what does it mean to be thankful to god

In regards to being thankful, which person do you identify within these two stories?

There was a waitress who asked a customer whether he liked his meal. The customer replied that everything was fine, but he would like more bread. The next day, when the customer returned, the waitress gave him four slices instead of two, but the man was not happy. The next day, the waitress doubled the slices of bread again, from four pieces to eight, without success.  On the fourth day, the waitress was determined to make the man happy. So, the waitress took a 3-foot loaf of bread, cut it in half, and with a smile, served it to the customer. The waitress could scarcely wait for the man’s reaction. After the meal, the man looked up and said,’ Good as always. But I see you’re back to giving only two slices of bread.”

A person walked into the post office to purchase a thank you card and an envelope.  As he was waiting in line to pay for the card and envelope, he turned to a person next to him in line and asked, “Would you mind addressing this envelope for me?”  The person whom he asked to address the envelope, said, “Yes, I will be happy to help you.  After addressing the envelope, he returned it to the man who had requested his assistance.  Upon receiving the envelope, the man said, “I hate to bother you again, but would you write a short message on the card for me?”  The person who had addressed the envelope agreed to write the message on the card and returned it.  Upon receiving the card, the man who had dictated the message looked at what had been written and said, “May I ask one more favor?  I know this is an imposition, but at the end of the message would you apologize for your sloppy handwriting?”

It is not always easy to be thankful.  In fact, being thankful can be the most challenging aspect of our lives.  Today’s reading from Ephesians 5:20 addresses the challenge of thankfulness by instructing that people of faith in Jesus should live their faith by “always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”

To understand the responsibility of giving thanks to God for everything in Ephesians 5:20, it is important to remember the foundation for thanksgiving that is found in 5:18b-19:

Be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.

What Ephesians wants followers of Jesus to understand is that thanksgiving is not a happenstance response to life.  The ability to give thanks in everything is the response of a life that is focused on God.

Twelve-year-old Rene Seow writes in Gratitude Leads to Happiness about the life that is focused on God:

Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It means that through the eyes of faith we can look beyond our present-day challenges.

Being grateful in our circumstances is an act of faith in God. It requires that we trust God and hope for things we may not see but which are true. True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will.

Gratitude is a spirit-filled principle. It opens our minds to a universe full of the richness of a living God. Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonders of the smallest things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God’s love. This grateful awareness heightens our sensitivity to divine direction. When we communicate gratitude, we can be filled with the Spirit and connected to those around us and the Lord.

I like what Rene writes about how “grateful awareness heightens our sensitivity to divine direction.”  I think that is what the message of Ephesians is all about.  To appreciate the message of Ephesians, it is important to note that The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians was part of what was known as a circular letter.  Rather than being addressed to the concerns of a particular church, it was a sermon that was addressed to all Christians.  Although attributed to Paul, Ephesians likely was not written by Paul, but its Spirit-inspired message about being thankful is applicable to Christians throughout all generations.

In reflecting on Ephesians 5:20, and the discipline of being thankful, Max Luxcado wrote a litany of gratitude and thanksgiving that contains the following reasons to be thankful.  I invite us to join together in the discipline of giving thanks by saying “Thank you, God”

A grateful heart sees each day as a gift. Thankful people focus less on what they lack and more on the privileges they have. … Thank you, God.

The grateful heart is like a magnet sweeping over the day, collecting reasons for gratitude. A zillion diamonds sparkle against the velvet of your sky every night. Thank you, God.

A miracle of muscles enables your eyes to read these words and your brain to process them. Thank you, God.

Your lungs inhale and exhale eleven thousand liters of air every day. Your heart will beat about three billion times in your lifetime. Your brain is a veritable electric generator of power. Thank you, God.

For the jam on our toast and the milk on our cereal. For the blanket that calms us and the joke that delights us and the warm sun that reminds us of God’s love. … Thank you, God.

Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover God’s heart. To discover God’s heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up.  Thank you, God.

… “Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).  Thank you, God.

All of which brings us back to the question that began today’s sermon, the question about which person we identified within the two stories.  As you think about this question, allow me to be bold and state that it really does not matter which person you chose because each person in the two stories is facing the same question that each of us faces in the stories of our lives

The real question is how are you being thankful?

Being Thankful
by Pastor Marc Brown
August 15, 2021

Accompanying Scriptures: Ephesians 5:15-20
(full online service video below)

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