Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God. (Psalm 50:14, NLT)
The other day at work, I passed a colleague in the hall who greeted me with, “How are you?” and I replied, “I’m thankful.” He paused and asked, “What are you thankful about?” and I answered, “Oh wow, lots of things …. I’m thankful for the gift of today, my health, this job, my family, my students, God’s love in my life, and … I’m thankful for you and the opportunity to work with you.” My coworker paused thoughtfully and said, “Hmmm … there is a lot to be thankful for,” and we went about our day.
When I responded to my colleague with, “I’m thankful,” I meant it. I wasn’t trying to be original or funny; I was being real. I know the customary response to the greeting, “How are you?” is “good,” but a while back, I came to the realization that I couldn't honestly respond with “good” every time to that question, because things aren’t always “good." We all have bad days (even bad years). At times, life brings moments and situations that stink. However, “good” isn’t the defining factor in my life—Jesus is—and because He is good, I can be thankful.
It’s been said that the Apostle Paul wrote about giving thanks and being thankful at least 46 times in his New Testament letters. It’s crazy, but the guy who tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18) and “give thanks always … and for everything” (Eph. 5:20) is the same guy whose story is filled with persecution, imprisonment, physical suffering, opposition, hostility, shipwrecks, peril, abandonment and betrayal. How can he be thankful, let alone implore us to be thankful?
It’s because thankfulness to God isn’t a feeling; it’s a choice. Asaph, the author of Psalm 50, equates thankfulness to the uncomfortable idea of sacrifice—giving up something valuable for something even more important or worthy. A life of gratitude doesn’t come naturally, or easily; it requires effort and practice. It’s a discipline. This is reflected in the tradition of praying before meals. We all need to eat, and when we do, mealtime can serve as a regular and tangible reminder to reflect upon God, showing appreciation and gratitude for His presence and care in our lives.
The thankfulness that Asaph refers to, that Paul calls us to, and that I mentioned to my colleague the other day, is based in and upon Jesus. Jesus is God. He is the author of life, the giver of hope and the source of every good thing. He is the Creator of the universe, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. His very nature is one of compassion, mercy, love and grace.
Even while we were all dead in our ingratitude, rebellion and sin, Jesus took on flesh and blood and came to earth to save us. He died upon the cross, paid the price for the forgiveness of our sins, and rose from the grave. He is our help today and our hope for eternity. Jesus is “good,” and a friend who is always with us—even when life stinks. In Him is found joy, peace, hope and abundant life.
So, if you ask me, “How are you?” I am going to say, “thankful,” because of Jesus.
In Him, “… there is a lot to be thankful for.”