By Randall Bach
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”(1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV)
It is enlightening to note when and how we thank God. At least three tests of thankfulness can reveal much about our belief in and relationship with the Lord and reveal much about ourselves as well.
Test of Intentionality
Being thankful, let alone expressing it, does not occur automatically. We must have not only a cause or reason for thankfulness, but also purposefulness, thoughtfulness, and resolve to express it.
In Luke 17 we find Jesus healing ten lepers. In Jesus’ day lepers were social and even religious pariahs in Israel. They had to cry out to Jesus for help from a distance because cultural restrictions forbade them to get close to other people. Yet all ten lepers were miraculously healed while they were on their way to testify to priests, as directed by Jesus. They were cleansed of any residue of a loathsome and feared disease that was likely more devastating than cancer at that time, a blight that destroyed families with members who were afflicted by it. All ten former lepers absolutely had cause for thanksgiving. Presumably all of them were thankful; however, only one returned to express his thanks to Jesus. Jesus’ question in response is both haunting and convicting: “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?” (verse 17, NLT). Only one former leper passed the test of intentionality with his thankfulness. The other former lepers were no doubt enjoying life and freedom having been delivered from a horribly debilitating disease. Surely, they must have been thankful! However, it is easy to just accept and enjoy a blessing but be too busy or simply lack intentionality to give thanks to Jesus. Have we been blessed? Are we passing the test of intentionality in offering our thanks?
Test of Direction
To whom should thanks be directed? It must always begin with God, the Giver of all blessings:
“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV).
“Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks” (1 Timothy 4:4, NLT).
However, God also works and blesses us through people. The Apostle Paul is an excellent model of someone who recognized, gave thanks, and blessed others who blessed him. Instead of taking their assistance and roles for granted or thinking that those people were just doing what should have been expected of them, Paul expressed thanks. He conveyed gratitude to people, thanking God for them:
“Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world” (Romans 1:8, NLT).
“I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4, NLT).
“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (Philippians 1:3, NLT).
“I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon” (Philemon 1:4, NLT).
The test of direction is met by accurately, faithfully, and graciously extending thanks to both the Lord and people. When people lovingly direct thanks in such a fashion, much like a fragrance, their gratitude enriches others’ lives.
Test of Scale
It is not too difficult to give thanks in the midst of plenty. The joy of having our needs and even wants supplied naturally generates joy. Life is good! The test of scale is met by giving thanks while under duress, when one is personally depleted or in the midst of suffering and painful loss. Expressing thanks under these conditions can only flow out of a heart immersed in gratitude, free of expectation or demand, appreciative of the smallest of blessings.
A premier demonstration of passing the test of scale is Job. How many people have suffered to the extent that Job did? He lost everything: family, health, and possessions. When Job refused to curse God, even his wife and friends refused to support his convictions. Sitting literally in the dust, he was reduced to scraping the oozing sores that covered his body with broken shards of pottery. For a man who had been wealthy at every level of measurement, this was a wretchedly miserable, humiliating condition. Yet Job proclaimed,
“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!”(Job 1:21, NLT)
What an amazing outlook! What dedication to God! What perspective! What thanksgiving!
Passing the test of scale with thanksgiving like Job did places one in rare company. To do so typically requires that a person has the proper outlook, perspective, and heart overflowing with thanksgiving before suffering or loss hits. We never know when a season of despair may arrive. We prefer to avoid it. It is during seasons of plenty that we need to consecrate our hearts as vessels that overflow with thanks to the Lord, anchored so deeply that gratitude will remain, independent of circumstances.
Lord, may we please you by passing the tests of intentionality, direction, and scale!