Mention the word "thankful" outside of the acceptable holiday period from November through December, and you might receive an odd look. Thankfulness, after all, is only for holidays spent around a turkey on a table or a present under a tree. At least that is what American culture will tell you. Every year, the last of the Halloween candy is sold, and "Thankful" signs go up in houses and stores across the country. On social media #thankful trends with lists and pictures of all the ways we can be thankful, show gratitude and pay it forward in the holiday season.
While this might be the cultural trend, this limited time of thankfulness shouldn't be a trend among Christians. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul gives the believers in Thessalonica a list of characteristics that are the will of God. In other words, the qualities we should all exude, all the time. One of those qualities is "give thanks in everything" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We aren't called just to give thanks during certain seasons. God calls us to give thanks in everything in Christ Jesus. While that might seem hard, God hasn't left us without a roadmap to guide us.
Giving thanks is a prevailing habit throughout Scripture. The Psalms give multiple examples of how thanksgiving is a lifestyle and not a trending fad. Giving thanks requires action. It isn't just something we say or some warm feeling we can conjure. Thankfulness is produced when we are grateful for the One who has saved us from sin and gives us eternal life. Psalm 100 provides a great lesson in thanksgiving:
Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to the Lord!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God.
He made us, and we are his
his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name.
For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever;
his faithfulness, through all generations.
This short Psalm is filled with many truths that remind us of all God has done, but they also call us to action. In these five verses alone, six commands lead us to respond. Shout to the Lord, serve the Lord, come before Him, acknowledge Him, enter His gates, and give thanks are all used by the psalmist to promote a heart that is grateful for our mighty God. Our faith isn't meant to be lived out quietly or for only two months a year. We shout triumphantly, serve with gladness, and sing joyful songs in all aspects of life. We let the world know of our thanksgiving and praise as we bless His name for the Lord is God.
The psalmist also provides us with the reasons we are to be thankful. Our thanksgiving isn't just an exercise to make us feel better. It is meant to worship God for who He is. The Lord is our Shepherd who made us, and we are the sheep of His pasture. That alone would be enough to shout praise to Him, but there is so much more to His character and love for His children.
God is also good to His sheep, faithful and loving. In Exodus 34:6-7, Moses had gone up on Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from the Lord. As he passes by Moses in a cloud, He states, "The Lord–the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin." The psalmist knew this about his God, and he celebrates it in an abbreviated version of it in verse five. God is worth praising because He is good, faithful and His love endures forever.
As we approach the holiday season and even the monotony of everyday life come January 1, choose to be thankful every day. Do not only thank the Lord for the blessings He gives you; thank Him for who He is! Thank God that His character is always the same. Thank God for His goodness, love, and faithfulness to fulfill all of His promises. Thank Him for Jesus who conquered death, saved us from our sin, and now gives us a relationship with the Father. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" We have the gift of Jesus and the gift of a loving, faithful Father to be thankful for year-round. May our lives be marked by thankfulness each and every day and not just a few short months a year. God is worthy of all our praise and thanksgiving now and forever!