By Bernie Augsburger
Have you ever wondered how the Pilgrims could have a thanksgiving celebration after going through the most difficult year of their lives? The trip across the Atlantic, the wintery weather, and mortal disease caused more than half of the group to die. We should be thankful that our country was first colonized by those seeking religious freedom in order to honor God, instead of by those seeking wealth and power to largely honor themselves.
Our Thanksgiving expressions are often comparative sighs of relief that our difficulties aren’t as debilitating as other people’s. However, genuine thanksgiving doesn’t begin with life comparisons; it begins with God, the ultimate source, sustaining power, and benevolent giver of all good things (James 1:17). Genuine thanksgiving is mostly inward and is based on the soul’s response to our Heavenly Father. Such expressions of thanks are as old as God and His grace—for where would we be without the grace of God?
Genuine thanks involves a proper source (Ps. 136:1-3, 26)
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” (v. 1); “give thanks to the God of gods!” (v. 2); “give thanks to the Lord of lords!” (v. 3); “give thanks to the God of heaven!” (v. 26).
Many Biblical scholars teach that this expression of praise was sung responsively in the temple. The congregation would respond to the soloist or choir with the refrain, “His love endures forever.” Psalm 136 suggests that we give thanks for God’s creation (vv. 4–9), for our salvation, and for God’s placement of us in this world (vv. 10–22).
Genuine thanks involves a proper relationship (Eph. 5:1–21)
The unbeliever does not function in the realm of genuine gratefulness. The atheist does not give thanks to the God in whom he does not believe. The agnostic or skeptic does not give thanks to a person he is not sure exists and whom he often ridicules. Since genuine thanksgiving to God requires remembering who God is and what He does, the forgetful person is too consumed with a present-tense living pattern that centers on himself; he “forgets” to thank God. The self-sufficient person believes he has worked hard for the things he enjoys and is thankful for his ongoing efforts to provide for himself. The envious person is too busy coveting what others have and finds it difficult to be thankful for what he has by comparison to them.
Genuine thanks involves a proper dependency
Our dependency upon God begins at our conception: “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Ps. 100:3). God also determines the length of our days and the arrival of our death (Rev. 1:18). We are told to take account of our days during the interim period of living in order to apply our hearts unto wisdom (Ps. 90:12). Paul wrote that we should “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15, 16). Just as pride, greed, and envy produce ingratitude, so the love of God produces genuine thanksgiving. The more we love God and are dependent upon Him, the more we will be filled with true thanksgiving.
Bernie Augsburger is state representative of the Illinois/Missouri Association of Regular Baptist Churches. This article was first published in the November 2018 issue of Trumpet Notes, and is reposted here by permission.