The Heart of Thanksgiving (3)
Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! Psalm 105.1-3
God in everything
A well-kept heart is the critical core of a strong soul, and nothing exercises the heart toward God more than the practice of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving nurtures true gratitude, which abounds in love for God and overflows in love for our neighbors. So it’s no wonder, as we have seen, that it is the will of God for those who are in Christ Jesus to give thanks in every situation and all circumstances. Failing to give thanks means taking for granted or denying the sovereignty and goodness of God, turning away from Him to our circumstances, and entering the spiral of rebellion and drifting from the Lord. God is God – holy, righteous, true, good, loving, and wise – even when everything is going wrong in our lives.
Yet even when our circumstances are extremely favorable, our giving of thanks must reach beyond them, beyond any experience of blessing, beyond giving thanks merely for such conditions, to acknowledge and applaud the One Who orders all our circumstances according to His wise, good, and perfect will.
At their best, the circumstances of our lives should serve above all to remind us of God, Who grants us His blessings in His way and time. At their most disagreeable, our circumstances should do precisely the same. As giving thanks aims at this proper focus, without regard for the specific nature of our circumstances, feeling grateful will grow in us more and more. The gratitude we feel, in other words, will be the upshot of the thanks we give. If we try to base thanksgiving the other way around – waiting until we feel gratitude before we give thanks –we will not fulfill the will of God for us.
Thus, practicing thanksgiving nurtures thankfulness in our hearts, and makes us ready for the next opportunity to give thanks in everything, no matter what.
A sense of God
What this means is that we need at all times to have a clear and unshakable sense of God – Who He is, how He relates to us, the place our lives occupy within His economy, the ways He is revealing Himself, His Presence with us, Him watching over us, and so forth. For when our focus is on God, when God is the object of our thanksgiving and we are growing in the knowledge of our Lord, nothing in our circumstances will be able to deter or distract us from celebrating His eternal goodness, wisdom, power, and love.
Allow me to make a few observations concerning God which it will be good for us to bear in mind, if we are to succeed in practicing thanksgiving as He intends.
First, God is our Creator. Apart from Him, neither we nor anything in the vast cosmos would exist. God was not required to create us. He does not need us, and He gains no glory from us, save that of His own which we refract back to Him. God made us because of love, because of a free desire within Himself to express His love into a creation that includes us and all the people in our lives.
Our very being, therefore, is a platform for the manifestation of the eternal and pure love of our Creator God. So likewise is all the vast creation around us, which speaks continuously to us of the glory of its Creator (Ps. 19.1-4).
Second, not only is God our Creator, but He is also sovereign. That is, nothing that exists continues to exist apart from His intimate and personal attention to every single detail of all that is. Jesus Christ, the Word of God, upholds the world and all things in it by His powerful Word (Heb. 1.3). While we can understand that this is so, we cannot fathom the mechanics of it, not fully, at any rate, except to realize that, if God the Word should ever cease speaking His power toward us – however that works – we would certainly cease to exist.
We and the cosmos we inhabit are not the products of eternal matter randomly colliding, expanding, and morphing over vast eons of time. Nor is our continued existence merely the result of impersonal “laws” of chemistry or physics. We are here because of God, and we continue to be here because He upholds and provides for every aspect of our being. There’s plenty for which to give thanks in contemplating this great mystery and truth.
Finally, God’s essential disposition toward all His creatures is love. He loves the vast cosmos which He created and sustains (Jn. 3.16). He loves even His enemies, who ignore or deny Him, or even mount attacks against His holy name and Law (Matt. 5.43-48; cf. Ps. 52.1). And He loves those He has redeemed through Jesus Christ our Lord. In His love for us He thinks good thoughts toward us and bears good gifts to us – all the innumerable blessings by which we survive and thrive each day. These are all the good gifts of our loving God, Who made us and sustains us solely because He is love.
Keep in mind that God is not obliged to love us. He chooses to, freely, constantly, and lavishly. He gains nothing by loving us. But we gain everything.
Worthy of our thanks
Does such a God deserve the thanks of His creatures? Assuredly, He does.
What ingrates we are who take for granted our blessings, our lives, our very existence, and fail to give thanks to God in every situation and at every opportunity. What churls we are, receiving daily of God’s bounty and love, yet failing to give thanks to Him in everything, as often as we may, regardless of who may hear us.
We give thanks to God, not because of the circumstances of our lives, but because of the God Who rules our circumstances, and because of the unfathomable goodness and steadfast love He expresses toward us at every moment.
And we give thanks because this great God commands it, knowing, as He does, that thanksgiving is so important to maintaining a well-kept heart and a strong soul.
1. Why is it important to give thanks in everything, and not just when everything is going well?
2. Suggest some ways of keeping God more in mind throughout the day.
3. Giving thanks out loud is a way of fulfilling our calling to be His witnesses. Explain.
Next steps – Transformation: Write out a brief prayer of thanks to God, based on Who you understand Him to be. Today, use that prayer for giving thanks to the Lord, just because of Who He is.
T. M. Moore
Your soul in the Kingdom of God
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.