True Thankfulness For The One Who Saved Us Cannot Be Contained And Will Never End

By: Tia Johnson 0 Comments   11/15/2011

"When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?" said George Canning, nineteenth-century British prime minister.

Canning's sentiments mirror that of the apostle Paul in the 1st century. They also reflect my thoughts today. Thankfulness is timeless and powerful, and it is absolutely necessary beyond our yearly turkey dinner.

When one experiences peril, thankfulness sheds a ray of hope. When one experiences blessing, thankfulness knocks down self-reliance and gives credit where it is due. Thankfulness also protects us from sin.

As Paul said in Romans 1, thankfulness is absolutely necessary in order to avoid spiritual death. In this passage, Paul begins by stating that God's attributes are made known throughout the world. We are not exempt from confronting the truth that God exists. Then he says: "because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools..."

The succession of events in this passage is hard to avoid: "unthankfulness... foolish hearts darkened." Paul writes that the people "exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator."

Thankfulness is the hinge in this spiritual progression. With it, attention is devoted to the real giver of all things. Without it, attention is brought to earth, where credit is misplaced and idols are raised up.

This truth has been recognized throughout history, and was noted powerfully in a proclamation made by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 during the Civil War:

"We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and strengthened us. We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."

Lincoln addresses the need to maintain thankfulness whatever the situation. Without it, we become proud and "intoxicated with unbroken success," eventually reaching the place where we have forgotten God. (Maybe Lincoln also read Romans 1.)

148 years later, our nation would still benefit from Lincoln's admonition. So would individuals. Unfortunately, a tragedy tends to more easily turn things around.

In early September Paul Cathey suffered a farm accident. His tractor was rolling and he thought he would die, but he was saved. He now says, "I don't go a day without thanking God that He saw me through this... I feel like He has a purpose for me... Accidents can happen, you can have hard times, but you can still find thankfulness that you're still here. I'm happy, and blessed." 

This accident has altered Cathey's daily perspective. Now, each day he recognizes God's work in his life. Typically thankfulness abounds when deliverance swings in like in Cathey's situation. After rising through a trauma or emerging from an undesirable situation, it's easy to be thankful to have been rescued.

Like Cathey, I have been delivered from the perils of death. I've been saved from the sin that had such a strong hold on me. Shouldn't I be thankful everyday? Or have I forgotten who rescued me?

No matter the state of our life, we always have a reason for thanksgiving. Jesus Christ has redeemed my soul. I must never be ungrateful for this. Beyond that, he's given me air to breath, water to quench my thirst, happiness to feel-- all small things which we neglect to recognize.

Sometimes it's the more "bountiful" blessings which hinder our thankful heart. I am convinced that it is even more important to exercise thankfulness when life is just plain good. This is possibly the most vivid test of our love for God. If the only time we express our appreciation for God is when we're at our rope's end-- what kind of love is that?

As A.W. Tozer said, "Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now."

Don't let your gratitude sleep after this holiday passes. Your spiritual health is directed by your thankful heart.

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