Giving Thanks Always

by Derek Olson on November 23rd, 2011

Before reading this blog post, I strongly encourage you to click here and read Ephesians 5:1-21.

As we examine the way we live our lives, and in order to make the best use of our time, Paul urges us to recognize the transforming work the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives.  Look again at verse 18…

18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit”

Who/What do we want to be filled with?  Who/What do we want to be under the influence of?  Who/What do you want controlling your life?  In order to make the best use of the time God has given to us, we are to be continually filled by, “under the influence” of, the Holy Spirit. 

But how does that work?  How do we go about being filled by His Spirit?  One of my theology professors and mentor puts it this way: “We put ourselves in position to be filled by the Spirit when we walk in the hallways where the Spirit is active.”  In other words, when we are where the Spirit is, we put ourselves in the path of the Divine, opening ourselves to His transforming work.  So then where/what are those hallways?  Well, we know from Scripture…

  • The Spirit is active through God’s Word, the Bible… so let’s spend lots of time in the Good Book!
  • When we pray, the Spirit intercedes… so prayer opens us to being filled by the Spirit
  • Spiritual gifts are grace gifts from the Holy Spirit… let’s put them to use and get into action serving the church, the Body of Christ.
  • The Spirit gives us power to be his witnesses when we are evangelizing and ministering to those outside the church… so certainly those are ways to put ourselves in the same hallways as the Holy Spirit.

 I believe that verse 18 is the key verse of this passage… so let’s make sure we’ve got it!  Living a worthy life and making the most of every opportunity comes as the result of being filled by, walking with, staying in tune with the Holy Spirit.

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So, you ask, why am I writing about this during the week of Thanksgiving?  Don’t worry… I’m getting to that… just keep reading! :-)

Let’s take a look at verses 18-21.  Paul describes the results of the Spirit’s transforming work in our hearts.  These characteristics naturally overflow from the lives of Spirit-filled people:

18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,”  19addressing one another inpsalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Those verses describe a variety of characteristics but, of course, on this occasion we want to spend more time considering verse 20 and the importance of “giving thanks.”  Giving thanks “always” is Paul’s way of emphasizing the importance of giving thanks regularly or even constantly.  As we live by the Spirit, we will frequently respond with thanksgiving.

and for everything – We are to be thankful even for tough times and difficult circumstances because we trust God’s good plans and his ultimate control over all things.  John Stott points out, however, that need not be pressed that to include being thankful for evil.  God hates evil and we need not be thankful for blatant evil.

Next, I want us to take note of the fact that all 3 members of the Trinity are involved in our thanksgiving.  Being filled BY “the Spirit”, we give thanks TO “God the Father” “IN the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  We give thanks to God because He is the ultimate source of all things and the giver of good and perfect gifts.  Giving thanks in the name of Jesus means that we do so on the basis of who He is and what he has accomplished for us by his death and resurrection.  It is appropriate then, that during this celebration of Thanksgiving, we remember and give thanks for Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for us.

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Our aim, then, is to walk step with the Spirit, so that these things (including giving thanks) flow from our lives.  That is not to say that we can’t be intentional about being thankful.  By looking for opportunities to give thanks, we put ourselves in the hallways of the Spirit and open ourselves to His filling us… being filled with the Spirit results in us desiring to give thanks… giving thanks opens us to being filled…  Do you see the cycle?  As we allow the Spirit to work in and through us, we grow in Christ-likeness!

And that means we have a lot to be thankful for!