Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Practice of Thanksgiving (1)

We have to work at it.

The Heart of Thanksgiving (5)

I will freely sacrifice to You;
I will praise Your name, O L
ORD, for it is good. Psalm 54.6

What God requires
We have said that what God requires of us in thanksgiving is not, in the first instance, some disposition of our heart – a feeling of gratitude – but an act of obedient faith which acknowledges His sovereignty and love – giving thanks.

Moreover, He calls us to thanksgiving in every situation and in every thing. In other words, there is not a situation or circumstance in our lives which is not appropriate for giving thanks to God.

Thus, it is clear that God intends thanksgiving to be something closely associated with us, something, as it were, indistinguishable from us, a characteristic so intrinsic to who we are that people cannot think of us apart from it. Our text suggests that offering sacrifices of thanksgiving to God should be spontaneous, something that issues from us almost without thinking, and in every situation. I am reminded of Pigpen, the Peanuts character who kicks up a cloud of dust wherever he is – even in the midst of a snowstorm; just so, we are to “kick up” an aura or envelope of thanksgiving as a fundamental aspect of our being-in-the-world.

And let us bear in mind that the promise for doing this is peace that guards our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ, and preserves in us a sense of wellbeing, come what may.

So how can we do this? How can we practice thanksgiving in such a way as to fulfill the guidelines of Scripture and know the rich promise of God?

The impetus for thanksgiving
I want to look at this in two contexts, first, that of our individual calling to give thanks. Then, in the next installment, we will consider how believers together can multiply thanksgiving by their example and encouragement to one another.

Thanksgiving such as God requires of us grows out of knowledge and awareness – the knowledge of God and awareness of the many blessings He brings our way each day. The starting point for thanksgiving, therefore, is in a vital relationship with God, nurtured and sustained each day by reading and meditation in Scripture and through prayer, and by noting the glory and Presence of God in the many gifts and blessings He provides each day.

We will not be likely to think of God much throughout the day, much less to give Him thanks, if we do not invest significant time and effort in knowing Him through Scripture and prayer. Are your Bible reading practices consistently yielding new insights and understandings into God and His love for you? Do you find that you are being drawn through His Word into the very Presence of His glory? Is prayer a time of enjoyable communion with God, or just another item on your list of things to do?

Unless these disciplines are in place, and constantly being improved, you will be unlikely to have the mindset or heartset for turning to God in thanksgiving.

As we grow in our relationship with God, we will find that He is on our minds more often throughout the day. Then we will notice all the many ways that He, in steadfast love and faithfulness, blesses us each day – food to eat, family and friends to love and enjoy, clothes to wear, freedom, health, work, transportation, a world full of beauty and wonder: all these are blessings from God, and each is meant both to benefit us as well as to induce us to give thanks to God. Thus, the more mindful we are of God and observant of His many blessings, the more we will be ready to give Him thanks in every situation.

But we will also remember that He is with us and providing for us even in adversity or trial, suffering or loss. And then we will be more likely to give thanks for Him in even such difficult times.

Pray, share, and sing
Such thanksgiving can come in prayer, of course, in which we simply express in words our gratitude to God for whatever we are observing, experiencing, or pondering in our hearts. Let such prayers be specific, and let them be detailed. Don’t settle for saying simply, “Lord, I really just thank You for being so good.” Specify the cause of your gratitude; explain in detail how this particular boon especially blesses you, or this trial stretches you; let one thing lead to another as you offer your prayers of thanksgiving to God. Take time in the car, as you’re moving from one task to the next, or even in silent prayer while you are working, eating, or meeting with friends. Cultivate prayers of thanksgiving of various kinds for every situation, and see how the peace of God descends and fills you.

Talk to others about the goodness of God and the things in your life that cause you to give thanks. Doing so will have the additional benefit of encouraging others in this most practical affection as well.

You might also try singing your thanksgiving to the Lord, as the psalmist directs in Psalm 147.7. If you don’t know any hymns of thanksgiving, learn some, or write one of your own, or simply break out into impromptu songs of thanks to God as you feel led – the Lord, you will recall, loves even a joyful noise.

Don’t be content merely to think about giving thanks, or to give thanks only as part of your regular prayer time. Begin to practice thanksgiving throughout your day, and watch how God’s peace envelops your every waking moment.

For reflection
1.  What are some reasons you might not practice thanksgiving each day?

2.  How can believers help one another in giving thanks more spontaneously?

3.  What hymn or psalm of thanksgiving might you use to improve this discipline?

Next steps – Transformation: What is your “thanksgiving plan” for today? Think it through. Commit to it. Share it with some friends. Carry it out. Then review it before you retire at night.

T. M. Moore

Your soul in the Kingdom of God
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.

Jesus has conveyed us into the Kingdom of God. It is in the context of seeking the Kingdom that we can grow strong souls. Our book, The Kingdom Turn, can help you understand and begin making yourself more at home in the Kingdom of God. Order your free copy by clicking here.

Thanks for your prayers and support
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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.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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