The best substitute: thanksgiving

Years ago, I heard a message about the principle of substitution: that every time God instructs us to get rid of something, He provides a substitute. The positive trade-off is always much better than its alternative.

We are getting close to Thanksgiving Day, and people are counting their blessings. That is good.

I wonder how many of us are actually putting away junk and substituting a habit of praise for it. Where do I get this idea? Consider the following passage.

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks (Ephesians 5:3-4).

Don’t get tripped up at the first one: fornication. “I’m not a fornicator. This is for really bad sinners.” Look at the rest of the list: uncleanness—all of it. Well, everyone has sinned. Covetousness—ouch! Ever want something someone else owns? Let it not be once named among you. This steps on toes. A Christian hates sin and he’s content.

It continues: filthiness—you can probably include a lot of rottenness in this—and foolish talking. Did you ever say thoughtless, damaging words? Surely you have. The Bible says, For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body (James 3:2). Perfect self-control means we don’t offend in word and we reign in our physical desires.

Jesting. I had to look this one up. Does it mean playing around, harmless teasing? Does the Bible say that’s bad? No, this word really means “vulgar, lewd, crass, or foul-mouthed humor.”* As you can see, it goes along with filthiness and foolish talking.

What is the antidote for these sins? Praise. Giving of thanks.

I have found that when I have an attitude of praise—when I am actively looking for good and praising God for it—I am a happier person.

Let’s look at a companion passage that talks about giving thanks. The context is prayer, specifically an outline for prayer.

Be careful (full of care, anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Remember the principle of substitution? Here’s another one. Instead of being anxious and uneasy, what are we supposed to do? Well, pray. How? Supplication is asking God for something. We are all very good at that.

What comes next? Thanksgiving. This is the missing element in so many of our prayers. Yes, we are asking, pleading, and interceding—all good things. But, we forget ice our prayer cake: thanking God for listening, hearing, and for answering however He sees best in His infinite wisdom.

What’s the result of this kind of praying? Peace. And not just any kind of peace. It’s the kind that’s a Divine provision, unexplainable. How cool is that?

A habit of praise transforms. It’s the way a Christian is supposed to live.

Negativity and bitterness transforms, as well. It is a sinful lifestyle.

Which do you prefer?

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).

Happy Thanksgiving!