(This series of writings was prompted by listening to an excellent sermon from Dr. John MacArthur entitled “Thanks, No Matter What” on 1 Thessalonians 5:18. The sermon was from 1995, I believe.)
“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
I have been prompted to pen a series of writings on the enemies of thankfulness. One of the ironic features of American Christianity is that despite living in the most affluent society in the history of the world, there is a general lack of thankfulness among believers in America. I find this glaring flaw present in my own life, as well, and am very convicted by it. Living in great abundance and with every need supplied, there is little evidence of thanks in the prayers and the conversations of even committed, genuine believers. Listen to the prayers of American Christians and you may hear some token thanks given for general things, but sincere and heart-felt thanks for the amazing spiritual and material blessings that the Lord has showered on them is usually absent. Again, I know that I am guilty of this and so I may be projecting this on others, but I don’t think so. I think it may be a trait of fallen humanity that the more that we have materially, the less thankful we are.
So I have made a commitment to be more thankful and to have vital, deep thanksgiving become a regular part of my prayers and my conversations. To help me in this endeavor, and hopefully to help you also, I wanted to discuss five enemies of thankfulness, which, if present and prominent in my life and in your life, will smother thankfulness. Again I am grateful to Dr. MacArthur for identifying these enemies. I am taking his ideas and developing them a little further.
The Enemies of Thankfulness – The first enemy – Doubt:
The first of the five enemies of thankfulness is “DOUBT.” Now, doubt always requires an object. That is, you must doubt something or someone. And the doubt that will rob you of your thankfulness is doubt about God. Maybe you doubt His character. If you doubt that God is trustworthy, how can you thank Him? It may be that whatever occurred happened despite God, not because of God. Is God faithful? If you doubt His faithfulness, you will not thank Him. If you doubt that God is good, you will not thank Him when good things come into your life, because you are not sure that He was responsible or that He even wanted those good things to come to you. Does God keep His promises? God makes many promises in His word, but does He intend to keep them? Even if He intends to keep them, does He have the power to keep them? If you doubt that God has the power to do the impossible on your behalf, you will certainly not praise Him when the impossible comes to pass. (By the way, if this is one of your doubts, read Psalm 115:3 and Jeremiah 32:17.) Does God love me? If you doubt that God really loves you and if you are not sure that He sent His Son to die for you, you will not be thankful. Any or all of these doubts will rob you of thankfulness. Doubts directly, but even more indirectly rob us of thankfulness, because they undermine our trust in God and make us unsure that He even deserves to be thanked. Maybe He is trying to take credit for something that He didn’t do, so why should I thank Him?
Brethren, we must be on the alert for this enemy of thankfulness called doubt and we must vanquish this before it robs us of our ability to thank the Lord. How does the believer confront this enemy? I suggest three defenses against doubt.
FIRST, the believer must choose to trust God wholly and implicitly. By an act of the will, the believer must choose to trust God. This is what it means to believe. It does not mean that there will never be uncertainties, but it does mean that the follower of Jesus has decided to trust the Lord. God no longer has to prove Himself to me. He is God and I trust Him. Do I fully understand all that occurs and all that He does? Of course not, but I nevertheless have determined that God is trustworthy and I will therefore trust Him. Doubt is of the devil, for his first recorded words in the Bible were intended to create doubt in God’s character: “Has God said . . .?” Yes, God has said and I will trust Him. (James 1:5-8)
SECOND, to dispel doubts about God, the believer must actively seek to know God by being familiar with the God revealed in Scripture and by seeing how God works in his/her life. Paul wanted to know Christ (Philippians 3:10); just so the believer seeks to know God as his greatest treasure. When you know God, doubts about Him vanish like a mist on a windy day.
THIRD, be alert to all incipient doubts and, when creeping doubts are discovered, demolish them. Residual doubts must be attacked by the truth of the Word and by prayer.
Drive away doubts about God and your thankfulness will increase. RMB 4/15/2015