Gratitude Always for All Things

Ephesians 5:20 teaches us that an essential part of wisdom is "giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." The grammar of this verse links it back to 5:18, which indicates that the gratitude Paul describes is a result of being filled with the Spirit. This makes perfect sense, of course, because only the Holy Spirit's sanctifying power in our lives could enable us to thank our heavenly Father "always for all things". This radical gratitude is both the path toward wisdom and the fruit of Spiritual wisdom.

Radical gratitude means a life of humble submission and thanksgiving to our heavenly Father who is absolutely sovereign and unfailingly good. Our word "radical" comes from the Latin word radix and means "root". Paul is not referring to a superficial happiness that tries to ignore trials and hardships, nor is he calling us to wallow in grief as if it were a positive good we should desire. On the contrary, Paul is describing a perspective and posture of gratitude toward all of life that wholeheartedly trusts the goodness and wisdom of God even in the midst of great sorrow.

The only way to really learn this sort of gratitude is by singing the psalms (Eph. 5:19). So many psalms begin with lament that seriously grapples with real trouble and then moves into real gratitude and joy. If we are to walk in wisdom and redeem every opportunity in evil days (5:15-16), then we need the royal wisdom of the inspired psalms. Martin Luther, who learned the wisdom of grateful trust from the psalms, described the difference between a life of gratitude on one hand and a life of self-pity and bitterness on the other. "This faith creates rest, satisfaction, and peace and dispels weariness. But where faith is lacking and man judges according to his own feelings, ideas, and perception, behold, weariness arises. Because he feels only his own misery and not that of his neighbor, he does not see his own privileges nor how unfortunate his neighbor is. The result of this unsatisfied feeling is aversion, trouble, and toil throughout life. He grows impatient and quarrels with God. God is not praised, and there is no love or gratitude to God.... He embitters his life, and hell is his reward. Here you see how faith is necessary in everything; how it makes all things easy, good, and pleasant, even in prison or in death, as the martyrs prove. But without faith all things are difficult, bad, and bitter, even if all the pleasures and joys of the whole world were yours, as is shown by all the mighty and the rich, who live the most miserable life all the time."

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