“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
One of the earliest phrases most parents teach their children is, “Thank you.” Many even teach their babies how to sign this phrase before they are able to verbalize it. But there is a difference between saying “thank you” and being thankful. Thanksgiving, which we just celebrated a couple of weeks ago, is one of our nation’s most beloved and celebrated holidays…yet how many Americans are genuinely grateful on a daily basis? How many Christ followers are? As Christians, we should be the most thankful people on the planet. But are we?
The dictionary defines gratitude as a warm or deep appreciation of personal kindness shown to one. Thankfulness is defined as a disposition to express gratitude by giving thanks. Thankfulness, therefore, can be described as the outward expression of gratitude. Gratitude happens in the heart, and thankfulness with the lips. Unfortunately, often our focus is on saying “thank you” and not on actually being grateful.
Scripture teaches that man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart of a person. He can see through a mindless “thank you” spoken by habit into our hearts. He knows whether we are truly grateful. This passage reminds us that it is God’s will that we give thanks in all circumstances. So how do we cultivate gratitude in all things? The verse begins, “Be joyful always, pray continually…” Joy, like gratitude, is an inward contentment that is only found in Christ. This is why Paul connects joy and thanksgiving with continual prayer. Constant communion with the Father brings joy. And the overflow of joy is gratitude and thanksgiving.
Paul is not suggesting that we be happy because of hardship, but rather in spite of it. The command is to give thanks in the circumstance, not necessarily for the circumstance. Gratitude enables us to see past any situation to what it can produce in us eternally. Deeper faith, compassion, humility, and perseverance are just some benefits of trials.
So, are you cultivating manners or gratitude? Is “thank you” the fruit of your lips or of your heart? No matter what we face, in Christ, there are always thousands of reasons to say “thank You.”
Father, Your grace and goodness never run out. Your faithfulness is the foundation of my life. Thank You for creating me, loving me, saving me, and preparing a place for me in heaven. Please make me more mindful of Your presence today. In Jesus’ name, amen.