Recently, an ad on the front page of the USA Today read, “WHO are you thankful for?” When most of us list the things for which we are most grateful it is a list of what instead of who. O yes, we say we are thankful for family. But, who specifically?
Or take, for example, the way we express gratitude for eternal life. “I am thankful for salvation, grateful that I do not have to go to hell. I am headed to heaven.” We have reduced our thankfulness to something or someplace. In reality, eternal life is Someone. Eternal life is the life of the eternal One living in us! We should be grateful for the Lord Jesus Christ.
This same principle is evidenced most in our prayer life. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings; and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
Several truths are evident. Thanksgiving is a key element of prayer. Thanksgiving is connected to intercession, or praying for others. But, here is the tough one: thanksgiving is to made “for all men.”
There are some people it is hard to be thankful for! Who are you thankful for?
- Give thanks for the one who led you to Jesus. I praise God for Mrs. Coley who led me to know Christ when I was a five-year old boy in her class.
- Give thanks for all who have helped you to know Christ better. Scores of names and faces flood my mind at this moment. Men, women, and young people who have taught me more of the Lord and encouraged me to love Him better.
- Give thanks for those who have handed you a godly heritage. I love my parents and my grandparents more with every passing day. I am enjoying the blessings of God because of their faithfulness.
- Give thanks for men of God who have taught you the Scriptures. Only four men have served as my pastor. Hundreds more have preached the truth to me. I thank God for every one of them!
- Give thanks for true friends. God providentially allows people to cross our path. Divine appointments. I am rejoicing today in those precious friends who have inspired me to be more, do more, and want more for my life.
- Give thanks for those who are in authority. Those who serve in responsible positions are not always right. Only God is infallible. Yet they labor as God’s appointed representatives. Paul reminds us to give thanks “for all that are in authority.”
- Give thanks for difficult people. In Paul’s case those who were in authority were the difficult people! We may think little of giving thanks “for kings” until we realize that the wicked and brutal Nero was the king of whom Paul thought when he penned these words.
Frankly, it is easy to give thanks for those who have made a positive impact and investment in our lives. But what of Nero? We must give thanks for those men who make us run to Jesus. Some people serve as constant reminders of God’s goodness and love in the midst of evil. Thank God for every person who forces you to lean on the Lord for strength. They are God’s messengers to you!
Thanksgiving is not a day; it is a way of life. And giving thanks is not reserved for a few; it is for all men. Stop and make a list of people for whom you thank God.
If appropriate, go a step farther and write them a note to let them know you are grateful for them. Just last night, I received a tremendously encouraging email from an individual that I do not know. A letter expressing thanksgiving can be a source of great help and blessing to others (1 Corinthians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). Then, allow your thanksgiving to lead you back to supplication, prayers, and intercession. Pray for those for whom you are thankful.