RELIGION: Think thanks

Thank you. Thanks.

That phrase and word are some of the most used, yet misused words in the English language.

We say "thank you" all the time: In our prayers, when someone does something for us, in anger when someone finally relents and lets us get our way. (OK -- maybe that last one is just me). We even have a day set aside to celebrate our muchness, which is a word by the way! Tomorrow we will sit around and load up on carbohydrates and football in a food-frenzied feast and festival.

Have you ever stopped to think about what "thanks" truly means? Thankfulness is a response to something that someone has done.

Before I was a pastor, I taught in the public school system. I once worked with a veteran teacher who could have held a clinic on how to be thankful. She and her fiancé had found love later in life -- and we wanted to celebrate with her.

After school one day, we held a wedding shower. I watched in amazement as she opened each gift, some better than others, with deep gratitude. It didn't matter what was in the package; this woman overflowed with thanksgiving. I watched in absolute admiration as she thought deeply about what each gift could be used for, a story that went with it, and how she saw herself using it.

One particular gift was a set of kitchen dishcloths. I thought to myself, "This should be interesting. How do you overflow with gratitude for those!" She looked at the person who gave them to her and gushed, "These are beautiful! I know right where I'll put them in my kitchen, and every time I wash the dishes, I'll think of you and how grateful I am to cook in my kitchen for my new husband!" Are you kidding me? It really left an impression.

Being thankful isn't something we do; it's a lifestyle to which we are called. We are called by God to be thankful in all circumstances. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says, "Thank God no matter what happens." (MSG)

Thanks comes from an Old English word that means "thought, or think." In essence, the word "thanks" means "I will think about (put to mind) what you have done for me." One etymologist said that think and thanks have the same relationship as sing and song. Essentially, you sing (action) a song (noun). If the logic follows, you think (action) thanks (noun) ... you live the lifestyle of thankfulness. You think thanks.

The 136th Psalm is a song of Thanksgiving. It begins: "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever."

As life gets busy and hectic, stressful, or wearing, we say thanks, but we don't take the time to pause and reflect on the things for which we should be thankful.

There are many times in life when we could use a good dose of remembrance regarding this verse. There are times when I am unlovable, don't feel loved, or don't want to love someone else. I can assure you that I am not the only one.

It's in those moments that we can think thanks and think about this scripture, and remember that God's love endures forever. His love endures when I need it most. His love endures when you need it most -- even when you don't think you do.

You can learn a lot from children -- especially your own! My children have taught me that my love for them is also steadfast. It endures. Being a coach for much of my adult life, I came to treasure steadfastness in my athletes. Being steadfast is having the quality that can be counted on and expected to perform.

Like an athlete who is steadfast, so is God's love. It will always perform, it will always endure, you can always count on it, and it will always live up to the expectations. But sometimes the steadfast athlete still misses the net, sometimes the steadfast athlete strikes out, and sometimes the steadfast athlete gets beat by someone faster. God's love is steadfast and endures -- forever. There's never a time when His love won't hit the target, miss the ball, or get beat. His love wins every single time. It's undefeated.

I have great kids: polite, kind, loving, and driven -- but they aren't perfect. There are plenty of times that I am left scratching my head and asking, "Why in the world did you do that?" Regardless of that -- my love endures: There's nothing they can ever do to make me love them any more or less. Why? Because they are mine!

The same is true for God: In Christ, you are His -- and His steadfast love endures forever. Now, I don't know about you, but that is more than enough reason to be thankful and think thanks.

Listen to: "Grace Alone" by Kings Kaleidoscope.

Jeremy DeGroot is lead pastor at First Baptist Church Siloam Springs; a husband, daddy and musician. You can contact him via email at [email protected] or reach out on Facebook.