We live in a society that values social conventions. A person that doesn’t say “please” and “thank-you” is considered ill-mannered. But these words have become an automatic human interaction and are expected even if they are said with no sincerity. How many times do we hear the casual expression, “Thank God!” without any real reflection of gratitude? A version of “thank-you” which is merely polite or habitual will never draw us closer to God.
Thankfulness is an admission we have received help; and as a result, we offer appreciation. As we fellowship with the Creator of the universe, a natural part of our conversation is punctuated with “Thank-you.” Whether it’s prayer, praise, worship or just quiet meditation, thankfulness toward God is simply giving credit where credit is due.
Thankfulness Acknowledges God
Giving thanks recognizes God’s care for us. Like anyone, my life has its share of emotional ups and downs. When I feel discouraged, I can immediately sense a distance with God. What was previously a conversational path with Jesus quickly becomes a lonely walk with doubt and self-pity. When I catch myself feeling down, I go to my knees and thank God for His hand in my life for everything that comes to mind. I make a point to remember His influence through the years, acknowledging His grace in protecting, guiding, healing and forgiving. No one could ever list all the goodness of God. Yet, when I rise to my feet after just a few minutes of “Thankfulness Therapy,” I find I’ve been restored.
It’s tragic to witness God’s greatness but never thank Him. Though His influence is sometimes hidden, He purposefully leaves clues in creation that lead to Him. God’s expectation is that the natural world should direct us to acknowledge His power and give thanks.
“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.” (Romans 1:20-21 NLT).
Those who refuse to see God’s work around them are blind in their foolishness. What does thankfulness cost us? … only humility in acknowledging God. For those who know God, thankfulness is the most fundamental means of recognizing His power, grace, and provision. What does thankfulness obtain for us? … the opportunity to draw near to God through Jesus.
Thankfulness is an Expression of Faith
Most of us regard thankfulness as an expression of gratitude for God’s help in the past. It’s wonderful to hear testimonies of God’s blessings, whether it is for finances, transportation, employment or healing. However, thankfulness need not be limited to what we have received historically. As we draw closer to God, He calls us to give thanks for what we don’t yet see. As He was teaching His disciples, Jesus spoke,
“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” (Mark 11:24 NASB).
Notice that the instruction is to “believe that you have received them,” (past tense). There is no instruction to have faith that you will receive them, (future tense). “How do we implement that kind of faith?” The only way to demonstrate faith like that is to give thanks for those things for which we’ve asked but not yet witnessed.
Certainly, it’s right to thank God for what we can see and hold in our hands. After all, who wouldn’t give thanks to God for healing, once cancer has gone into remission. But when we stand in the face of hopeless adversity and give thanks to God, we establish a new level of trust in Him. This kind of thanksgiving is an exercise in faith, and it finds great favor with God. Andrew Murray, the 19th Century evangelist, had this to say,
“It is not easy, against all appearances, to hold fast our confidence that He will hear, and to persevere in full assurance that we shall have what we ask. And yet this is what God looks for from us. He so highly prizes our confidence in Him, it is so essentially the highest honour the creature can render the Creator, that He will do anything to train us in the exercise of this trust in Him.”
Murray, Andrew. The Ministry of Intercession A Plea for More Prayer (p. 39). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.
In II Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned to God when the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Meunites came to make war with Judah in Jerusalem. Jehoshaphat sought God and proclaimed a fast throughout the kingdom. He knew that his people had no hope of victory aside from God. Jehoshaphat made giving thanks to God his only defense.
“When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the Lord and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ When they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed.” (II Chronicles 20:21-22 NASB).
Jehoshaphat’s thankfulness toward God became a powerful expression of faith. Those who gave thanks to God actually stood between the army of Judah and the overwhelming forces that had come to destroy them. God walked with that nation as they faced their greatest fears. He defended them. He delivered them. He rewarded Jehoshaphat’s faith that was so completely expressed through the giving of thanks.
Thankfulness Doesn’t Mean Much if You Have to Ask
My wife and I raised four children; and now we have five grandchildren. Training a child to be thankful can be a tedious task. A typical conversation might be:
Me: Ms. Smith gave you a cookie. What do we say?
Me: No. What do we say?
Obviously, this conversation wasn’t for the benefit of Ms. Smith. But what about our conversations with God? We are no longer children. As we draw closer to God, we see His hand active in areas we had never imagined. Faithfully, lovingly and powerfully He influences the course of our days as He heals, empowers and provides for our needs. We lift up our eyes and give thanks as we see glimpses of a future that is entirely grounded in Him. Because of our closeness to God, we needn’t be prompted like a child. Rather, in His presence our spirits break out with uncontainable praise as we draw closer to God with thanksgiving.
“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.” (Psalm 100 NLT).
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