Thankfulness After Thanksgiving

Thankfulness is a key indicator of true, eternal usefulness. But the Bible never tells us anywhere to contrive thankfulness, as if thankfulness itself is power and a sign of nobility. Many scientific studies have found therapeutic benefits to thankfulness, but God wants more for us than just a noble character and a healthy body. To be noble and healthy are good goals, but these are only consolation prizes, compared to what God is up to. Imagine: being a channel, a conduit, of bringing into the world the glory of the God and Creator of all the universe. “Glory” – not some ethereal concept, but a real, earthy conceiving by real people of the beauties and wonders of the God of eternity. Imagine that; imagine the joy and satisfaction you would experience in being used in such a way.

Jonah shows us why God-centered thankfulness is crucial for experiencing this joy and satisfaction. Reflecting on Jonah 4, and Jonah being upset at God for not fire-and-brimstoning Ninevah, D.A. Carson writes: “When the prophets want grace and mercy for themselves, they appeal to God’s character; when Jonah does not want mercy and grace for others, he portrays the same attributes of God as fatal weaknesses. He has forgotten 2:1-9, where he recognizes that only God’s mercy could have released him from the big fish.” He forgot the reality and magnitude of God’s grace to him. Thankfulness wilted like the plant that would come later in the chapter.

How quickly we forget grace, and become self-centered, when we interact with people who hurt, threaten or treat us with contempt. We want our Father all to ourselves; they don’t deserve relationship with Him. At that point we are just like Jonah. We have forgotten the very heart of the gospel - that we never deserved Him either. We have already “won”, not on our own merits, but on the merit and work of Jesus for us.

And victory is promised: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). Wherever we go, whatever we face, our risen King presides over it, for us, for the purpose of his glory through us, even to the “Ninevite”: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations [even the Ninevites who don’t deserve the sweet approval of this Father], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .” (v. 19). Thankfulness from His grace reveals we are ready conduits for His glory.