to be thankful to Him every day and in every way. Thanksgiving cannot be legislated out of the Christian heart.

But Thanksgiving is not just for Americans. Gratitude is a Christian grace and must be practiced by every child of God. Christians know that God is the Lord of all the earth, the stars and everything that exists. He is Lord of all and He blessings those who trust in His provision of grace found in Christ alone. Indeed, we are to be thankful in all situations, because God is at work in everything touching our lives.

A school teacher once asked the children if they had anything for which they were thankful. A small boy in the class who wore glasses immediately raised his hand. The teacher asked, "Now, tell me son what you are thankful for?" He responded, "I'm thankful for my glasses." The teacher knew the boy wore rather thick glasses for his age and was surprised by his response, so we asked, "Why are you thankful for wearing glasses?" He replied, "I'm thankful for my glasses because they keep the boys from hitting me and girls from kissing me." I expect that he got over one of those issues as he got a little older. We can say that indeed there is something to be thankful for in every situation.

Think of the fact that Christ was thankful at all times.

  • Jesus was thankful with only a small lunch when thousands were hungry. He knew he could do something about it!
  • He was thankful in the upper room even though he knew that a cross awaited him the next day.
  • He was thankful even at a grave because he knew that on the other side of it He would provide life to the lost and dying willing to trust Him.

Note also that ...

III. Thanksgiving is Commanded

Thanksgiving is so important that God commanded it. You see, pride goes before a fall. Those who forget God and fail to thank Him for the blessings He bestows are just one stumbling-step from destruction. A man will pat himself on the back till his arm breaks, unless that man knows from whence his blessings have come. God commanded us to give thanks so that we might not end up face down in the mud of pride and arrogance.

I was asked to speak to a men's gathering just after I announced my call to the ministry back in 1968. I sat beside a layman as I waited to be introduced. I gave him my name and asked for his. He told me who he was and then went on to tell me how he had grown up dirt poor. He added that he had built his business from the ground up. He said, “Nobody helped me. I did it all myself. I am truly a self-made man.” I was excited about my call to preach, and though I was very young, I gathered up my boldness and said, “No man is self-made sir. You should give the glory to God.” He looked at me with some disdain and turned his head to say nothing. After I spoke that day, he hurried out of the room without speaking to me. These 54 years later, I'm sure he has long departed this life and I wonder if he arrived in heaven bragging to Jesus about being a self-made man? I assure you that he did not, for in the presence of Jesus there are no self-made men or women.

Friends, as God’s children, we are to be thankful every day. Yes, some of us have worked very hard to make progress in life, but only by God's grace have did we come into possession of the abilities required to do what we have done. Even the mind we possess is a blessing from God. I have visited those in hospitals who have suffered strokes and can no longer even put a sentence together. Where do you think you would be if God had taken away from you the ability to think, to speak, and to reason? We are to be thankful without arrogance.

So, is God so weak that He needs thanksgiving? No, a thousand times, no! Let me share why God demands graditude from His children.

A. God Commanded Thanksgiving because it is Healthy

I recently read about a man who was very negative. His health was bad, his business was failing, he was constantly complaining and he was near a nervous breakdown. A minister suggested that he lie down at night and thank God for every single blessing he could think of during that day. He was to not to concentrate on a single negative issue. So the man took the advice. He would lie down at night and begin to thank God for everything he could think of that was a blessing during that day. Soon he was changed. He became outgoing, encouraging to others and healthy. His health problems were reversed almost overnight. He began to witness and gladly took advantage of opportunities to point people to Christ. Paul was like that. He had physical problems. He was not very much to look upon, the Bible implies. He was constantly in the midst of controversy; however, he had a thankful spirit and it drew hundreds and even thousands to faith in Christ. His thankful attitude and actions not only blessed Him brought joy to those around him.

The Bible says, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." Many people are suffering from a vitamin shortage in their daily life - It is a lack of vitamin T, which stands for Thanksgiving.

B. God Commanded Thanksgiving because it is Helpful

A thankful heart is helpful because it makes you a better witness to those without Christ. When your face is aglow with joy and unspeakable glory, you live your life in thanks to God. C. H. Spurgeon used to say, "More flies are attracted by honey than by vinegar."

A sour, unhappy Christian makes a poor witness for Christ; whereas, a thankful, rejoicing Christian is a human magnet drawing people to the Lord.

Not only is thankfulness to God a blessing to one's self and to others, but a word of thanks to others can have a profound effect as well. William Stidger often wrote at least one "thank you" letter a day during the month of November. In this way he could show appreciation to people who had helped him in some way. Once he was asked if he had ever written to a teacher. He had not and determined to do so immediately. He wrote to a teacher of yesteryear expressing appreciation for all her efforts to teach him when he was a boy. Shortly a letter came back to him scribbled by a shaking, aging hand. It read, "My Dear Willy, I cannot tell you how much your note meant to me. I am now in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely and like the last leaf of fall lingering behind. You will be interested to know that I taught school for fifty years and that yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning and cheered me as nothing has done in years."

Dear friends, it is impossible to say how many might be helped by a word of appreciation and thanks. Thankfulness helps us witness to the lost and bless those who have blessed us.

C. God Commands Thankfulness because it is Honorable

It honors God when we are tha!nkful. One of the signs of a godless generation is thanklessness. Look at Romans 1:21 ...

"Neither were they thankful".

Do we not dishonor God when we are unthankful? Surely we do! When we are unthankful we act as if we came to our years of life and accumulation of goods by our human efforts alone. Deuteronomy 6:11-12 tells us to beware of taking God's blessings for granted or one day we will eat till we are full and then forget God. It is sad day when grace outruns gratitude - when God's goodness is more plentiful than our praise to Him.


Dr. S.M. Lockridge (1912-2000) was one of God’s great servants and one my favorite preachers to listen to when I got the chance. He was truly one of the greatest preachers I ever heard preach God's Word. If you want to see what I mean, just go online and Google the words "He's My King" and you can hear a portion of one of his sermons.

Lockridge was called to preach in 1940, he became one of America’s beloved black ministers. He pastored until 1993, but he also preached in conferences, revivals and gatherings of thousands of people in his lifetime. It is said that he ministered to over 100,000 people in the church he pastored from 1950 to 1993. I once heard him tell the story of an incident in his childhood. Though I can’t remember all the details, I want to relate this wonderful story to you to the best of my memory.

Dr. Lockridge said, “I was named Shadrach Meshach Lockridge, but I was so poor when I was a child, they could have called me Shadrach Meshach No-shack.” He went on to tell about a time when his mother had no food to feed him. His mother was a godly woman and she was always praying and thanking God for everything. That particular morning, Lockridge said he asked his mother what they were going to eat. She answered him by telling him that God would provide. Lockridge was hungry and became indignant. He said, “Why you always talking ‘bout what God is gonna do. If he is so good, why are we hungry?”

Lockridge said that his mother became angry and said, “Don’t you talk ‘bout the Lord like that, boy! Now git back in that room and wait on me.”

Lockridge slipped to the small room to which she pointed and he peeped out through the door to watch her. He was sure she was going to come and give him a “whuppping.” But, Lockridge tells about the incredible scene that followed. His mother prayed something like this, “Dear Lord, you know I trust you with everything. If you want me to be hungry, I’ll praise you anyway, but my boy don’t understand that. He is hungry and I don’t want him doubting you. Lord, if you could just send some food and show my boy who you are and what you can do, I would be so thankful.” Lockridge said that while his mother was praying, a knock came on the door to their little house. His mother stood up from the bare table and walked to the door. A man stood there with a big box in his hands. The man said, “Mrs. Lockridge, I don’t want to offend you, but my wife just cooked too much food today. She asked me to bring the extra by here and see if could use it. There’s some fried chicken in here, some mashed potatoes and beans and other stuff. Then, she put in some freshly baked bread and a pie or two.” Mrs. Lockridge told him how much she appreciated it and the man placed the big box on the table. The smell of the food filled the small house. Lockridge was just waiting for his mother to call him and say, “Come on out here boy and see what God has done.” But, she didn’t do that – not immediately. Instead, Mrs. Lockridge lifted up her hands toward heaven and with great teardrops streaming down her face, she cried out to God, “Thank you, Suh; Thank you, suh, Thank you, suh.”

Lockridge went to tell how he never forgot how his mother had stopped to praise God before inviting him out of the room to eat.

That is what you and I should do today. We must stop our mad dash to Black Friday, the eating, and fellowshipping of the holidays long enough to look to God and cry out, "Thank you, Sir!"

Let every child of God lift up thanksgiving and praise to the One who saved us, sustains us and is coming to take us home one day. And, let every person who wants to know true joy, come to the only One who can save you - come to Jesus today.