The Sunday before Thanksgiving we were challenged from the pulpit to commit ourselves as a congregation to actively and consciously practice giving thanks to God throughout our day, for all things great and small. I wonder how you are doing with that challenge? I’m certain your heart will be stirred to do just that if you take a moment to re-read Psalm 100 focusing your attention on the goodness of God as your Lord who has graciously and mercifully chosen you in Christ to be one of His people. Is it possible that any of His people could or would forget to bring their thanksgivings and praises into His presence day after day? What an encouragement it is to the humblest mind to be awakened again and again to the wonder of who He is; to the wonder of His shepherding love, goodness, mercy, and faithfulness.
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing! Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalms 100:1-5)
Is it possible for His chosen people to make the same mistake those in the world make when they suppress the truth of who God is? Is it possible for His chosen people to be drawn in by the ways of the world when they suppress their thanksgivings due to God? When God gave us new birth in Christ, He also gave us a new heart with new affections and desires to know Him, to love Him and serve Him, and to honor Him in the living of our lives and the lifting up of our praises and thanksgivings to Him. Were we not created in Christ for this very purpose?
Things can go very wrong when people do not honor God or give thanks to Him. Romans 1 is a hotly contested passage in our current ‘cultural wars’ that proves the point. You are familiar with the message of this chapter, but I wonder if you’ve made the same mistake most, if not all social commentators make – jumping to the affect and skipping the cause. There is a cause for what we’re seeing today. Paul states it this way: “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:21-23) Did you notice the underlined words? “they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him”.
The affects from not honoring Him or giving thanks to Him are indeed severe. We know what the text says about unbelievers, but have you every stopped to consider the implications for God’s people (those saved through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for their sins against God) when they do not honor Him and give thanks to Him? This indeed is an important questions that we would do well to ponder.
Allow me to stimulate your thinking and perhaps get you jump-started in your practice of giving thanks to Him – actually, actively, and audibly giving praise and thanks to God in your thoughts and with your words. When this becomes a part of who you are, you will search out God’s good and gracious presence throughout each day. I ran across an illustration many years ago that speaks well to my point. It goes like this: If you take a dish of sand with particles of iron in it, you won’t be able to see or feel the iron particles, but pass a magnet through the sand and the invisible particles are quickly attracted to it. The unthankful heart is like your fingers moving through the sand, it discovers none of the mercies of God. But let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as quickly as the magnet finds the iron so will the thankful heart find countless blessings to give thanks to God for!
Praise and thanksgiving may be the key you have been searching for to awaken your faith. Praise and thanksgiving may be the tonic your depressed emotions have been thirsting for! Praise and thanksgiving may be the bright colors your grey days are longing for! Praise and thanksgiving, offered with all your prayers are surely the remedy for many of the anxieties and fears so many people suffer from. Praise and thanksgiving are ever present evidences of an active faith in God!
The unbelieving heart will never know the joy of the Lord. It will never be stirred to offer Him glad and joyful songs. It will never know the inner peace, strength, or satisfaction that arises within the thankful heart each time it comes into His presence clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The unbelieving heart will never be allowed to enter His presence in this life or in eternity.
On the other hand the believing heart simply cannot be satisfied until it is actively expressing its praise and thanks to God for all His daily blessings, even in the midst of trying circumstances and difficult days; and especially when it is giving thanks to Him for His greatest gift of all; the gift without which no other gift will last far beyond the end of Christmas Day.
With an awakened heart join me as you read aloud the following words of thanksgiving, “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Pastor Ralph Wetherington