How To Be As Thankful As God Wants You To Be

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  5 : 18
Subject: Gratitude; Thanksgiving

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Some folks place a lot of emphasis on a person’s IQ, his intelligence quotient. One’s IQ is important, of course, but it is far from being the main factor in determining success or failure. Of much greater importance is whether or not a person is a hustler.

Another thing that receives considerable attention in some quarters is a person’s AQ, his achievement quotient. A student’s AQ has to do with how his level of achievement compares with his potential at his particular chronological age. Some educators consider that an important measure.

But, using a term coined by Warren Wiersbe, I want to ask you about something far more important than either your IQ or your AQ. I want to ask you this question: what is your GQ? I’m talking about your “gratitude quotient.“ Your IQ may figure into your business success, and your AQ may have a good deal of significance in some academic circles; but your GQ impacts every facet of your life, both now, and eternally.

Simply to say that we need to be thankful, while certainly true, doesn’t go far enough. There are different levels of gratitude. Probably all of us are thankful at least some of the time, for certain things, but the crucial question we all need to face is this: Am I as thankful as I ought to be? Am I as thankful as God intends that I be? How high is my GQ? We need to understand that the level of our gratitude determines the degree to which we experience life’s highest and best.

So, let’s look at a verse of Scripture that will show us how to improve our GQ. It will show us how to be thankful to the degree that God intends. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” That brief verse brings into focus four keys to improving our GQ. Here’s the first one:


You would not expect a building to be sturdy enough to withstand the high winds or earth tremors unless it was built on a strong foundation. In like manner, if you and I are going to be the thankful people that God intends us to be, our lives have to built on the right foundation. I read 1 Thessalonians 5:18 in the KJV, but the meaning becomes even clearer in the New International Reader’s Version (NIRV): “Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus.”

So, this admonition is directed specifically to people who “believe in Christ Jesus,” that is, people who have repented of their sins and, by faith, have committed their lives to him as their Lord and Savior. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” People who have not surrendered their lives to Christ not only are lost and bound for hell, but are guilty of the grossest ingratitude imaginable, for by rejecting Christ they have spurned God’s ultimate gift to mankind.

Furthermore, people who have never received Christ and his salvation are not able to see the many other gifts of God in their truest, fullest light, and thus don’t appreciate those gifts as they should.

So, the starting point for building a life of real gratitude is to get right with God, and be able to say. as Paul did in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” 1 Corinthians 3:12 says, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Only on that foundation can you build a life that overflows with gratitude.

There is a second key to improving your GQ and raising it to the point that God intends, and that is:


When God says, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks,” he is giving a command, and a command is primarily an appeal to the will, not to the emotions. So, being thankful is not a matter of drifting along, hoping that warm, fuzzy feelings will sweep over us, nor is it a matter of waiting for our circumstances to fall into place like we want them. As a matter of fact, some of the most grateful people you’ll ever meet have a pretty rough go of it, while some of the most ungrateful people have it rather well. No, being thankful is a matter of realizing that God has given a command, and by a conscious act of our will making up our minds to obey that command. It’s a matter of determining to major on looking at the positive side of life’s ledger rather than the negative side.

Practically any hymn book you pick up will have at least one song by Fanny J. Crosby, but more likely several. She died in 1915, just short of her 95th birthday. She has been called “the greatest hymn writer in the history of the Christian church.” Although blind, she was a prolific writer. During her lifetime over 8,000 of her poems were set to music and over 100 million copies of her songs were printed. She also authored several books. Hymns that she wrote include All The Way My Savior Leads Me, Blessed Assurance, Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet, To God Be The Glory, just to mention a few. She loved the Scriptures, and memorized whole books of the Bible. She was an inspiration to millions, and was widely sought after as a speaker and a counselor.

She was permanently blinded when she was only six weeks old, as a result of absurdly incompetent treatment by a charlatan posing as a doctor. Her wise mother set about immediately to prepare her daughter for a productive, useful life in spite of her handicap. Then, another tragedy, when she was 12 months old her father died. When she was five years old, neighbors and friends contributed money to enable her mother to take Fanny to consult with the best eye specialist in the country, but he sadly informed them that nothing could be done. Fanny held no animosity or bitterness. She determined to have a positive outlook, and at eight years of age she wrote this, her first poem:

O what a happy soul am I! Although I cannot see,

I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy, that other people don’t.

To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot and I won’t!

Fanny J. Crosby was a living testimony to the fact that being thankful is not a matter of one’s circumstances, but, rather, of one’s decision. She made up her mind, while still a little child, that she would count her blessings and not her liabilities.

By telling us that giving thanks is his will for Christians, God is at the same time thereby warning us that not being duly thankful is sin, because anything that is contrary to God’s will is sin. As a matter of fact, the Bible points up ingratitude as one of the most despicable of all sins.

There is a third key to being as duly thankful as God intends us to be, and that is:


Notice that in this verse God says, “GIVE thanks.” That is clearly a command to express outwardly the gratitude that we feel inwardly. Otherwise, that sense of gratitude will not be full-orbed. It will be weak and puny, at best. We must express our gratitude in word or action, or both, depending on what the situation calls for, otherwise, we will have a woefully inadequate GQ. We will fall miserably short of being as thankful as God wants us to be.

Nelson Price tells of a crucial time in the life of the late William L. Stidger, a prominent preacher, poet, and journalist. Stidger suffered a nervous breakdown, and for months on end was in a state of abysmal gloom and despair. Later, looking back and describing that bleak time in his life, Stidger said, “I cared nothing about anything. Everything was hopeless, everything was dark, everything was black, utter despondency.”

But Stidger overcame that terrible emotional sickness, and here’s how it happened. A friend suggested to him that he think of people who had helped him along life’s way, and the friend then asked, “Have you ever thanked those people?” Stidger said, “I can think of many, but I can’t remember if I ever thanked them.” The friend suggested that Stidger choose one of those people who had helped him, and that he write that person a warm letter expressing his appreciation.

The first person he wrote was a teacher who had inspired in him a love for literature. He told her how deeply grateful he was for the difference she had made in his life. Upon receiving his letter, she wrote him back, and here’s what she wrote: “Dear Willy, When I read your letter I was blinded with tears for I remember you as a boy; and as I think of you now, I see you as a little fellow in my class. You have warmed my old heart. I taught school for fifty years. Yours is the first letter of thanks I ever received from a student, and I shall cherish it until I die.”

Stidger’s heart was so moved by her response that he wrote other people who had made contributions to his life. Eventually he wrote nearly 500 such letters, and in the process of expressing his thanks he was set free from his discouragement and despair.

When God said, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks,” he clearly was commanding us to express our gratitude, to other people, for sure, and by all means to him, because every blessing comes ultimately from him, whatever avenue it might take getting to us. Unexpressed gratitude doesn’t lift any loads, dry any tears, or glorify God, and it will wither and die, like a beautiful rose that is kept in the darkness and not exposed to the sunlight, and, as a wise man once said, “when gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, he is well nigh gone.”

There is also a fourth factor in being as thankful as God intends us to be:


There’s where so many of us miss the mark. God says, “In everything give thanks.”

A. Blessing We Take For Granted

We’re to be thankful not only for those rare, once-in-a-blue-moon blessings, but we’re also to be thankful for those everyday blessings, those blessings that we tend to take for granted, because we’re so used to them.

We need to thank him for each beautiful sunset, and all the wonders of nature. Emerson said that if the stars came out only once a year, we would all want to stay up and see them. But because they are visible so much of the time, we hardly notice them.

If you got up this morning with a roof over your head, with food to eat, clothes to put on, and even a small amount of money in your pocket, in the eyes of 75% of this world’s population you are wealthy.

Thousands of people on this planet didn’t see the light of this day, because they died last night of diseases that could have been easily prevented or cured had they had access to even the simplest medical treatment. In places like Sudan and Rawanda, thousands of mothers last night sat exposed to the elements and in unspeakable despair watched as their thin, emaciated little children died of starvation.

When you turn on the faucet and get a glass of clean water, thank God that you can do that, because a vast percentage of the world’s population drinks from contaminated water sources.

I ran across “A Thanksgiving Prayer” that someone wrote; here are some excerpts from it:

Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings each

morning, thank you, Lord, that I can hear. There are many who are deaf.

Even though I keep my eyes tightly closed against the morning light as long as

possible, thank you, Lord, that I can see. There are many who are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off the effort of rising, thank you,

Lord, that I have the strength to rise. There are many who are bedridden.

“In everything give thanks.” When you get stuck in traffic, don’t lose your cool; remember that there are multitudes of people in this world for whom driving is an undreamed of privilege.

Or, if your car breaks down, and you have to walk to get help, don’t blow your top; remember that there are paraplegics who would love to be able to take that walk.

If things sometimes get hectic in your family, don’t get all out of sorts; remember that there are many who are lonely, and who would be grateful to have a family.

If your hair won’t stay in place like you want, don’t make a big deal of it; remember the precious little children in cancer hospitals who, because of their chemo treatments, don’t have any hair.

Instead of fussing about conditions where you work, be thankful you have a job, because a lot of people don’t, and be thankful that you have sufficient health to work.

Someone made this statement that is worth thinking about: “Should you find yourself the victim of other people’s bitterness, ignorance, smallness or insecurities; remember, things could be worse. You could be one of them!”

B. Thank Him Amid Dissappointments

But there’s still another thing to be noted, as we think about what God expects of us in the area of gratitude. We are to thank him not only amidst life’s pleasantries and joys, but also amidst life’s reverses and disappointments and sorrows.

“In everything give thanks.” That doesn’t mean, of course, that everything which happens is in itself cause for gratitude, but it does mean that along with every experience, however tragic or painful, or heartbreaking, causes for gratitude can be found if only we’ll look for them.

Perhaps you are familiar with Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary. I read that on one occasion when Matthew Henry was walking down the street, he was confronted by a band of thieves who robbed him. Henry kept a diary in which he wrote at the end of each day. That night here is what he wrote: “Let me be thankful. First, because I was never robbed before. Second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life. Third, because although they took my all, it was not much. And fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

The late Fulton Oursler, who died in 1952, told about an elderly black lady who played a tremendously crucial role in his life. Her full name was Anna Maria Cecily Sophia Virginia Avalon Thessalonians, but everybody just called her Anna. She was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. As a young girl she had assisted in the birth of Fulton Oursler’s mother in 1866, and then thirty-seven years later she was present in the room when Fulton himself was born. In writing about her, Fulton Oursler said that she taught him more about being thankful than he ever learned from anyone else.

He said he could remember her as she sat at the kitchen table in their house, her hard old brown hands folded, her eyes lifted to the white-washed ceiling, and the husky old voice saying: “Much obliged, dear Lord, for my vittles.” Fulton, just a little boy at the time, said, “Anna, what is a vittle?” “It’s what I’ve got to eat and drink, that’s vittles.” “But you’d get your vittles whether you thanked the Lord or not.” “Sure. But it makes everything taste better to be thankful.” After the meal was over. she expressed her thanks again: “Much obliged, dear Lord.”

She said, “You know, it’s a funny thing about being thankful, it’s a game an old colored preacher taught me to play. It’s looking for things to be thankful for. You don’t know how many of them you pass right by, unless you go looking for them. Take this morning, for instance. I wake up and I lay there, lazy like, wondering what I got to be thankful for now....and right straight from the kitchen comes the most delicious morning smell that ever tickled my old nose. Coffee! Much obliged, dear Lord, for the coffee....Much obliged, dear Lord, for the smell of it....”

Anna spoke about doing her housework, and of how when she dusted the mantelpiece she looked at a particular ornament she had been given and thanked the Lord for it. She thanked him for the pictures on the wall. She thanked God that she could go downtown and look at the pretty things in the windows. She got caught in the rain one day, and thanked God for that. She said,”I always heard about fancy people’s shower baths. Now I had me one and it was wonderful.” She said, “So many things are wonderful.” Referring to the old rose bush in her back yard, she remarked that “One rose will fill your nose with all the sweetness you can stand....”

There came a time in Fulton Oursler’s life when he went through “a long, dark night of the soul.” He was in trouble, and sank into despair. But he later testified that the thing that kept him hanging on and finally brought him through was the memory of old Anna and of how she could always find something to be thankful for, whatever the circumstances. One memory that particularly challenged him and encouraged him to keep on keeping on was his recollection of the time Anna was dying. He, along with others, went to be with her. Recalling that day, he said, “I stood by Anna’s bedside; she was in deep pain and the hard old hands were knotted together in a desperate clutch. Poor old woman; what had she to be thankful for now? She opened her eyes and looked at us; her eyes lingered with mine. ‘Much obliged, dear Lord,’ she said, ‘for such fine friends.’” Fulton Oursler said, “She never spoke again, except in my heart. But there she speaks every day. I’m much obliged to God for that.”

So, there are the four keys to raising your GQ. Those are the keys to a truly thankful life. But it has to start with key number one: Lay the right foundation, be sure you’re right with God. If you’ve never done so, claim Acts 16:31: “...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved....” If you’re already a Christian but have gotten off the track, confess your sins, and ask God to give you a fresh, new start. He is the God of another chance.