God has been going to town on me the last few weeks.
He’s been opening my eyes to see all the concealed covetousness in my heart: things that I treasure more than I treasure God.
He’s been teaching me that while much of what I desire is good and great, I have to make sure I’m not being led by deceitful desires. He’s been walking alongside of me and showing me—in His Spirit—what it looks like to fight to love Him so much that all the feelings I have for His stuff look like hate in comparison.
And it’s no coincidence that I’ve arrived at the week of thanksgiving at Ephesians 5:20 at the same time that I’m processing all of that:
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I think the way we give thanks reveals a lot about what we treasure: the gift or the Giver. Ephesians 5:20 is the who, what, when, why of giving thanks, providing us with a litmus test to determine if we are worshiping God or the stuff we get from Him.
Giving thanks always and for everything …
What do you give thanks for? When do you give thanks?
If the foundation of our thankfulness is that we get God, then you and I will give thanks always and for everything, because we’re always getting God. However, if the foundation of our thankfulness is the gift, and not the giver, then our gratitude will ebb and flow based on how much of our true treasure we are getting.
I was feeling pretty discouraged about the state of my thankfulness this morning, and then I overturned this encouraging evidence of grace in my heart: I am truly and deeply thankful for hard things in my life! I’m thankful for seasons of failure and seasons of suffering. And maybe I wasn’t feeling gratitude at the time, but now that I can see the way I got more of God through them, I really do feel a genuine and overwhelming sense of gratitude.
If you are only thankful for the sweet seasons, it may be that the root of your thankfulness is not about getting God, but about getting gifts.
But, if you can consider the way God has moved in your heart through pain and suffering as well, and if you can find a root of genuine thankfulness in there for those things, be encouraged—that is the work of the Spirit in your life.
To God the Father …
Who do you give thanks to?
You all know the right answer: Jesus. But take a second and consider your day today. When you feel grateful, who do you run to with that joyful bubbling? People or God? When was the last time you got alone with God and talked to Him for more than 10 minutes about how thankful you are to Him?
True gratitude bubbles up in your heart, and is pretty hard to contain. Your heart swells in admiration and love toward the one you are thankful toward and you cannot wait to run out and declare your thankfulness to them. The emotion is incomplete until you’ve gotten the chance to say it.
So ask yourself this question: When your heart swells in love, who is it you can’t wait scream thank you to? The gift or the Giver? When you think about your marriage, your community, your growth this year, your victories, does your heart swell in admiration for those people or for God? Is it Him that you can’t wait to get alone with and whisper of all He has done?
I’m not against saying thank you to people, but I do think that where we spend that deep emotional and genuine gratitude is probably a good indicator of who it is we think has provided; who has delivered us. You will thank the one you think is saving you, restoring you, loving you. Is it God or His gifts who have delivered you?
Why are you thankful?
The grounds of our thanksgiving is that God is good; not that He gives good gifts.
This weekend, I sat there trying to muster up thanksgiving and my first inclination was to start thinking through all the gifts He has given me. I don’t think that’s bad. But the foundation for my thanksgiving is that God is good—no matter what I think of His gifts.
He is reason enough for gratitude this season and every season.