2021 and beyond: God is working…so be thankful
We’re told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks in everything. It’s easy for me to feel gratitude when I see a grandchild playing in the yard, or a beautiful sunset, or even when we get a much-needed spring rain. But what about a pandemic or a loved one shaking a fist and saying, “I don’t love you”? Why should I thank God for those things? Giving God thanks for all things demonstrates a recognition that He is a good God (Psalm 118:29), regardless of whether I consider something to be a blessing or a burden. Giving thanks expresses my trust that God is working all things for His good purposes (Romans 8:28) whether or not I understand how.
Bottom-line: Thanksgiving is our response to the works of God.
Something To Talk About:
- Giving thanks invites God’s presence: Being thankful is the foundation for all worship. In fact, without gratitude, your heart will not connect with the Lord in worship because worship is, first and foremost, a heart condition. In Psalm 50:23 the Lord said, “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” Thanksgiving and praise are the physical expressions of a grateful heart. In fact, a heart that is filled with thanks for what the Lord has done is ready to enter into His presence because praise is what paves the way into His courts. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4) If you struggle to feel connected to the Lord in worship, start by fixing your mind on what He has done for you- begin to speak gratitude to the Lord for what Jesus went through to procure your eternal salvation. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you, to inspire you with thoughts and reminders of what God has done and is doing in your life.
- Giving thanks changes your perspective: We need to change our perspective by remembering what He has done in our life. This is not a Sunday morning activity, but an every day one. Psalm 40:16 gives the greatest reason why we ought to be thankful to God, “But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!” When you pray in gratitude and give thanks to God in your circumstance, it changes your outlook. Your outlook changes because you realize you are not a victim, you are a victor. You can always be thankful. In fact, the Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Being thankful is a matter of perspective. Being thankful will change your outlook and your perspective.
- Giving thanks develops humility: One of the fundamental qualities invariably found in a grateful person is humility. Gratitude is the overflow of a humble heart, just as surely as an ungrateful, complaining spirit flows out of a proud heart. When we choose to humble ourselves, God draws near to us and pours His grace into our lives. His Spirit does a cleansing, purifying work in our hearts; gives us victory over self; and enables us to be thankful people, even in the midst of challenging circumstances. Ruth was a woman with a humble heart. She didn’t claim her rights. She didn’t insist that Boaz provide her a living by letting her glean in his fields. And because she relinquished her demands for certain expectations, she was able to be genuinely thankful when she actually did receive the blessing of his generosity. Ruth just went out to serve with a humble, thankful heart. And as a result, God made sure her needs were met. He’ll do the same for you. “My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine. I, the Lord, have spoken! I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts”.
who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)
- Giving thanks expresses faith: Sometimes it’s hard to have faith. Even for the Christian, who trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, there are moments when our faith flickers a little. That’s where giving thanks can come in. Instead of trying to “work up” your faith, or urging yourself inwardly to “just believe,” try saying inwardly a word of thanks, or, even better, out loud. But in some fashion, breathe a word of thanks. The giving of thanks is itself an act of trust. It’s an act of humility that in effect says “God, you are God, and I am not.” Giving thanks is a way of expressing trust in the One who is the maker and sustainer of all things. Giving thanks concedes that we are debtors to God and that we depend upon Him. The Scriptures tell us to be thankful in all things. We’re not told to be thankful for all things, but that in each and every circumstance, especially in hardship, we can and should be thankful. So remember to be thankful. Giving thanks is an act of trust and, when repeated, is an act of spiritual nourishment that can build our faith.
- Is being thankful really our choice? Can we actually decide that we will be thankful people?
- Where has being thankful ranked on your list of required Christian qualities up until now? Has this devotional changed your mind at all? If so, how?
- We rarely think the source of our problems is tied to our lack of being thankful. How do you think being thankful and praising God is the solution that will help us experience God’s best in our situations?
- How is your dependence on God connected to gratitude?
- Think of someone you know whose life is marked by gratitude. How do they express gratitude?
- Why is thankfulness an important part of the Christian life? In what ways do you give thanks on a regular basis in your life?
- What keeps you from thanksgiving? How often during the day do you find yourself grumbling and complaining? How can you foster a thankful heart and an appreciation for God’s work in your life today?
- In what ways could you cultivate more gratitude in your life? Be specific. What are some barriers to gratitude in your life?
- Reflect with your group on what have you learned from this message. Has anything surprised you? Have you learned something new?
- Share with your group any changes you want to make as a result of hearing this sermon?
Take one thing home with you:
When you pause and reflect on all that God has done for us, a mere “thank you” doesn’t seem to be enough. Have you ever felt that way? I know I have. How do you respond to the general grace that God gives all of us? How do you respond when God blesses you specifically – when He answers a prayer, He provides healing, He supplies your needs in a way only He can. While words are never going to be enough, they are needed.
Thankfulness is a reoccurring Bible theme. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Notice that we are told to give thanks in all circumstances. Thankfulness should simply be standard operating procedure regardless of our circumstances.
Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Here we have two reasons to be thankful: God’s goodness and His steadfast love.