Giving Thanks in the Spirit and the FellowshipDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On Thursday of this week, citizens of the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday dedicated to thanking God for his blessings. In reality, of course, for many Americans, this holiday is actually dedicated more to feasting and football than to gratitude. But, it seems good, nevertheless, to focus our reflections this week on the theme of thanksgiving. Whether you live in the U.S. or not, giving thanks to God should always be in season.
You may recall that we had been working our way slowly through the passage in Ephesians 5 that begins with the imperative: Be filled with the Spirit. In the original Greek of Ephesians, that imperative iS followed by several explanatory participles: speaking, singing, making music, giving thanks, submitting. We examined carefully the first three and the last one, leaving “giving thanks” for this week. Today, we start to circle back to finish our close, devotional reading of Ephesians 5:18-21.
Verse 20 reads, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The context of this verse highlights two key features of thanksgiving. First, our gratitude is an expression of being filled with the Spirit. The more we are filled with the presence and power of the living God, the more we will be moved to give thanks. The Spirit will help us to see God’s gifts, including those we might overlook when left to our own devices. The Spirit will also remind us that things we can take for granted, like physical life, friendship, and good work, are in fact gifts from God. Thus, the Holy Spirit stirs up gratitude within us.
Second, the context of verse 20 reminds us that our gratitude is to be shared with others. To be sure, we can and should thank the Lord privately. But verse 20 is wedged between verse 19 (“speaking to one another”) and verse 21 (“submit to one another”). Though we are to give thanks to God the Father, we should at times do this in a way so that others might hear and be encouraged.
No matter where you live in the world, why not make this a week of thanksgiving? Allow the Spirit of God to inspire you with gratitude. Ask for the grace of seeing new gifts and experiencing all of life as a gift. Then, as you give thanks to God, be sure to share your gratitude with others.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What helps you to feel grateful? What helps you to express your gratitude to God? In what contexts do you share your thanksgiving with others? How might you do this even more today and during the rest of the week?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for all of the good gifts you shower upon me. Thank you for life and breath. Thank you for love and laughter. Thank you for good work and good rest. Thank you for family and friends. Thank you for beauty and song. Thank you for truth and purpose.
Today, Lord, I thank you for those who walk with me on this journey of daily reflection. I’m grateful for their partnership, even though we are rarely together. Thanks for their prayers, their notes of encouragement, their insights into your Word. Thank you for the privilege of sharing these reflections with my sisters and brothers so that we might know you better and live our lives more fully in your grace.
Bless all who receive these reflections, Lord, with a new awareness of your gifts and a new expression of thanksgiving. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: A few years ago, I wrote a short history of Thanksgiving Day in the United States. You can read it here.
Mark Roberts is the Executive Director of Digital Media and the Theological and Cultural Steward for Foundations for Laity Renewal. He is the author of eight books, including No Holds Barred: Wrestling with God in Prayer. He lives in Boerne, Texas, with his wife, Linda. Their children spend most of the year away at college on the East Coast. Send a note to Mark.
Don’t Worry, Be Thankful
In Philippians 4, Paul invites people to rejoice in the Lord always. Always? Even when Christians are being persecuted by Rome? Even when Paul himself is in prison? Always? Even when someone I love is dying? Even when I have lost my job? “Do not worry about anything,” Paul continues. Instead, we are called to present our worries to God with thanksgiving. Many of our readers in the United States are celebrating Thanksgiving this week, with a turkey dinner and pumpkin pie. We invite you to reflect on gratitude and thankfulness and consider sharing some thoughts with your family this week from our theme Don’t Worry, Be Thankful.