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Be Thankful?

"We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren, His choice of you" (1Thessalonians 1:2-4).

Paul believed gratitude is a sign of genuine faith. Paul condemned Gentiles who no longer "thanked God" (Romans 1:21). Instead, he said Christians were to "always thank God in our prayers" (1Thessalonians1:2). He then commanded "in everything give thanks (1Thessalonians 5:18). Amazingly, this came from a man who had for God "been in prison, flogged severely, exposed to death" again and again, "beaten with rods, stoned and shipwrecked" just to name a few (2Corinthians 11:22-29). Yet, he thanked God for his fellows and for everything. So, how can we be thankful as he was?

First, thanksgiving must come from hearts that appreciate grace. Paul's use of "give thanks" (eucharistia, eu, well and charis, thanks), according to Spiros Zodhiates (New Testament Starters), is unique because of its rarity in Greek culture. Even though we know God expected gratitude from all people since Creation (Romans 1:18-20), this unique usage indicates that, to Christians, the consideration of God's grace should excite gratitude in us. You have to see the goodness, especially in God, to have such gratitude in your heart. The truth is in everything, we have to look for kindness to see it. We have to see kindness to appreciate it. And gratitude begins with what you want to see.

Also, thanksgiving comes from a sense of duty. Paul said to the Thessalonians (2Thessalonians 2:13) that "we ought always to thank God for you." Again, he says, "we give thanks to God for you all" (1Thessalonians 1:2). According to Zodiates, Paul's expression can be translated, "We are bound to give thanks" or "It is our duty to thank God for you all." When we see the good others do, we should feel compelled to show gratitude by telling them.

Thanksgiving should be something we always engage in. Thanksgiving in prayers must be constantly manifested 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It is important to notice in the many times it is used, it is accompanied with the word pantote, translated "always." In Romans 1:9, it is translated as "unceasingly" (NASB) to describe how Paul remembers the Romans to God in prayer. In 1Corinthians 1:4, Paul says, "I thank my God always concerning you." Again he says, "We should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved by God the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation" (2Thessalonians 2:13). Of course this does not require a prostrated head every hour but it does require a prostrated heart. We should be always ready to pray and be alert for opportunities to pray (Colossians 4:2). What better reason to alert us to pray than to see God's kindnesses and His mercy all around us?

Thanksgiving should be inclusive for all of you. Paul tells us that no one should be excluded from the object of our prayers. While we are to pray for every king and every one in authority (1Timothy 2:1-2), we should also pray for every elder, every deacon, every preacher, every believer. Every believer in a local congregation, as part of the body of Christ, is vitally important to every other member of the church because each is a valuable asset (1Corinthians 12:20-25). For that reason alone we should be able to find reason for praise. Still, we can find even worthy things and we should thank God for them.

Thanksgiving should be personal. In 1Thessalonians 1:2, Paul said that he "made mention of you" in prayer. What this can mean is to recall each believer by name. The word used (mneia) means "remembrance or mention" and is always used in connection with prayer (Romans 1:9; Ephesians 1:16; 1Thessalonians 1:2; Philemon 4). In order to bring others before God in prayer, we need to "call to mind" (mnemoneuontes) the ones for whom we pray and the good that they do. This verb form is followed by the adverb adialeoptoes, meaning "without ceasing" (Romans 1:9; 2Thessalonians 2:13). Thus, we should constantly fill our memory bank with the names and faces of fellow believers as did Paul and thank God for them (quoted freely from Spiros Zodhiates).

So please, show yourselves thankful this week; not just because it is the season of thanksgiving but because of our character as a Christian. It will please God and bless your soul.

By Don Hooten via e-points@swcglobal.net

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