Thankful (Part 2): Thankful for Our Blessings

Thankful

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

It is easy for us to focus on the troubles we face in life. We also tend to look at others who have more than us and wonder why we are not able to enjoy the riches or other benefits that they have. However, we usually only view this in one direction. There are certainly hardships and inequalities in life; but too often we tend to view ourselves in the role of the victim, forgetting how truly blessed we are. If we look at others who are “better off” than we are, there are many others who could look at us in the same way. We have much for which we should be thankful. In this article, we are going to focus on the temporal blessings of this life.

The Gifts of This Life

God created the world and everything in it. The psalmist wrote, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made…” (Psalm 33:6). Yet He is more than just the Creator; He is also the Sustainer of life. David wrote elsewhere, “You [God] visit the earth and cause it to overflow; You greatly enrich it; the stream of God is full of water; You prepare their grain, for so You prepare the earth” (Psalm 65:9). In this way, God sustains us with everything we need. Jesus described this in His Sermon on the Mount: “Look at the birds of the sky, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather crops into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more important than they? […] And why are you worried about clothing? Notice how the lilies of the field grow; they do not labor nor do they spin thread for cloth, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” (Matthew 6:26, 28-30).

God made this world that affords us the ability not only to survive, but to prosper and enjoy the blessings of life. He will continue to provide these blessings as long as the earth stands. After the flood He gave the promise: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).

All of the good things that God provides to us in His creation serve as a witness to Him. Paul explained this to the residents of Lystra who were making a misguided attempt to worship him and Barnabas as if they were gods: “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, preaching the gospel to you, to turn from these useless things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything that is in them. In past generations He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:15-17). Even those who are not followers of God enjoy the blessings He provides in this world.

We Must Accept Our Blessings

In the verse cited at the beginning, Paul told Timothy: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude” (1 Timothy 4:4). God expects us to receive the blessings He bestows upon us in this life – not because we are greedy, but because they are given by God. The wise man wrote, “Furthermore, as for every person to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also given him the opportunity to enjoy them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). Whatever we have in life, whether it is little or much, is a blessing from God.

However, these blessings are not given to us miraculously – at least not today (and even when we read about this happening in the Bible, it was the exception). Yet Jesus told us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). So how do we receive the blessings of this life? There are two primary ways we do this:

  1. By working to provide for ourselves – Paul told the brethren in Thessalonica, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We must be willing to work in order to receive God’s blessings. The wise man said, “The soul of the lazy one craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made prosperous” (Proverbs 13:4).
  2. By receiving help from others when in need – Despite the willingness we should have to work, the ability is not always there or our needs are greater than we can handle due to circumstances beyond our control. The early church showed an example of sharing that resulted in the fact that “there was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34-35). We often emphasize our need to be willing to help others, but we must also be willing to allow others to help us when we need it.

We could add a third point – we receive gifts from others. But the first two ways seem to be emphasized more in the Scriptures. To receive God’s blessings in this life, we must (1) be willing to work if we are able to do so or (2) accept help from others if we are not able or if our needs are greater than what we can acquire through diligent effort.

We Must Appreciate Our Blessings

Appreciating the blessings of this life is about more than just recognizing the value in them. It is also about understanding who provides them. We ought to appreciate our blessings because they come from God. They were “created [by Him] to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:3). While we work to earn a living (as we noted in the previous section), we are still using what God has provided to do this. He “supplies seed to the sower and bread for food” (2 Corinthians 9:10).

As we have already noticed, these blessings sustain us in this life (Acts 14:15-17). In the beginning, God told Adam, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you” (Genesis 1:29). But more than just providing our basic necessities, He also provides those things that make life comfortable and enjoyable. This was why the wise man wrote, “Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink, and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he labors under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward” (Ecclesiastes 5:18).

However, we must be careful not to over-appreciate our blessings. In other words, we must not focus so much on the blessings of this life that we lose sight of God who blesses us and our responsibility before Him. This was the problem with the rich man in one of Jesus’ parables (Luke 12:16-21). He was already rich, then had a very productive harvest; yet he focused all of his attention on these material things and neglected the state of his soul. When a rich young ruler came to Jesus, he left sorrowful because he valued his wealth more than eternal life (Luke 18:18-23). Jesus used this to make a point: “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25). The riches of this life are only temporal. “For we brought nothing into this world, so we cannot take anything out of it, either” (1 Timothy 6:7). These riches cannot compare with the blessings of heaven. Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). We need to appreciate the great blessings God has given us in this life, but not allow them to distract us from serving Him and pressing on to the goal of heaven.

We Must Demonstrate Gratitude

Once we recognize God as the one who provides for us in this life and we appreciate His provisions for that reason, then we do what is necessary to receive these blessings. After that, we need to show our gratitude to Him. How do we do this?

  1. Thank God for the blessings we have received – Again, Paul wrote, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude” (1 Timothy 4:4). We should regularly be expressing our gratitude to God in prayer.
  2. Do not forget that God is the one who has blessed us – All men, even those who do not follow God, have experienced His blessings (Acts 14:17). “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains” (Psalm 24:1). Whatever we have to enjoy in this life is from Him.
  3. Be good stewards of our blessings – The wise man advised, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23-27). This was a way to be sustained even in the face of political or economic turmoil. We should not squander our blessings as the prodigal son did (Luke 15:11-14); instead, we should exercise wisdom and make the best use of the blessings God has provided.
  4. Use our blessings in a way that honors Him – If we understand that our blessings come from God, we need to see how we can use these blessings in a way that is pleasing to Him. The wise man said, “Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce” (Proverbs 3:9). If we are blessed with riches, we are to “do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” because we are looking beyond this life and the blessings in it (1 Timothy 6:18-19).

If we do not demonstrate gratitude for the blessings of this life, we will develop a sense of entitlement. This not only makes it difficult to recognize our blessings as gifts of God, it also makes it difficult to willingly submit to the will of God.

Conclusion

God has given us every good thing to enjoy in this life. This is just a foretaste of the blessings that we will receive in eternity if we faithfully serve Him. Let us show gratitude for our blessings by being thankful, practicing good stewardship, and looking forward to eternity.


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