For us as Christians, thanksgiving should be our daily lifestyle, not just a holiday we celebrate for one day each year.
Yes, this is a time to be thankful for our American heritage … for freedom … for our unique and many blessings.
But my prayer is this attitude of thanksgiving be much more.
Many of you are familiar with 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which says, “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
This is actually only one part of a sentence:
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NASB)
Rejoice … Pray … Give thanks. All 3 verbs go together and are to be actively engaged in simultaneously.
The command to pray without ceasing doesn’t mean that we literally are to do nothing but pray 24/7…
The phrase “without ceasing” in New Testament Greek is analogous to a hacking cough that won’t go away … that kind of cough where you think you’ve cleared your throat and have gotten rid of it, but a minute or so later, it comes back again.
In Ephesians 5:15-20, giving thanks is accompanied by:
- “Making the most of your time” (literally “redeeming” the time)
- Being “filled with the Spirit”
- “Speaking to one another in songs and hymns and spiritual songs”
- “Singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord”
Over and over again in the Old Testament, the Israelites are commanded to “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
(for example, 1 Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 106:1, Psalm 136:1)
Why are we commanded in Scripture so many times to give thanks to God? Why does it seem to be such a big deal to Him? Here are 4 reasons why it’s so important for us to develop the habit of giving thanks:
1. Giving thanks brings us peace and comfort during difficult times.
Some of you may be facing severe financial hardship this year – which is always difficult, but especially during the holiday season…
Others may have lost friends or loved ones in one of the horrific mass shootings this year … or in one of the devastating wildfires…
Or you may be dealing with serious health issues … or you may have lost everything in a fire, flood, hurricane or some other natural disaster.
At one time or another, all of us have had to endure trials, tribulations and troubling circumstances … and we all do battle every day with our own personal demons.
Giving thanks in the midst of difficult circumstances brings peace and comfort into our minds and hearts by accomplishing 2 critical things:
- It takes the focus of our attention off of ourselves and our problems.
- It puts the focus of our attention on God, where it should be.
In Philippians 4:6-7, the apostle Paul instructs us:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (NASB)
And here’s an amazing resource for coping with tragedy from Psalm 46…
God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains be shaken into the midst of the seas… The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge [our high tower and stronghold]. Selah [Pause, and calmly think of that]!
(Psalm 46:1-2, 11, Amplified Bible)
2. Giving thanks makes us happier people.
Focusing on God – His character and what He has done for us through His infinite love, mercy and grace – instead of focusing on ourselves and our difficulties … will give us not only peace and comfort, but also joy.
Giving thanks lifts our spirits and changes our mood. It has a soothing effect on our emotions.
Here are some ways of giving thanks in addition to prayer:
- Silently sing – or sing out loud if you’re alone – a favorite hymn or worship song.
- Listen to worship music on CD or on a Bluetooth device.
- Memorize a few Bible verses about the character of God and quote them to yourself.
- Read Psalms that focus on worship and praise. Psalm 136 and 145 are good ones to start with.
3. Giving thanks lifts the spirits of those around us.
Psalm 1:1 cautions us against sitting around idly passing the time in places where scorners and mockers gather.
Because idle talk and negative attitudes are contagious.
By contrast, a spirit of peace, comfort and joy that will permeate our countenance when we are giving thanks will also be contagious.
When other people notice our positive attitude, they’ll be attracted to us. They’ll want to be around us because of the encouragement they will receive.
4. Giving thanks opens the door for God to bless us.
One blessing will be that we will become people that others will want to hang around with and be with.
Who doesn’t want to be near people who handle trials and tribulations with calmness and grace and a sense of peace rather than panic?
Others will be encouraged and blessed by our presence … and we will be blessed with opportunities to minister to them by example … as well as with words of encouragement.
Other blessings that come our way will be the result of obeying God’s commands regarding giving thanks…
God promises to bless those who obey his will. See Psalm 119:97-104 and Romans 5:1-5 for examples of the blessings that come from obedience.
Let’s use the Thanksgiving holiday this year as an opportunity to begin developing a year-round “lifestyle of thanksgiving.”
Let’s also use the special holiday this year to pray for those who have suffered unspeakable loss from the devastating wildfires and from the tragic mass shootings.
Pray that God will comfort and sustain them … and give them His peace – the peace that surpasses all comprehension – the peace that the world cannot give because the world does not know the Prince of Peace.
What do you think? Write me at [email protected].