I recently took a friend of mine to lunch. For a long time I listened to his complaints about his life. I wanted to be empathetic and have compassion for him in his situation because quite honestly, the situation he finds himself in is far beyond where I’ve been.
But after a solid half hour or more of complaining about how much he hated his life and was angry with people and God, I finally asked him this question, “Are you able to tell me one thing you are thankful for?” He couldn’t come up with one thing. So I asked him this question, “Is your thanks and praise to God determined by what other people do to you or is there a more solid foundation on which you could base it?” This is also a great time to stop and do some self-evaluation. Ask yourself this question, what is my thankful level and what is my thankfulness based upon?
The Bible paints a different picture of where thanks and praise come from. If you are not a believer, track with me, and hopefully you will be able to see why Christians should be the most thankful people on earth, but beyond that, I hope you will get to experience a Christian who is thankful in all circumstances. But most of all, I pray you will see the inferiority of basing your thanksgiving upon circumstances. This leaves us in an ever-fluctuating state where our circumstances control our demeanor.
I shared a message recently during our Thanksgiving service from Psalm 100 titled, “The Why’s & How’s of Giving Thanks.” During the message, we discovered that interwoven throughout this Psalm were six “why’s” and six “how to’s” about giving thanks. David the psalmist tells us both how to give God thanks and why we give Him thanks. Throughout his lifetime, David mastered this principle. Whether defending his sheep from a lion, running from King Saul who was trying to kill him, dodging a coup d’état from his son, Absalom, or enjoying the rich blessings of God as the King of Israel, David was always thanking and praising God. He also penned these famous words; “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth (see Psalm 34:1).”
Paul the apostle also gives us some instruction about giving thanks. He said, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV, italics mine).” Notice he didn’t say, “Give thanks for all circumstances.” That’s because there is a difference. We don’t have to be thankful for difficult or tragic circumstances, put on a happy face and “fake it until we make it,” but we do need to learn to be thankful in all things regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in. Being thankful to God isn’t circumstantial. It is based on something much more solid. It is based on who God is and what He has done. When we begin to consider these things, our circumstances become secondary to God Himself and we can give praise and thanks in and through anything we face.
At the end of the message, I challenged our congregation to meditate on one “why” and one “how to” each day for the next six days as we learn how to be thankful in all things. I also said I would make my best effort to do a blog about this each day to help shape their meditations, so here goes!
Psalm 100:1-3 NKJV 1Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! 2Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3 Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
We give thanks and praise because He created us
God’s creation is a thing of wonder, especially human beings! Meditating on His power and ability to create, the beauty of His creation and the forethought that went into it all should invoke thanks and praise in us. His creation alone is enough to render all people to be without excuse in their acknowledgement of God (see Romans 1:20). Furthermore, He created us for a purpose – to worship and glorify Him while carrying out His divine plan that He laid out for us before the foundation of the world.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.[i]
Think about that. Before you were born God had thought about you, chose you to be His and laid out a plan for your life. He created good things for you to do. You were created with intentionality. With purpose. You were not random. You were not a mistake. You were created on purpose with forethought and skill. You were crafted and shaped. You were made by loving hands for a very specific purpose. As you meditate on these truths from scripture, your heart will swell with gratitude for the God who made you possible. But don’t stop there. A heart of gratitude always leads to action…
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands.
I like how one song puts it, “With one consent let all the earth to God their cheerful voices raise!”[ii]
David didn’t just tell us why we should praise, He also told us how to praise! The word, praise literally means, praiseworthy actions, a song of praise or laudation – an ACT of praise, and the Old Testament doesn’t really differentiate between thanks and praise. They are one in the same. So go ahead, give a joyful shout to the Lord. OK, let’s try that again. This time, don’t just “shout in your heart,” actually SHOUT out loud! In fact, I just did shouted in my office and there are other offices next door. Whether or not you are a shy and introverted person shouldn’t make a difference. If it’s early morning and you have roommates around, they will get over it. Be exuberant. Loosen up. Be free. There is freedom in this type of praise. You just may find that God breaks something loose in you when you do this.
When I lived near Central Square in Cambridge, my jogging route was along the Charles River. Sometimes as the sun was rising over the Boston skyline and the water was as still as glass, I would be overcome with awe and thanks and I would run along the river with my hands in the air shouting praises to God. Common, when is the last time you praised your God this way? The One who formed you with His bare hands? The one who made Adam from the dirt and breathed life into his nostrils? He is a creative genius! What a great God!
Give Him an exuberant and joyful shout for creating you! Common, do it again. Let yourself be free. Let the why (He created us) translate to a how (shout to God with a joyful praise). Jesus is worth it.