Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 107:1)
In the pagan world of the First Century, the gods did not care about human beings and only helped spasmodically, and for their own selfish reasons. The gods were unreliable at their best. Praise and thanksgiving toward these gods were attempts at some celestial flattery, seeking to win them over to the human side. The gods, however, were as evil and selfish and as capricious as people.
The Christian message was radically different, for it announced that God is good and that God cares for us. God, who is all-knowing, who sees all, is not someone we can flatter into helping us, nor do we even need to. God sees, God cares and is predisposed to favor us, and God can help. In this reality, being genuinely thankful, truly inwardly grateful, made an entirely different kind of sense. Thanksgiving was not an effort to convince a flawed and selfish god with a fragile ego to lend us a hand. Rather it was the grateful recognition and affirmation of God’s goodness.
The Christian must remember at all times that the Lord is good. His kindnesses to us are not some temporary mood changes, not some flippant fleeting feeling in the heart of God. His kindness and goodness to us His children reveals His nature. The Lord is good in His nature!
Thank God for His goodness
In His goodness is fairness and justice. We must remember this, that we should expect for God to measure back to us what we have measured out to others. This is what Christ said:
Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matt. 7:1-2 BSB)
This is also something to thank God for, that He is just and fair. Any place we work in our life we would desire to be like this, that they are fair and that they reward hard work. This is who God is! The ultimate fair judge of all situations.
Thank God for His grace
But God’s kindness to us goes even beyond this, for He is also gracious and forgiving. We are blessed by Him giving us what we deserve AND by Him not giving us what we deserve always, in terms of our sin and our need of His grace.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases…
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:2-3,8-13)
The self-inflicted wounds of sin in our lives, our pride, our lusts, are forgiven by God in those who believe. “Those who fear him” refer to those whose consciences have been convicted by His Spirit, and fear the justice of God to be repaid to them for the evils they have done. They fear God in the sense of realizing this spiritual reality, of turning from sin and turning to Him in repentance and faith. Those who fear also trust in His Word and in His promise of grace and forgiveness.
Thank God for His discipline
And we must also realize that even when our sin is found out, even when we receive discipline as His child, it is still positive. He is teaching us and maturing us in such moments. The Bible says, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6). If we receive punishment in this life for our sins, we should thank God for the forgiveness that is eternal in the next life, AND for His kindness in using this earthly discipline to teach us eternal truths. We receive a kingdom that “cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28), so His work in us is also for eternity.
All His benefits
And on top of this we also thank God for all the good things He has brought into our lives: opportunities, talents, education, mentors, food, clothing, family, loved ones, friends, purpose, meaning, joy, comfort, peace, and the list seems endless.
The heart of gratitude
But at its heart, true Christian gratitude is just being grateful for Him, just stopping to say from the heart, “Thank You, Jesus, for Yourself!” The Christian’s chief blessing, and thereby the chief thing we ought to be grateful for at all times, is not merely a “thing” at all, but a Person. The Bible says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6-7).
Eternal life is described in knowing God through Jesus Christ (John 17:3). Knowing Christ was the goal of the life of Paul (Phil. 1:21 and 3:8), and it is to be the goal of our life as well (Phil. 3:15). Knowledge and intimacy with Christ is what will never be taken away from our hearts (Luke 10:42). Christ is that Friend who sticks closer than a brother. He is the vine that nourishes our souls. He is the light that illuminates our spirits. He is the One who said to the Father, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).