Passage for the day; 2 Sam 7:18-29
What do you want to give thanks for? Whenever I ask this question, I can always tell in advance what the most popular answers will be: health, family, friends, good weather, a roof over your head. And I agree, these are indeed just some of the many blessings that we need to give thanks for.
But what I find surprising is how infrequently people give thanks for God Himself. Because giving thanks for God Himself, properly speaking, is theology. Now in some circles I realise theology is almost a dirty word. We think of theology as a dry, dusty subject far removed from the reality of everyday life and I have to say some theologians have certainly helped to promote this point of view. But theology means quite simply “the study of God”. I don’t mean study in the sense of exams and learning facts and figures, although this kind of training is useful, if not essential, for public ministry. I mean study in the sense of spending time contemplating who God is, reflecting on His character, His deeds and His promises.
And I guarantee that when you study God in this way you will not be able to do anything other than give thanks. The constant refrain of the children of Israel was “Give thanks to the Lord our God; his love endures forever”. (Psalm 106:1 and elsewhere). It was the song they sang when the ark was brought to the temple (1 Chr 16:34). It was the song they sang as they marched out to battle (2 Chr 20:21). When they were walking faithfully before the Lord, they lived in a constant awareness of the Lord’s covenant love, and gave thanks accordingly.
So why don’t we focus our thanksgiving on God Himself? I believe the answer lies in the fact that thanksgiving plays a useful function in disclosing the desires of our hearts. We give thanks spontaneously for the people and the things that matter to us most, because to us they are the most immediate signs of God’s blessings. But sometimes when we do that, we can forget, or at least lose our focus, on the One who is the giver of all these gifts.
This isn’t to say that as believers we shouldn’t give thanks for our family, our friends, our health. But perhaps we also ought to think more about the constant and generous love of God who provides all these things and so much more so generously and so constantly. The apostle Paul writes these words:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Eph 1:3).
Maybe this Lent would be a good time to focus again on the spiritual blessings we have in Christ and to reflect just why they should mean so much to us.