On this delicious holiday, we celebrate turkey, carbs of all kinds, and most importantly, gratitude!
I would argue that almost everyone--regardless of religious beliefs-- instinctively recognizes there is a secret power to thanksgiving.
As a child, each Thanksgiving, I asked my family to go around the table and say one thing we were grateful for. I loved listening to my parents and siblings reflect on their lives in a deeper way.
I didn't grow up in a family with any religious upbringing--yet, gratitude was an important way that we connected with something bigger than ourselves.
As Christians, Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to witness. After all, we claim to have the biggest reason to give thanks--a savior who loves us and died for us. Are we living like we have the most to be thankful for?
For all those conversations about thanksgiving that occur around the table, today I want to unpack 5 powerful Biblical truths about gratitude.
1) Gratitude is the doorway to God's presence.
Psalm 100:4 says, "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!"
So many of us long for a deeper experience of God's presence. We think playing just the right worship song, or attending the right church service, will get us that encounter with God. But this psalm teaches us that when we want to enter God's presence, we should start by giving thanks to Him! The truth is that we can stir ourselves up to enter God's presence by focusing on His faithfulness. As we connect our hearts with the truth of His goodness, we slip into His open arms.
So next time you're feeling distant from God--get on your knees and THANK Him! Remember and reflect on everything He has done for you!
2) Gratitude protects our souls.
As a child one of my least favorite chores was weeding the garden. At the height of the summer heat we would sift through our bushes and flowers to find the weeds, grumbling and sweating the whole time.
What makes weeding difficult is how weeds can camouflage themselves among the good growth. They grow up alongside the plants that you want to keep!
It's hard to detect the "weeds" of negativity in our own mind. We go about our normal life letting the weeds of jealousy, discontentment, or selfishness creep up in the garden our hearts. But that's where gratitude comes in.
I'm not sure who originally said it, but one of my favorite quotes is: "Negativity can't grow where gratitude lives."
In other words, the best defense against sin is a good offense. Don't let the weeds of sin start to grow in your heart! Gratitude is the "weed-be-gone" we can use to protect the soil of our souls. The more we give thanks, the more we till our soil and protect our garden from the weeds of jealousy, discontentment, and anxiety. It's impossible for negativity to exist where gratitude lives!
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances." I believe that God wired us so that constant, daily thanksgiving protects us from the wear and tear of life. Giving thanks guards our hearts!
3) Giving thanks now is practice for eternity.
Did you know that gratitude is one of Heaven's favorite past-times? In Revelation 7, John paints us a picture of God's throne room:
"And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. And they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
In Heaven, the angels and elders are constantly giving thanks to God. Wow! Can you imagine spending an eternity praising and giving thanks to God? As Christians, that's exactly what's in store for us on the other side of our earthly bodies.
When we practice giving thanks on earth, we are actually aligning our spirits with the posture of Heaven.
4) Thanksgiving is a public way to honor God and impact others.
"What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the Lord's name for saving me...I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people--in the house of the Lord in the heart of Jerusalem." -Psalm 116:12-14, 17-19
In Psalm 116, the psalmist asks how he can repay God: "What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?" The truth is that though we owe Jesus everything, we can't really give God anything of value except the passion and love of our very lives.
One of the most powerful ways we do this is by declaring what God has done for us to others. The psalmist declared that he would praise God "in the presence of all his people." Like the psalmist, we honor God when we practice thanksgiving and praise His name publicly!
As we tell others how thankful we are for God's intervention in our lives, we also get to "infect" others with contagious gratitude! No one likes being around negative people who are constantly complaining. But have you ever been around someone who exuded gratitude, even in hard circumstances? What a powerful way to make God's goodness known to others!
5) Gratitude is God's will for us.
The most important reason we give thanks is simply because God asks us to. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, the author says,
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
Thanksgiving is God's will for us. That means it's what He wants most for us. In this verse, practicing gratitude is as important to God as praying or rejoicing. And it's oh so simple! Sometimes we struggle to discipline ourselves and do what God asks, but thanksgiving is something that EVERYONE can practice easily.
Even today, how can you practice giving thanks to God? Try finding five things you are grateful for every day this week. My bet is that you will find it is hard to stop once you've started the powerful practice of counting your blessings!