Man by nature is an ungrateful creature (Rom 1:21), and we live in particularly ungrateful times (2 Tim 3:2). Many Christians have been affected by the ungrateful atmosphere which surrounds them and are deprived of gratitude by the spirit of age. “Thank you,” has become a word for the weak, as it admits that apart from the help of another, you could not have accomplished the task at hand. Non-Christians are unthankful because they do not know of salvation by grace alone – if they believe in eternal life at all, they usually think of it as something for which they are working for or somehow merit. One who believes that he has earned or merited something does not count it as a gift, but as what is due him, so he is unthankful. But Christians know better; we understand that anything we receive is from God as a consequence of His grace. When a Christian fails to be thankful, it is only because he has not lifted his eyes to the throne of grace, from which all blessings flow. But as he does so, gratitude will take its primary place in the true prayer of the true Christian.
We see by example, how enlarged Paul’s heart was in thankfulness to God for the salvation of the souls of others. He realizes from his own firsthand experience that the new birth, from start to finish, is a miraculous act of God’s favor. We are bound, he wrote, to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thess 2:13). Paul saw thankfulness as a matter of duty; in light of all that he knew God has done to save a people, he writes, “we are bound to give thanks!” Such a spirit of joy consumes heaven as, we are told, there is joy in heaven over the repentance of one sinner (Lk 15:7). In 1 Thessalonians 3:9 as Paul hears Timothy’s report of the faith and love of that church, he is so deeply affected that he cannot find the appropriate words: for what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God.
How well you understand grace is reflected in how thankful a person you are. You cannot simply excuse thanklessness as a property of your personality or upbringing. To be unthankful is sin, and it must be repented of. If you find that you do not often give thanks to God for other Christians, then ask God to enlarge your heart so that you might understand the magnitude of His grace; for only as you realize this, will you become a thankful person.
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