Contagious Joy in a Never-Enough World

What Gratitude Says About God

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Guest Contributor

As Christians visit with extended family this Thanksgiving, most of us will come into close contact with unbelievers.

The apostle Paul says, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Our witness should not simply be about transmitting information, but becoming living proof that God has the ability to save and change sinners. Our time together will say either that God is our only hope, or subtly preach another gospel.

“Our grumbling tells all those longing for more to look somewhere other than God for satisfaction.”

Our witness should also serve as a living invitation to all, testifying to God’s sovereign ability to meet the deepest cravings of the human heart: “He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9). Our time together either will say God is enough for us, or it will tell another story about our happiness.

This Thanksgiving, how will you interact with lost loved ones in your life? Will you view your conversations as an opportunity to exhibit the all-satisfying power of God? Or will you be lured into the temptations to avoid spiritual things or to grumble about your circumstances?

Hunger for More

We live in a world that leaves us constantly wanting more. This moves people to be frustrated and unsatisfied in their jobs, friendships, and marriages. Never having enough, we feel entitled to grumble and complain. Protesting about the things we don’t have comes all too naturally, and over time poisons the soul.

Like the Israelites grumbling as they wander in the wilderness, we tend to begrudge God’s gifts and quickly forget his incredible provision. It is easy to lose sight of all that God has done, and is doing right now in our lives. When we vent in aggravation, we cheapen his grace and make him out to be stingy with his gifts.

Sadly, this attitude has a tendency to spread, negatively affecting those around us. This leads others to assume that God doesn’t adequately provide and care for his children. It tells all those longing for more to look somewhere else for satisfaction. Instead of a magnetic faith that draws people in to its truth, it can turn others away.

All-Satisfying God

“All those who have found our deepest needs met in Christ ought to see Thanksgiving as a gospel opportunity.”

As those who find our deepest needs met in Christ, we ought to see this holiday as a gospel opportunity. While there are temptations at every turn to focus on what we don’t have, the Spirit reminds us to focus on his faithfulness. We have a unique window to publicly thank and praise God as the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). This magnifies his worth as a wise and loving giver of good gifts, instead of maligning him for all the things we wish were different.

When we express heartfelt thankfulness for God’s innumerable blessings, we powerfully display a sense of satisfaction in him. This kind of joy is contagious, drawing others into its thankfulness and happiness. When others see a genuine delight in God and in whatever he has provided, they are winsomely invited into the intense and lasting pleasure we have in him. 

Thanksgiving in the life of the Christian reveals the awesome goodness of God, welcoming all to taste and see that he is good (Psalm 34:8). Instead of being a reluctant and boring surrender, the Christian faith brims with abundant life. It’s a deep joy that overflows from our relationship with Christ, pointing others to the all-satisfying God.

Building Up, Not Tearing Down

Declaring God’s goodness in all of life is vital to evangelism. Again, Paul admonishes us, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Our posture of gratitude is meant to bring hope, not despair or division. Instead of using our words to tear down, our words are meant to encourage others and draw the world into God’s gospel of grace.

“We live in a world leaving us constantly wanting more, but with news that God will not ultimately leave us wanting.”

First Thessalonians 5:18 calls us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Some of us may feel we have little to be thankful for, but that’s no reason to stop thanking God. Practicing thankfulness when we have little often brings the greatest joy, because it reminds us of the infinite riches we do have, regardless of our circumstances. If you start looking for every evidence, large or small, of God’s grace at work in your life, you’ll quickly run out of time to thank him for being so good to you.

Giving thanks to God not only highlights his ability to provide, but also underscores his unrivaled generosity (Matthew 7:7–11). Our words should build up, give life, and invite the world to come and enjoy God’s blessings with us. Let’s treat this Thanksgiving as an occasion to declare God as the giver of every good and perfect gift. The world — and your family — is listening.

(@AGCavalier) is currently completing work on a PhD in Church History from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Married to Magan, they have three small children.