Daily Devotional: Ephesians 5:18-20


This week we’ve spent time considering what God wants for us in this time of abnormal American life. I’ve argued that God wants your trust in Christ and your hope in the gospel to spill out into your life through joy, prayer, and gratitude. As I’ve shown all week, this statement arises from Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” —1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Our union with Christ leads to continual joy and prayerfulness. But it must also produce gratitude. Thanksgiving means giving thanks. I know that’s not earth-shattering news, but I bring it up to draw a contrast between Christian gratitude and worldly gratitude. Giving thanks means that another person is receiving the expression of gratitude. In other words, it’s a personal concept. I can be glad for many things in my life, like my job, kids, wife, home, etc. But I can’t be thankful unless I’m actually thanking someone. That’s the distinctive reality in Christian Thanksgiving. We’re thanking God. We’re acknowledging His provision and kindness to us. While the world may have its gladitude, Only Christians recognizing the all-sufficient and gracious God can have gratitude.

And, by the way, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed how much thankfulness pops up in the New Testament. Consider a few examples:

”And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ….” —Ephesians 5:18-20

”Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place but instead let there be thanksgiving.” —Ephesians 5:4

”Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” —Colossians 3:16

”Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. —Philippians 4:6

That’s just a slice. But you get the idea. Gratitude should characterize the Christian life.

And yes, I can hear the objections. “Yes, but my job…” “I’ve been cooped up so long…” “You don’t know how my kids…” “I’m scared…” Christian gratitude looks different than the world’s, first because we direct it to God. But it also looks different because of the motivator. Thanksgiving assumes that something has made us thankful. In other words, if the primary source of our gratitude to God is the physical stuff, stability, security in our lives, then it’ll run dry in times like these. But if our thankfulness is based on the eternal blessings and promises of the gospel, then we will truly abound in thanksgiving.

”For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. —2 Corinthians 4:17-18

What does God want for you in this time? God wants your trust in Christ and your hope in the gospel to spill out into your life through joy, prayer, and gratitude.

May He work in us, that which is pleasing in His sight.