Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18—NKJV)

Around the Thanksgiving holiday families begin to pick up the excitement and tempo of the holiday season and the mad rush begins. The women of the households prepare grand meals for their families, grown children with families of their own return home, stores begin to count on increased holiday buying to keep them financially afloat, and the TV ads during the football games tend to replace any sense of thanksgiving with a distinct yearning for more. All is a-bustle and before we know it, if we are not careful, the spirit of thanksgiving is somehow substituted with a spirit of something else.

While all the busyness is part of what families do, the business of busyness can set the celebratory bell tolling with a hollow ring. In the middle of the rush there is little thought given to actual giving of thanks. Oh, there is the usual sentiment of contributing a word of something you are thankful for before you dig in to the meal, but what of significant time on bowed knee before the Main Contributor of the feast?

To the true believer’s eye there is little wonder that the natural state of man is to be unthankful. Apart from the grace of God active in a man’s life there is a noticeable absence of humble thanksgiving. In fact, his general carriage and demeanor bespeaks a sense of entitlement to a better lot than he has attained. Romans 1:21 reads, “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” 2 Timothy 3:1–5 aptly describes the tenor of our day with the words, “for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

Because unthankfulness is so engrained in the sin-darkened heart, both regenerate and unregenerate, genuine thanksgiving requires diligent attention and hard work. Our text teaches some very interesting thoughts concerning thankfulness that we would do well to observe both at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.

First, thanksgiving arises from joy in the work of God. “Rejoice always” flows from Paul’s lips despite the challenges of life. He has spoken of joy in 1:6, 2:19–20, and 3:9, each time reflecting the joy he personally received seeing God’s hand at work among the Thessalonian believers. Real thanksgiving begins with a view of the work God is doing around you. Take time to observe His handiwork.

Second, thanksgiving arises from communion with God in prayer. This requires a constant sense of personal dependence upon the Almighty One. Praying unceasingly is living in a state of communion with God, not allowing anything to get between your soul and Him—no sin, no distraction, no burden. Make prayer a persistent and regular exercise.

Third, thanksgiving arises from a keen sense of anticipation that God will continue to work in your behalf. Rejoicing at seeing God’s hand at work around you and bathing your life with prayer in dependence upon Him will most certainly cause you to be thankful in the midst of everything. Ephesians 5:18–20 and Hebrews 13:15 further elaborate the thought for the Christian believer.

As our text says, “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We have no excuse to say that we do not know God’s will. It is found in genuine thanksgiving. Are you thankful? Are you known for giving thanks? Apply your heart to the worshipful task of thanksgiving to God! Trust and obey.