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BEING Thankful

by David A. DePra

A Psalm of praise. Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with

singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made

us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his

pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts

with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord

is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all

generations. (Psalm 100)

     It is a good thing to give thanks to God. It hardly seems possible

that we could do enough of that. But there is, in fact, something even

better than GIVING thanks. It is BEING thankful.

     Note the distinction: "Giving thanks" is something I do. "Being

thankful" is something I AM.

     It is entirely possible to "give thanks" but not BE thankful. But if I

will BE thankful, then I certainly will "give thanks." And it will be real.

What I'm doing will be from the heart.


     In the New Testament, the words translated, "thanksgiving," and

"thanks" are interesting. They all come from the same root word.

That word is "charis." It is the same word translated "grace." In

fact, when the Bible speaks of "spiritual gifts," the word "gifts" is

this root word "charis" as well. The actual word is "eucharisteo,"

from which we get "Eucharist." The literal meaning is "to give freely

and to give well."

     Now, this opens up our thinking on what it really means to give

thanks to God. I cannot "give thanks" to God -- if the word means to

do so freely and well -- if I am merely giving thanks because I have

to. In other words, the moment I "give thanks" as a duty, or out of

some compulsive motive, it is no longer "giving thanks" according

to the Biblical definition.

     Why? Because the word "charis" always carries the idea of

being FREE. If I give thanks because I feel I must, then my "giving

thanks" is NOT free. It is more of a "payment." I am doing it out of

duty. I am not doing it free and clear of all motives except the one

which God wants: That I AM thankful.

     This is what we saw earlier in the distinction between GIVING

thanks, and BEING thankful. Merely giving thanks is possible, even

if I am not thankful in my heart. In that case, I am merely mouthing

words. But "BEING thankful" is from the heart. If I AM thankful, then

when I GIVE thanks. My thanksgiving will be REAL.

     So even in the Greek words we see that "giving thanks" to God

carries with it a necessity: That I BE thankful. God doesn't merely

want words from us. He wants US. He wants us to BE thankful.

A Natural Outcome

     If we stop for a moment and think about what all of this matter of

BEING thankful really means, and how it must be freely given, it

leads to quite a revelation about God Himself. It leads us to

conclude some incredible things about His plan and purpose.

     For instance, if it is God's highest that we BE thankful, rather than

merely "give thanks," then it tells us something. It tells us that the

more we grow in Christ, the more it will be natural for us to BE

thankful. "Being thankful" will result from seeing Jesus, and seeing

the Truth.

     Now before we say, "What's the big deal about that?, take note

at what his really means. It means that the Truth must be so

wonderful that if I see it, I WILL BE THANKFUL. There will be nothing

forced about it. Nothing fake. Nothing done out of duty. I will BE

thankful because I will have seen and experienced Truth which

makes me that way naturally.

     Read the book of Revelation and notice how many times the

people pictured there fall down before God, or the Lamb in worship.

They give thanks and give honor to Him. But ask: Were they

commanded to do that? Did God say, "You will now fall down

before me, because I'm God!" No. They fell down and worshipped

because that was all they could do. God, or Jesus, drew that out

of them. They saw, and they worshipped, without duty or command

driving them. They could not help themselves.

     It is like this with "giving thanks." We cannot see the Truth

without giving thanks. Why? Because of how wonderful it is. And

because of how free it is. Because of a realization in us of just

what it cost God to give it to us. Thus, the more we come to see

Jesus Christ, the more we will grow to BE thankful.

Seeing Our Need

     Grace is free. It is something God GIVES to us. Indeed, there

is nothing we possess in Christ which is not freely given. And even

though we must build Christian character through our choices, it is

only because God has first given us the materials -- the grace of

Jesus Christ -- that we can do this. ALL things are given to us by


     This is clearly stated in scripture:

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how

shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which

is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of

God. (I Cor. 2:12)

     It is precisely because everything is free that we can become

thankful. If we had any reason to take credit for things, then we could

hardly be thankful. Indeed, in that case, there would be nothing we

should be thankful for. After all, it would then be US that deserved

credit. Not God.

     Notice what all of this tells us as to HOW we become thankful.

We have to SEE OUR NEED, and then realize God freely provides

for us in Christ.

     That seems so simple an answer, but it is the Truth. The degree

to which I AM thankful to God is tied directly to how much I see I am

spiritually bankrupt. It is tied directly to how much I have realized my

need. If I don't see my need, I am not going to be thankful to God. I

can fake it, say the words, and shout out "thanks be to God" in any

number of religious ways. But I will not BE thankful. The reason? I

won't have a realization of what I need to be thankful FOR.

     We sometimes treat worship and thanksgiving almost like dead

doctrines. We memorize scriptures about our need. We list our

doctrines about what God has done for us in Christ. We get into

trials and compile verses that speak to our need in them. But do

we really allow God to bring us to the place of total surrender? To

the place of complete spiritual bankruptcy? To where we finally

realize there is nothing about us we can use to help ourselves?

     We are here talking about the difference between knowing the

written Word, and knowing the experience of death and resurrection

in Christ. There are many Christians who can quote to you book

and verse about how we are all sinners and need Jesus Christ. But

when it comes to God personally touching THEM, they will not have

it. They will not allow Him to expose them to themselves as needy

sinners. The price of spiritual pride, position of self-righteousness,

and of so-called respectibility, is too high for them. They continually

emerge from trials in tact, maintaining their guise.

     You cannot BE thankful unless you realize what you are thankful

FOR. You cannot embrace Christ unless you see you need a

Saviour, and that you need Him fully by grace. Christianity is REAL.

But it will never be real for us unless we start by surrendering our

sin and our need to Christ at the Cross.

Freely Given

     Grace, by definition, is freely given. But notice: When the Bible

speaks of "giving thanks" or of "being thankful," it uses the SAME

word as is translated "grace." Thus, to "give thanks" to God means

to FREELY GIVE thanks to Him.

     What we have here is a picture of God FREELY giving all things

to us, and then of us, FREELY giving back to God our worship and

thanksgiving. That is our response to God. But again, it is not a

response out of duty. It is the natural outcome is seeing the Truth.

Imagine being at the verge of bankruptcy, and having someone

walk up to you and give you a million dollars. No strings attached.

You would hopefully be thankful. And you would be, if you had been

humbled and reduced by your plight. You would be ready for any

help anyone wanted to give.

     But what if you weren't thankful? What would be the possible


     Well, if seeing our need provides the platform for being thankful,

then NOT seeing it provides the platform for NOT being thankful.

Many Christians are not thankful to God because they still think He

owes them something. And usually, what they think He owes them

is something in the temporal realm.

     There are reasons people are bitter towards God. It usually has

to do with believing He is unfair. I get mad at God only if I think He

is wrong and I am right. Only if I think what He has done, or not done,

is unjust or unfair. Much of this comes from not seeing MY need.

I want God to do things on MY terms and not on HIS terms.

     If you want to make yourself an adversary of God, and insist that

He do things on your terms, good luck. God has never promised us

anything except one thing: HIS WILL. He has promised to freely

do His will in our lives, if we will ask Him, and as we are able to be

adjusted for it. But if we refuse, God will not force us. He may even,

if we insist, let us have our will.

     Notice that just as seeing our need, and seeing the Truth, results

in BEING thankful, so there is a negative possibility. If I refuse to

see my need, and refuse to become adjusted to the Truth, I will

NOT be thankful. In fact, I will become bitter and resentful. Thus,

being thankful, and being bitter, are both FRUITS. They are the

end-results of my relationship -- of my faith -- with God.

     God wants us to "give thanks" with a grateful heart. He wants it

to be natural, and spontaneous. And He KNOWS it will be if we

will simply allow Him to show us the Truth. God doesn't have to

apologize for how wonderful He is. He already knows that we were

made for Him, and that when we come home to Him it will result in

BEING thankful.

In Everything Give Thanks

Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will

of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (I Thes. 5:17-18)

     Often we wonder what the will of God is for us in a particular

situation. Well, the above verse tells us one component of God's

will: That "in everything" we give thanks. THAT is God's will for us.

     Now note: We are not told to give thanks FOR everything. For,

instance, God does not cause evil, or tragedy. So we don't thank

Him FOR those things. But we should thank Him IN those things.

For we know that all things work together for good unto those who

love God. And those who love God will, as they grow in Jesus

Christ, give thanks, indeed BE thankful, IN all things.

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