Today, we are wrapping up our series on Redeeming Thanksgiving with a quote from David W. Pao’s book, Thanksgiving: An Investigation of a Pauline Theme, which is a part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series:
“God, and not his gifts, is the primary focus of Pauline thanksgiving. In the constant act of thanksgiving, the relationship with God is nurtured. Through thanksgiving, the gracious acts are remembered and the life of a person is thereby changed. Thanksgiving then becomes an act submission when the performance of such an act is not aimed at coercing God to act, but is a way to acknowledge him to be the Lord of all. In this sense, thanksgiving becomes subversive when the Lordship of God is acknowledged even when the one who is in control seems to be invisible. We are changed in thanksgiving then, as we encounter this gracious God. In the words of Karl Barth (1957) thanksgiving signifies ‘the change of the being of man before God brought about by the fact that God has altered His attitude to man’.” p. 37
Paul is constantly expressing his thankfulness throughout his letters to various Mediterranean churches in the New Testament. He even suggests thanksgiving should be the normal of attitude of Christians (1st Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:4).
However, rather than thanking the churches or people, Paul primarily thanks God for the churches, people, their growth, generosity, or friendship. Paul’s thankfulness is God-orientated. Paul recognizes what James declares in James 1:17:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
So to have a God-centered Thanksgiving, we must be thankful for all the good things in our life. We must let every good gift stir our affection for God.
- The smell of pecan pie on the table should stir affections for God.
- Kids giggling, being silly, and goofing around, should stir affections for God.
- Seeing the work of God’s grace in a family member, friend, or our own life, should stir affection for God.
Thankfulness is part of our identity as a worshipper. Suddenly, the world God created and every good gift in our life is not random, but from God Himself. But you may be wondering about the not so good things in your life. The pain, the suffering?
We can trust God, lament to God, and even give thanks in those circumstances too. We trust in God’s character even we can’t understand why the suffering or pain has come. We trust not only in a sovereign God (Romans 8:28-29, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Job 1:21, 42:1-6), but a God who suffered and knows what pain, loss, and suffering feel like. (Isaiah 53:3, Mark 8:32, 1 Peter 3:18, Acts 2:23)
Thanksgiving should be full of eating, celebrating, family, friends, rest, recreation, and joy. Our hearts can rejoice and give thanks in this week’s Thanksgiving and also rejoice and long for the eternal Thanksgiving to come. One day, Thanksgiving will never end and the calories will no longer count.
Below are seven passages to help cultivate a more God-centered Thanksgiving this year:
- 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18
- Psalms 86:8-13
- Romans 1:21-22
- 1st Corinthians 1:3-5
- 2nd Corinthians 4:13-18
- Colossians 3:14-17
- 1st Corinthians 15:56-58
How do you seek to intentionally cultivate a God-centered Thanksgiving? Let me know in the comments!