Ephesians 5:20 – Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)
One day, as the tale goes, an atheist hiker encountered a formidable grizzly bear slinking towards him. Terrified, the hiker broke into a run and tripped. As the bear descended upon him, he cried, "O God!" Instantly a voice spoke: "You deny my existence and credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect Me to help you now?" The atheist responded, "I'd be hypocritical to ask for Your help, so make the bear a Christian." Just then, the bear hovering over him bowed its head and said, "Lord, for this food which I am about to receive, I am truly thankful."
There you have it! Indeed, thankfulness is the distinguishing mark of the Christian. Giving thanks is instinctive for those who trust in God and know His presence. Thankfulness reflects one's lofty view of God.
Unsurprisingly, with the rise of atheism, many wish to change "Thanksgiving Day" to "Turkey Day". This new label may say more about those wishing the change than about their dinner. I'm thinking of the slang use of "turkey", referring to someone as inept, stupid, or a loser. Even Scripture would suggest that:
Romans 1:21 – For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (NIV)
In other words, they became "turkeys": their thinking became foolish. According to Romans chapter one, this is the predictable outcome of a society which no longer gives God the credit and where people stop giving thanks to Him. That would explain our general decline in wisdom and thoughtfulness. No wonder that we see a decrease in gratitude accompanying an increase in resentful attitudes.
Indisputably, the absence of thanksgiving is a mark of unbelief — even as thanksgiving is a mark of belief.
As I write this, two recent conversations come to mind. One was with a person with faith, the other, without. The contrast was striking. The believer was waiting to hear a possibly fatal diagnosis. Yet, in our conversation, she overflowed with thankfulness for all the friends who came to her side. She then expressed concern for a neighbour with health troubles. Her overall tone was gratitude and other-centeredness — as always. The other person, the one without faith, expressed disillusionment over his job. He hadn't received a decent raise in years, and his superiors were hogging huge salary increases for themselves. For him, the unfairness was robbing his joy. I suspect that if he had recently escaped from a tyrannical regime, he would be overflowing with gratitude for his job.
Personally speaking, I find it easy to feel thankful for good things. But I'm less inclined to be thankful in unfavourable circumstances. That's because I get more focused on wavering circumstances than on our steady God.
If that's a challenge for you, too, you may wish to join me in this prayer:
Prayer: Heavenly Provider, help me to remain centred on the power of Your lovingkindness so that I can become a consistently thankful person. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "Come Ye Thankful People Come" (Lyrics)