Every November, Christians are reminded of our need to be giving continual thanks to God for all of the blessings that he showers upon us every day of our lives. Admittedly, we all fall short in expressing gratitude to our loving heavenly Father as he deserves. God – who (among other things) created us, loves us, forgives us, comforts us, guides us, convicts us, heals us, and blesses us – is worthy of all our praise and thanksgiving, not only for the “good things” that he does for us, but also for simply being who he is. Where would we be if we didn’t have a loving, merciful, all-knowing God ruling over the world and our lives? I, for one, can’t even imagine!
Consider briefly some of what God’s Word says to us about our need to be thankful. Psalm 118:1 proclaims, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 145:10 addresses God directly, declaring, “All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you.” Do we bless him, as this passage says? If not, do we really fit the description of a “saint”, according to Scripture? In the familiar text of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul exhorts believers to, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (emphasis added). Finally, Colossians 2:7 reminds Christians that we are to be, “….abounding in thanksgiving.” Do we really abound in thanksgiving to God? Sometimes it seems that we are so busy being pleased with our own efforts and abilities that we forget to give God any thanks at all, much less to actually abound in thanksgiving for all that he is, does, and has done for our sake.
As we persist in giving God less praise and thanksgiving than are truly due him, we should allow Luke 17:11-19 to serve as a serious warning to us. When God does something magnificent in our lives – as he did for the ten lepers who were healed in this biblical account – he expects to receive thanks from us. Anything less is unsatisfactory to God. Just as parents like to be thanked from time to time for the multitude of ways that they provide for the needs of their children, so does our Creator appreciate and expect some gratitude from us – and, as terrific as parents can be, God is far more deserving of our thanks! When we fail to thank God, he notices. However, when we are faithful to thank God properly (as one of the lepers in this text illustrates), our lives are more richly blessed.
While a true spirit of thanksgiving should last year-round, our annual celebrations each December remind us of the single greatest reason that we have to be thankful – the gift of Jesus! We are all born “innocent” by worldly standards, but enslaved to sin by God’s standards. We inherit the sin nature which separates all of humanity from right standing with God, and this can only be remedied by genuine repentance for our sins, and by trusting in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Scripture teaches us that, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23), and that, “…the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, emphasis added).
Did you catch that? Salvation is a gift to those who trust in Christ – and the greatest one we will ever have the opportunity to receive! Do you think that God wants us to receive this gift with proper gratitude and abounding thankfulness? How foolish it will be if we don’t! As Hebrews 2:3 inquires, “…how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” We dare not refuse this marvelous gift of love, mercy, and forgiveness which is offered to us through the birth and sacrificial death of our savior, Jesus Christ. And, for those of us who do receive this gift into our lives, we dare not fail to thank the loving heavenly Father who sent his only begotten Son into the world for our sake, nor the glorious Savior who died in our place. So, as we celebrate Christmas once again, may we all be reminded afresh to keep our focus on Christ above all else, and to offer an ample supply of thanks to the God who loves us so much.