Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Choosing Gratitude

The Family Life Today radio program has had a good series featuring interviews with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who has written a book called Choosing Gratitude. You can find the podcasts at Family Life' website..

This got me thinking that it would be good to do a little devotional blogging based on the subject of gratitude in the Bible. It's something I like to do - choose a topic and then search Bible Gateway to see what verses contain words related to that topic. It's not meant to be scholarly or anything, just devotional. Maybe I don't even need to say that. :-)

I'm using the English Standard Version, but there are many versions to choose from at Bible Gateway. I'll start in the NT. There are 51 verses in the NT that use the word "thanks" or "thanksgiving." I may take a look at the Greek - or not. I will try not to take the verses out of context, but I won't take the time to do a proper job of putting them in their context. It's just some thoughts.

I will give a link to the very fine harmony of the Gospels found at the Blue Letter Bible website. There are three events where Jesus gave thanks, took bread, broke it, and distributed it. Two were the miraculous feeding of the 4,000 and of the 5,000. These two events tend to get "smooshed" together in my mind, but they were two different miracles. Then there is the Lord's Supper on the night He was betrayed.

A. The feeding of the 5,000.

Feeding of the five thousand Matthew 14:13-21 Mark 6:30-44 Luke 9:10-17 John 6:1-15

B. The feeding of the 4,000.

Feeding of the four thousand Matthew 15:32-39 Mark 8:1-9

C. The Lord's Supper. This is called The Paschal Supper.

Paschal supper Matthew 26:17-30 Mark 14:12-26 Luke 22:7-23 John 13:1-35

Not all of these passages showed up in my search at Bible Gateway, so, anyway.

1.Matthew 15:36
he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

God blessed the loaves and the fish, and it was enough. Well, my thoughts turn to Christ. He was offered to God as the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, as John the Baptist declared. (John 1:29-33) His blood as suffiecient for all. His sacrifice is also efficient to save those who come to Him by faith. There is such depth in these few words. If you are His, it is because He died for you in a specific way. Hear His voice. Come to Him. The way is open.

1 John 4:19
We love because he first loved us.

Jeremiah 31:3 (English Standard Version)
the LORD appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

This is also part of where the tradition that Christians have of giving thanks before meals comes from. I kind of got away from the event of the feeding of the 4,000 and Jesus' giving of thanks, but I just get carried away by the Gospel.

2.Matthew 26:27
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you,

Here we see Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Lamb of God, giving thanks once again before He and His disciples drink of the cup at the Lord's Supper. On the eve of His darkest day, Jesus gave thanks. Let the beauty of that, and the beauty of our Savior overwhelm you. He did it for His people to save them from their sins. Come to Him.

3.Mark 8:6
And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd.

This is Mark's record of the events related to the Feeding of the 4,000 we also see in Matthew 15.

4.Mark 14:23
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.

This is Mark's record of the events related to the Lord's Supper.

5.Luke 2:38
And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

This is Anna in the temple. She was a godly woman who spent her time in prayer at the temple. She was waiting for God's Messiah to come. When Joseph and Mary entered the temple area with the baby Jesus, God revealed to her that He was the One. She spread the news among all the true believers in Jerusalem. Imagine her joy in being able to actually see the Savior with her own eyes after the long wait.

6.Luke 17:16
and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

This is the story of Jesus' healing of the 10 lepers. Only one of them returned to thank Jesus, and he was a foreigner. Aren't we often like the ungrateful 9? We do not properly thank and even worship the Lord for what He does on our behalf, yet He is kind even to the ungrateful and the evil. (Luke 6:34-36)

7.Luke 22:17
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves.

This is Luke's record of the Lord's Supper.

8.Luke 22:19
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

Christ gave thanks first for the cup, and distributed it, and then for the bread, and distributed it. This is the institution of the Lord's Supper, better known as communion. We fellowship with the Lord Himself at His table until He come. All believers unite around that table of the Lord.

9.John 6:11
Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.

This is the feeding of the 5,000. See my notes on the other miraculous feedings.

10.John 6:23
Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.

This is a reference to the feeding of the 5,000.

11.Acts 27:35
And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.

Paul did this on the ship before it was run aground. He had all the people onboard eat a meal first. It must have brought comfort to all, as well as being a big surprise.

12.Romans 1:21
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

The lack of offering thanks to God for one's benefits and blessings is a sign of deep depravity.

13.Romans 6:17
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

Deliverance from sin and a change of heart obedience is the work of God in a person, so it is appropriate to thank God.

14.Romans 7:25
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

It is Christ who set us free from the terrible drag that sin is on our souls. We can now serve God's law freely.

15.Romans 14:6
The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

In matters of personal conscience, we are free to honor the Lord and give thanks to Him.

16.Romans 16:4
who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.

Here Paul thanks some people who risked their lives for him.

17.1 Corinthians 1:4
[ Thanksgiving ] I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,

Again, Paul was grateful to God for the work He was doing in those living in Corinth.

18.1 Corinthians 10:30
If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

If we partake of something inoffensive, and we do so with thanksgiving, then we should not fear being criticized by other Christians who like to make rules about what Christians can and cannot do - rules, that is, that are not in Scripture.

19.1 Corinthians 11:24
and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

This is a reference to the Lord's Supper. When we reinact this supper, we also give thanks as Jesus did.

20.1 Corinthians 14:16
Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say "Amen" to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?

Since speaking in tongues in this way is a private affair, how can everyone join in the giving of thanks? The church is not the place for private shows of spirituality, but rather for corporate worship and mutual edification.

21.1 Corinthians 14:17
For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.

Selfishness in the body, even though the selfish person thanks God for what he has, doesn't build up the body. If we share in our bounty, then there is more thanks offered to God and our own thanks doesn't sould so hollow.

22.1 Corinthians 15:57
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, we thank God continually for the victory we have through Christ.

23.2 Corinthians 1:11
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.

The NT teaching on the giving of thanks must be closely related to the OT practice of thank offerings.

24.2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

The believer can always be thankful because Christ always leads us in victory.

25.2 Corinthians 4:15
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.

Thanksgiving is related to worship and God's glory.

26.2 Corinthians 8:16
[ Commendation of Titus ] But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you.

God is thanked even for the caring heart of Titus.

27.2 Corinthians 9:11
You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

Generosity among believers results in thanksgiving to God.

28.2 Corinthians 9:12
For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

When believers do what they can to help supply the needs of other believers, it is God who is thanked.

29.2 Corinthians 9:15
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Words fail Paul in telling of the depth of gratitude he felt for the gift of Christ.

30.Ephesians 1:15
[ Thanksgiving and Prayer ] For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,

31.Ephesians 1:16
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,

This is evidence that Paul practiced the habitual giving of thanks to God.

32.Ephesians 5:4
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

This is clear. Giving thanks to God should be the main topic of our speech.

33.Ephesians 5:20
giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Always and everything are pretty all-inclusive words. All the time, for every thing. Our thanks is to the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is another evidence of the diversity of roles within the 3 hypostases of the Triune God. Well, in this case two, but elsewhere Paul tells us that we pray in the Spirit.

34.Philippians 1:3
[ Thanksgiving and Prayer ] I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

The faith of converts was a motive for Paul to give thanks to God.

35.Philippians 4:6
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Give thanks to God as you are asking Him to supply your need, even before you have received what you have asked for.

36.Colossians 1:3
[ Thanksgiving and Prayer ] We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,

We should thank the Father as we pray for other believers.

37.Colossians 1:12
giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Our thanks for our salvation is to the Father.

38.Colossians 2:7
rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Real Christians don't thank God grudgingly, but they abound in thanksgiving.

39.Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Giving thanks characterizes the life of a true believer in Christ.

40.Colossians 4:2
[ Further Instructions ] Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

In all our prayer, especially when facing temptation, don't forget to thank God and be grateful to Him.

41.1 Thessalonians 1:2
[ The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example ] We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,

Paul the apostle gave thanks to God for what he was doing in the converts.

42.1 Thessalonians 3:9
For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,

Words fail us when we beging to offer thanksgiving to God for the joy that seeing converts grow in their faith.

43.1 Thessalonians 5:18
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

εὐχαριστέω eucharisteō

This is a simple command, one that is hard to practice. It is another one of those present active imperatives in the Greek that means the giving of thanks and the feeling of gratitude is a habit that we should cultivate if we are real Christians. Adverse circumstances should not have an effect on our habit of expressing gratefulness to God. Remember that Christ gave thanks on the night He was betrayed.

Some argue that we are not told to give thanks for the circumstances themselves. If God is control of the circumstances, shouldn't we receive them all as from His good hand? In an absolute moral sense, not all circumstances are good, so we should not thank God for our own sin or for the sinful things that others do. That is usually the argument against the necessity of thanking God for the circumstances themselves.

I can see that. Still, the command remains to habitually practice giving thanks to God no matter where we are or what is happening to us. Paul and Silas in prison is another example of where this principle was put into practice. Paul practiced what he preached, in other words. (Acts 16:22-30)

44.2 Thessalonians 1:3
[ Thanksgiving ] We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

Seeing the growth in others should give us joy and we should feel grateful, giving thanks to God when we see His work.

45.2 Thessalonians 2:13
[ Stand Firm ] But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

When we see how God has worked in the lives of others, our reaction should be that of gratefulness to God for what He has done.

46.1 Timothy 2:1
[ Pray for All People ] First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,

Giving thanks is a kind of prayer that we should engage in at least as often as we do in asking and interceding.

47.1 Timothy 4:3
who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

False religiosity of all kinds - Gnosticism in this case - makes up rules and laws to prohibit things that God has created to be enjoyed.

48.1 Timothy 4:4
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

Man takes what God has created and is capable of turning it into something that doesn't bless us. Everything that God created, that is used as He has designed and authorized should be received with thanksgiving. We don't need to go around with our noses in the air, looking down on people who enjoy legitimate pleasures.

49.Revelation 4:9
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever,

These beings' only purpose in life is to praise God.

50.Revelation 7:12
saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."

Words fail us in expressing our gratitude for who God is and what He has done.

51. Revelation 11:17
saying,"We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was,for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.

Wow! Yes, we give thanks to God for His rule in our lives.

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