Giving Thanks Always

[Today’s post is by Dr. Ron Bigalke, Jr., director of Eternal Ministries, Inc. pastor-teacher of Coastal Bible Chapel in Port Wentworth, Georgia and author of  The Genesis Factor, published by Master Books. In this post Dr. Bigalke notes Thanksgiving Day is every day for the biblical Christian.] 

Dr. Ron Bigalke, Jr, author of The Genesis Factor

Dr. Ron Bigalke, Jr, author of The Genesis Factor

The settlers who founded the New England colonies experienced many difficulties and hardships. As their inclinations were thoroughly Christian, they fasted before God and prayed to Him as those who were utterly dependent upon Him. These early settlers declated their supplicaitons before Him who could assuage their anguish. Continual thought upon their difficulties and hardships fixated their minds in distress and restlessness, and the settlers even thought about returning to their homeland with all its religious persecution of them. The settlers convened to decide upon a community response. When someone recommended another day to be designated for fasting and prayer, an ordinary man with some sanctified sense stated his thoughts that they had agonized sufficently regarding their difficulties and hardships, and recommended that it was the opportune time to contemplate upon the mercies of God. For instance, the colonies were developing in sufficiency, which was evident by the delightfulness of the atmosphere, the increased harvest of the fields, the plentiful supply of fish in the rivers, and abundance of game in the woods. Additionally, the wives of the settlers were healthy, the children were submissive, and the colonies now experienced civil and religious liberty, which was the reason they came to the New World. The recommendation was an amendment to the resolution for a day of fasting, and to instead celebrate a day of thanksgiving. As all should know, that Thanksgiving Day was to become an integral component of the express culture and life of the American people. Of course, for Christians, one day a year to give thanksgiving to God  for all His blessings is far from satisfactory.

Scripture exhorts every Christian to make music in one’s heart, “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” (Eph. 5:19-20) Indeed, the Apostle Paul learned to always give thanks, even in his Roman imprisonment where he wrote the (prison) epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Even in the distressing imprisonment of a Philippian jail, Paul (and Silas, his fellow laborer) expressed that same attitude of heart and mind. For this reason, Paul could write to the Ephesians, “Be filled with the Spirit…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Always giving thanks” is a distinctly Christian standard for living. The reason is that the word “thanksgiving” is literally the idea of the good grace (eucharistia) of God. The natural man is void of the grace of God, and consequently does not honor God or give thanks to Him. (Rom.1 :21) Having experienced the free and sovereign regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, the Christian expresses faith in Christ and repentance to God, and lives as one enraptured with a life of gratitude and humility by “always giving thanks” to God. A life of thanksgiving is truly exalting of God, or literally “giving thanks…to God, even the Father.” The Christian life is that of thinking and thanking. “To think” in the old Anglo-Saxon language was seen also in thanks; literally, thinkfulness is thankfulness. A life of thanksgiving is always a witness to the salvic work of Christ. Thanks to God is given “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Christians are only able to approach God boldly because of the redemptive work of Christ on their behalf. The Lord Jesus Chirst is the crowning thought of thanksgiving. Genuine thanksgiving is confession and living with Jesus Christ as Lord of one’s life. Living a life “always giving thanks” demands the Christian “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16) The Christian life is living with thanksgiving, a Christian does not make the most of time when instead there is agonizing as to difficulties and hardships. Scripture exhorts us to give thanks “for all things” (a solemn thought considering the man inspired to write those words was frequently imprisoned on behalf of his Lord Jesus Christ). Whatever experiences life may bring, the grace of God compels us to express hearts and minds filled with thanksgiving. As the old hymn teaches: “Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done; Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

The essence of thanksgiving is to be “filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. making melody with your heart to the Lord…always giving thanks.” (Eph. 5:18-20) Giving thanks is not something indefinable or theoretical; is it both a mindset and activity that is defined biblically and explicit spiritually. The mindset of thanksgiving is to “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another.” In a parallel passage, Paul taught that this speaking includes “teaching and admonishing one another.” (Col. 3:16) One of the many gifts that God has given His people is conversational fellowship. The essence of thanksgiving also includes continual expression of the joy in life that is only possible with God as Lord and Savior of one’s life. The exhortation of Scripture to speak psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody” means a joyful life of witness and worship in mind (again Paul and Silas set the example of witness and worship in Acts 16:23-40). Being “subject to one another in the fear [reverence] of Christ.” (Eph. 5:21) is also the essence of thanksgiving. The one who is “always giving thanks” is also to express “the fear [reverence] of Christ.”

Genuine thanksgiving means one is “filled with the Spirit.” The fullness of the Holy Spirit requires the incoming of the Holy Spirit. The incoming is only when one who is dead in sins and trespasses (Eph. 2:1) is regenerated, that is, born again (John 3:3), by the free and sovereign Holy Spirit. (John 3:8) The Holy Spirit first enters our lives through the new birth by raising those who are dead in sins and trespasses alive together with Christ. The incoming of the Holy Spirit is the prerequisite for being “filled by the Holy Spirit.” When the Holy Spirit fills the Christian’s life, then genuine thanksgiving is natural. Genuine, Christian thanksgiving is not a work of the flesh, but is the inevitable and irrestible activity and mindset, as the Holy Spirit fills the life of those redeemed by Christ and belonging to Him, to the praise and glory of the Father.

Thanksgiving Day for the Christian is an activity and a mindset that is expressed each and every day. Indeed, God created man to love Him and enjoy HIm forever. It is for this purpose that God has so lavishly blessed His people with His grace and mercy. Now that we know of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, may the life of each and every Christian truly be lives “always giving thanks for all things” each and every day.

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