In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. – I Thessalonians 5:18
Want to be in the will of God? Give thanks!
Expressing gratitude is a foundational discipline in our walk with God. It demonstrates humility and recognizes that we live in relationship to God and others.
The concept of gratitude is so close to God’s heart that in the Old Testament, the words thanks or thanksgiving come up 102 (and you could argue for many other places where the words bless, extol, etc. are used). In the New Testament, it comes up 72 times. It’s kind of a big deal!
Gratitude posts on social media are ubiquitous in November. It is good to take the opportunity to express thanks, but if we are not careful, the posts can become white noise without prompting a change in our behavior.
So how are we doing?
- Do I notice those around me who have made a contribution to my life? When is the last time I sent a thank you text or note or call?
- In the past week, have I thanked God for any of his attributes, his qualities that are unique to him?
- In the past week, have I thanked God for what he has done for me?
How’d we do?
1. Thanking God for those around me
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to appreciate those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. – I Thessalonians 5: 12-13
Paul spends precious ink space to encourage them to notice those around them who are working hard, and to thank them!
Seeing someone’s hard work and telling them thank you can give them strength and encouragement to keep going. Those who have made a positive impact in your life might be going through a hard time and your gratitude may be the very fuel they need to stave off discouragement!
Who is someone I need to acknowledge for their contribution in my life? Text or call them or write a thank you note for what they have done.
2. Thanking God for who he is
When we focus on God’s characteristics, our hearts naturally go to worship. Because worship elevates God, when we focus on how great his power is and how great his love is for us, our fears fade.
Take five minutes to say out loud or write out why you are thankful for his attributes.
Example: God is eternal/has no beginning or end.
I thank you God that you are eternal. Because you have no end, I need not fear death. I can trust that your Kingdom will not come end. I do not need to fear another power removing you. I can trust that you know this world and know me completely because you were here before time began.
Other characteristics of God.
He is omnipresent/everywhere.
He is omniscient/knows everything.
He is omnipotent/all powerful.
He is sovereign.
He is holy.
He is immutable/he does not change.
The Psalms frequently use these phrases to express gratitude, I bless your name, I love you, I extol your name, I trust in you. Try using new ways to express your thanksgiving to God!
3. Thanking God for what he has done
Thanking God reminds us of where we have been. When we’re moving fast, we can lose perspective and not notice that God has moved us forward!
Remembering his work in our life is not only good for us, it builds our faith muscle for the next hard thing in life. If we are careful to remember and declare his faithfulness, we create a healthy habit that makes it easier to turn to him and recognize his involvement when we encounter hard times.
Take five minutes and think of one area of your life where you’ve seen God make a change.
Is he healing a relationship? Has he provided a job? Do you see signs of maturity in one of your kids?
Thumbing through the Psalms or listening to praise music can help you find words to express your thoughts.
Psalm 8, Psalm 19, Psalm 24 are some good ones to start with.
Let’s not wait for Thanksgiving! May we pause to thank God for who he is and what he has done for us.
Finally, I thank you for what you are doing! 2020 has been incredibly rough, but you are still standing and you have worked HARD to keep your family going. That is praiseworthy. Keep it up. We are praying for you!
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6