“Thankfulness is the attitude that perfectly displaces my sinful tendency to complain and thereby release [God’s] joy and blessing into my life.” (James MacDonald, Lord Change My Attitude, p.45)
It is easy to shift from being thankful to being unthankful. For me, it only takes a moment. I’ve already caught myself saying, “I am tired of speaking in French today. I can’t even order the right thing at the restaurant. Am I ever going to see my wife and kids? It’s cold outside already? What? No appliances are provided from my friends new apartment! That’s bogus.”
But then God used a verse of a song written a few thousand years ago. Psalm 107:1, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness.” (cf. vs. 8, 15, 21, 31) God, like a master chef, using this verse to tenderize my heart with 3 important truths:
1) Thankfulness is a decision: “Oh, that men would give thanks…”
Notice that the psalmist did not say, “COULD”. What difference would it make if it said could? “Could” makes being thankful contingent on my ability, “I could if be thankful if my situation were better.” Would is a word used to agree or be okay or to be willing to comply. No matter my day, circumstance, or influences from people around me, I have the capability to be thankful. I have the responsibility to be thankful. I must decide to be thankful.
I remember the year after college I visited a friend in Ukraine. He took me to a small town where we popped in on a Sekret family to encourage them. I remember being greeted at the door by the Alexander and wife and their 7 children. Their home was a 1-bedroom shack that was cold and smelled musty. Immediately the husband excused himself and left the premises for about 10 minutes. When he came back, his wife excused herself and they were doing something in the kitchen for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile I was sitting on a wooden chair looking at the 7 children staring at me. Neither of us could speak each other’s language. After minutes of awkward silence Alexander and his wife entered with bread, spicy mustard, Russian sausage, cooked cabbage, and beets. They asked me to come to the table. I stood by a bed near the cramped table and Alexander prayed, I don’t remember much Ukrainian, but I do remember, “Slava Bog, doosha smachna” (meaning: Praise God for this food…) My friend told me after we left that the style of meal they made for us was equivalent to our Thanksgiving. I will never forget the spirit of thankfulness in the eyes of the Sekret family.
Why are we not more thankful? Could it be we are use to having so much? Emerson once said, “If the stars would come out only once a year, everyone would stay up all night to behold them.”
B.B. Warfield said,
“We are frequently told, indeed, that the great danger of (Christians) lies precisely in his constant contact with divine things. They may come to seem common to him, because they are customary. As the average man breathes the air and basks in the sunshine without ever a thought that it is God in His goodness who makes the sun to rise on him. Other men, oppressed by the hard conditions of life, sunk in the daily struggle for bread perhaps, distracted at any rate by the dreadful drag of the worlds work, find it hard to get time and opportunity so much as to pause and consider whether there be such a God, and religion, and salvation from the sin that compasses them about and holds them captive. The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore; they surround you, encompass you, and press in upon you from every side. It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God!”
2) Thankfulness is a decision based on divine reality: “give thanks to the Lord for His goodness.”
“I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.” (Psalm 7:17) “We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for Your Name is near; men tell of Your wonderful deeds.” (75:1) Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (106:1)
Giving thanks is a decision based on Divine Reality. When I consider the character of God and believe He is true and acknowledge His ways are good, my perspective of the situation is different than the worlds. If you’ve read Robinson Crusoe you see how his perspective changes as He reads about the God of the Bible. His demeanor says, “I have been on this deserted island for 28 years…but it is beautiful. I am sick of these coconuts…at least it’s food! I am all alone…but at least I don’t have to worry about traffic or lines or loud neighbors.”
3) Thankfulness is a life-changing decision: “Oh…”
“Oh” is a word that comes “from the gut.” It’s a word you say when you really want to express deep emotion. Let’s say it together, Oh!” Say it like you mean it.
Moses said, “I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God!” (Deut. 32:3)
Isaiah said, “Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all Your people.” (64:9)
David sang, “Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long.” Psalm 119:97
Job said, “Oh, how I wish that God would speak,” (11:5)
Elisha prayed, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.” (2 Kings 6:15)
I desire Psalm 107:1 and Psalm 105:1 be my prayer,“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples” Oh, that I be thankful for Your Word. Oh, that I be thankful for my salvation. Oh, that I be thankful for Your provisions. And make it known to all how good You are.