We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly[a] mentioning you in our prayers,remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
“What exactly do you love about me?” my wife sometimes asks me. She doesn’t just want an abstract lovey -dovey comment, she wants all the little nitty gritty details! Think of thankfulness as a thousand piece puzzle. It takes more than knowing what the big picture looks like to get that thing together. Finishing the puzzle means fitting each and every tiny part exactly into the position for which it was designed! Paul got very detailed about the thanks he was giving for his friends at the Thessalonian church. In fact Paul went into extra innings in his prayer time to remind God with a specific list of their work, their faith and their labor of love.
We might tell our pastor, “Hey great sermon today!” but can we take the time to say, “That part about unshakable confidence being like the mountains really made me think.” If we are to start building a design of thankfulness, let’s make it our goal this week to just fit in at least one tiny puzzle piece. If we were blessed by the worship, we could say something like, “When you got to that part about God breaking chains, my heart just felt a breakthrough tonight!”
Saying thank you, may feel awkward and maybe a little strange but God himself can be very specific when he expresses His love for us. He counts our every hair, he bottles every tear and hears every cry. He touched a leper and put clothing on a naked demon possessed man. Jesus had compassion on the hungry, then took the time to count every one in the crowd before he multiplied their bread. He has left us a perfect example that is not only our duty but it is our joy to follow. When we give thanks for what someone has done for us we never know what it will do. Giving thanks is a bit like washing dirty tired feet. Thankfulness means taking the position of servant before our brothers and sisters, so we can walk together into everything that God has designed for us!
The screen door banged and feet shuffled in at our back door on summer afternoons. The occasion was the silent call of the delicious aroma of Mom’s homemade bread! One by one my friends and I waited in line as Mom cut open the first loaf and slid butter across it as she handed us each our slice.
I don’t remember anyone standing outside the door waiting to be invited in. She never made an announcement and but Mom’s welcome to her kitchen was quietly understood. In Mom’s kitchen we all knew we had one piece of bread with our name on it.
Now of course we went by Mom’s rules that said we had to wait for the bread to cool. We could not expect a second slice and most importantly we needed to say thank you!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God Philippians 4:6
There are so many things we are asking God for today. We ask for His help with temptations, difficulties, emergencies and financial needs. Yet often we have such low expectations of God’s answer it seems as if we have forgotten the aroma of the grace of God. And on those occasions after we have received an answer to our prayers do we just say, “We give you thanks in Jesus name” without truly being grateful? I am struck with the fact that Jesus, who is the creator of all things, and was there at the birth of our planet, said, “thank you”. As Jesus prayed for the multiplying of the bread perhaps He smelled the fresh bread being baked in His Father’s heavenly ovens and with great joy and expectancy gave thanks!
Appreciation: The act of recognizing someone’s worth as a person or showing that you are grateful for something that person has done. Cambridge Dictionary
2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers,[a] as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing
“What do you say?” my mom would ask me as she held tightly onto whatever it was I wanted at that particular moment. “Thank you” I would answer, knowing that with those “magic words” as she called them would allow me to finally possess whatever it was I had asked her for at the time. The reason behind Mom’s training was her attempt to pass on to me not only a modicum of politeness but also an attitude of thankfulness and appreciation.
That appreciation is often missing from our lives because as adults, we often rush off with things in our hands that we haven’t paused to even look at yet alone appreciate. We give a quick kiss or a hug to our loved ones then too eagerly hurry off to the activities of the day with scarcely a backward glance. “Great tuna casserole!” I said to my wife one night, only to hear her laugh in reply, “Honey that’s chicken! Don’t you even taste the food you eat?” That small conversation is a sad reflection of the ease with which as we speed through our days we are losing the small graces of gratitude, thankfulness and appreciation.
Maybe we could ask ourselves three questions as we begin yet another day.
Do I really need to hurry?
Have I remembered to say thank you for what God has put in my hand?
Have I tasted what I have been given and truly appreciated those who gave?
When I was small my mother always made me wait till after we had said grace before we ate. In Spanish we would say muchas gracias (much grace). In my little mind I didn’t quite grasp why, but in the passing years I am learning that the word grace really is at the center of gratefulness. Yesterday was a complete failure for me in the gratefulness challenge. I found though that as I genuinely confessed my own failures at ceasing my complaining and faced my own lack of gratitude, a real sense of God’s peace and mercy came to me.
David gives a glimpse of this mercy
Psalm 103:11-13 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
How wonderful it is to know and experience the real grace of God. We will never really become grateful or stop our complaining until the cross of Jesus Christ (The center of God’s grace) becomes the center of our thoughts and attitudes.
At the cross at the cross where I first saw the light
If you still are not ready to put up your hand and ask a question in God’s classroom remember that Jesus was surrounded by people who asked him all sorts of things. With question three today, Andrew takes center stage. Jesus has brought to their attention that they are surrounded by hungry people. Much like Andrew, our own eyes might have focused on just five tiny loaves.
Jesus often answers us in ways we could never imagine.
Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks…John 6:11
How amazing that Jesus gave thanks for those five small loaves and there was abundance. How often do we fail to give thanks when God has sent abundance because we think that we never have enough!