In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
This verse came to me this morning as I was actually practicing it before I got out of bed. As I intentionally was thanking God for various specific people and blessings I couldn't help but notice its powerful effect on my spirit. I felt relief, stimulated, increasingly positive and less stressed. My perspective was quickly changing about my problems and I knew that this is exactly why God has told us to practice this most important virtue.
But when this verse came to mind as a reinforcement for what I was doing, a question came up in my ever-inquiring mind. Just exactly what does the word thanks really mean? I am no longer satisfied to just live with the accepted, assumed meanings of most words anymore, especially since I have discovered upon closer examination that a great many of them actually have very different meanings and connotations than what is generally believed. So I decided to get out of bed and look up the original Greek word behind this to see what I might discover.
And discover I did – much to my delight and surprise. At first I thought I was going to have be content with just the normal definition that didn't really tell me anything significant. That definition in Strong's sounded very usual, things like being grateful, to express gratitude, even saying grace at a meal. That is exactly the kind of definition I want to get past to find the underlying real meaning of just what all those words really imply. So I continued to probe and looked at the root words from which the first Greek word originated.
The main word translated thanks is eucharisteo which is taken from the word eucharistos. But I saw that this second word seemed to be simply a different way of describing the same thing. Apparently the first word is the active, outward expression of the kind of person the second word describes. Eucharistos means a person who is like this on the inside. But then this second word is actually a composite word made up of two other Greek words that really opened things up for my investigation.
The first half of the word comes from the Greek word eu which is simply an adverb meaning good or well. I suppose that it is like putting a positive spin on the meaning of the whole word of which it is a part. But the second part of the root of eucharistos is what really grabbed my attention. That is the word charizomai.
Now, if you have not been exposed to the fascinating insights that help to unpack the true meaning of forgiveness as taught in the Bible and that have been explained so effectively by Herb Montgomery, then you might miss the incredible significance of this find. But charizomai is one of the most powerful concepts ever unleashed for me over the past few years. When one begins to catch a glimpse of the amazing love and forgiveness behind this word and reinforced all throughout the Bible, their life can never again be the same.
I had no idea that this potent word and concept was hidden inside the word about giving thanks or being thankful. But as I thought about it more abstractly and viewed it from an emotional, spiritual angle it really began to make more sense for me. For charizomai really means unconditional forgiveness and describes the very heart and mindset of the one forgiving. This is not conditioned on the attitude or actions of the ones being forgiven but is purely an outworking of the character of the one doing the forgiving. It includes the idea of unconditional love which is one thing about God that people find most difficult to really grasp. But it is the description of God that has the most power to transform hearts and lives when it finally takes root in the soul and begins to bear fruit.
What I am now seeing more clearly here is that when I choose to be thankful or maintain a heartfelt attitude of gratitude toward someone, that very atmosphere begins to crowd out the negative emotions, the ill-will, the grudges and offenses that I may have toward that person as the positive aspects of gratitude, just like forgiveness, begins to transform both my own perspective toward that person as well as exerting a positive influence on others around me as well.
Many have heard the old cliché that prayer changes things. I have come to realize that a lot of prayer doesn't really change much of anything because so many of our prayers are just a formality and are very shallow because they have little to no real connection with the heart. Many times we get frustrated with prayer and with God because it seems that He is not listening to us very much or answering our requests and demands. But I have been coming to realize that prayer is supposed to be much different than pulling knobs on a vending machine; it is supposed to be an interactive, ongoing communication that takes place between two hearts and minds very interested in getting to know each other better. True prayer is more along the line of what spontaneously happens between two starry-eyed lovers wanting desperately to know each other better. And in our relation to God, getting to know Him and allowing Him to know us is absolutely the most important thing we need to experience. (see Matthew 7:21-23)
A getting to know kind of communication involves the type of prayer about which Paul speaks of here in the beginning verse about giving thanks. But this giving thanks, as I am now beginning to see, includes the practice of letting go of the negative things we hold onto, both toward others and the ill-feelings we have about God. It includes all that I have been learning about the vital truth of living free of offenses in the heart. This truth I was introduced to in the book The Bait of Satan and has opened up many insights for me in other areas and now I am starting to see how it fits in closely with thankfulness.
When my gratitude and thankfulness begin to come from deeper in my heart than just a surface pretense, it will begin to loosen the offenses that hide inside of me and prevent me from loving and forgiving those who have offended me. As I choose to forgive them unconditionally, which means letting go of my feelings of offense against them, not based on their asking me to but based on my own choice to live a different kind of life in relation to those around me, I will find myself the one who experiences the most liberation. True freedom is when the soul becomes free of all the offenses, the lies, the confusion and the stress brought about by holding onto all that is unlike God. And this is the main goal of the Holy Spirit, to set us free from these traps, these prisons of selfishness, offense, bitterness and resentments. By exchanging grudges for gratitude I can begin to discover the freedom of soul that my Creator designed for me to enjoy.
Jesus, thank-you for showing me this today. Keep reminding me of these things and dwell in me with Your Spirit of joy, gratitude, praise and thankfulness. Thank-you for being so patient with me and for continually showing me more and more treasures from Your Word. Thank-you for the hidden but incredible power You have placed in unexpected places like this that can provide for deeper healing of my life. Make me a blessing today and keep me focused on the good things about others instead of fault-finding. Replace my life-long habits of negative thinking with new patterns of thinking, reacting and perceiving. Replace the filters through which I view others and through which I interpret experiences. Be my new vision and transform me into Your likeness – all for Your reputation's sake.