Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Soon we will come to Christmas, and then to the new year. The holiday season is often a time of reflection, of remembering God’s blessings, reviewing what has happened and the decisions we made, and of setting our hearts to follow God faithfully in the coming year. This year, God has reminded me over and over again that I need to be more deliberate in giving Him thanks, and He has also reminded me again and again of how amazing, how beautiful, how centrally important His church is. I hope to write more in the coming months of what God has been teaching me about His church, but right now I want to consider the part that thanksgiving plays in body life.
In the following passages from 2 Corinthians, Paul expresses an interesting idea; he doesn’t command us to be thankful (those commands are elsewhere*), but rather he gives us three ways that we can cause others to be thankful as we live for Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:5, 8, 10-11 – For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too….For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself…[God] delivered us from such a deadly peril, and…on Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
We cause others to be thankful to God as we pray for fellow believers, trusting that God’s grace will give the gift of a perfect answer. When we pray faithfully and see God answer, our own hearts rise up in thankfulness for God’s mercy and power. When those we are praying for see the answers in their own lives, they praise God for His working and for those who have been praying for them. And when others in the body hear of God’s work of answered prayer and love between believers, they echo the same thanksgivings in their hearts. Thus our family becomes a swelling choir of thankful worship to our Father, and His heart rejoices.
2 Corinthians 4:5, 7-10, 12, 15 – For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.…So death is at work in us, but life in you….For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
We cause others to be thankful to God as we persevere by grace through the difficulties of life. When we continue to share God’s truth, to apply it to our own lives, to find our strength from Him and Him alone, it becomes abundantly clear to those around us that the power we are living in is supernatural. Those who don’t know this God will be in awe of His strength and love, and some will be drawn to know Him and thank Him for His salvation and grace. Fellow believers will see with their own eyes that the words God has penned about His constant presence, His all-sufficient grace, His goodness and love, are true, and they will thank God. They will be encouraged to join us in persevering for Christ, and then their own experience of God’s sufficiency will overflow into more personal praise and thanksgiving.
2 Corinthians 9:8-15 – And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
We cause others to be thankful to God when we give generously as recipients of God’s grace. God has promised that we will always have enough to overflow with good works. He has given to us freely that we may give freely to others in His name, and as we show His generosity, those who are the recipients of His grace through us will thank God for His provision. But it won’t stop there: they will thank God for His work in our hearts that changed us from selfish creatures to a loving family, and ultimately our songs of praise will focus on His greatest gift, His Son Jesus Christ, without Whom none of this would be possible.
My prayer this Thanksgiving is not just that I will be more mindful of Hia blessings and more careful to say thank you, but that my whole life will continue to be transformed into a song of thanksgiving that calls others to join in praising out worthy Father and King.