Devotional

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Every person wants to experience joy. Every person wants to be happy. The question is what do you do when those things seems to be out of your grasp? Joy and happiness can be obscured by the common feeling that happiness is found in wealth and success and possessions. So how can we experience joy? In short, it’s thankfulness. Giving thanks is so much more than saying “thank you” when someone does something nice for you or working up feelings of gratitude. Giving thanks is directly tied to your relationship with God.

We see this exemplified time and time again in the New Testament. From the “sinful woman” who put oil on Jesus’ head and poured perfume on his feet as an expression of her thankfulness (Luke 7:40-47) to Zacchaeus paying back fourfold from what he took from others (Luke 19:3-6), thankfulness and gratitude became a hallmark of their life. Then there is Paul. Paul had a lot to be be forgiven for, so one of the common characteristics we find in the apostle Paul’s letters is the number of times he gives thanks to God in prayer. The opening of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is an example of this: “I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly,” (Ephesians 1:16)  And Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

Psalm 136 stands out as it repeats a continual refrain, “Give thanks to the Lord,” and then lists many different things for which the psalmist was thankful. Can we say the same about our own prayers? 

When we pause and reflect on all that God has done for us, a mere “thank you” doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t seem enough. How can we ever be thankful enough for the cross?  How do you respond to the general grace that God gives all of us? How do you respond when God blesses you specifically – when He answers a prayer? How do you respond when He provides healing, or He supplies your needs in a way only He can?  While our thanks may seem unworthy, we should be thankful because God is worthy of our thanksgiving. It is only right to credit Him because every “… good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father…”  (James 1:17).  

A thankful heart can be cultivated, but cultivation requires intentionality. Be intentional this week. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What is something you are most grateful for this week?  
  2. What can Christ-followers uniquely/be thankful for? How can we stay mindful of this in our daily actions and prayers?