Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God,17 saying,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
18 The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
– Revelation 11:15-18 [ESV]
Several years ago a fellow pastor uncovered a profound lesson about thankfulness. Thanksgiving was right around the corner. We pastors were meeting for our monthly circuit meeting. He shared a message about thankfulness. He made the point that thanklessness was a key sin to which Paul points in Romans 2, saying,
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, [emphasis added] but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21)
I had not previously realized that thanklessness is a sin as grave as it apparently is. Failing to honor God by giving thanks to him completely misses the mark. Thanking God for his gifts, his grace, his kindness is an essential expression of faith. Not only is thankfulness an expression of faith – the reality of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen – it is the abiding action of the redeemed in heaven. Thanksgiving is not reserved for people in this life and this world today. We will continually express our thanks to God even when we have realized the fullness of his love and salvation.
This says something about thanksgiving. It’s not a feigned expression of appropriate appreciation so that we may be shown to be worthy of the gifts we have received. It is not something we do so that we may be sure to receive more. True thankfulness is something we do because we are convinced of God’s kindness to us and the richness of his grace given to us.
This praise flows from the redeemed of God who have nothing to gain by being thankful. They express their thanks to God so completely and fully that they fall on their faces before God. They are fully and wholeheartedly thankful.
So the question for us, is whether we are now willingly and wholeheartedly giving thanks to God. We’re going to be doing it for quite some time – throughout all eternity. There it will never be feigned. Here it may be too quickly abandoned in the press of life’s challenges. But we can thank God now and through all eternity for his faithful love, lavish grace, abundant forgiveness, and eternal salvation.