Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Debt of Thanksgiving

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminding us that everything we have comes from God’s hand.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When we give thanks to the Lord, we’re paying our debt. We owe God thanksgiving. We owe Him everything. But when we give Him thanks, we’re paying our debts to God. When we thank Him, we’re recognizing that God is the source of every good and perfect gift.

Leslie Basham: Happy Thanksgiving! This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

When the electric company sends energy to your home, they also send a bill. If you don’t pay what you owe them, eventually you won’t have any more electricity. God gives us so much more than any utility company. What do we owe Him in return? Here’s Nancy to address that.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, I just want to say from my own heart and all of us here at Revive Our Hearts, a blessed Thanksgiving Day to you. Whatever you are doing I trust that it will be a day when you encounter a sweet relationship with the Lord and are able to offer thanksgiving to the Lord for His blessings in your life.

I want to read you an e-mail that I received from a beloved uncle of mine, my dad’s brother, my uncle Bob. He sent an e-mail to his grown children recently, and he was kind enough to copy me on the e-mail. He said:

Dear children,

Every so often mom and I reflect on the lost art of saying thank you, not just as children but as adults. It makes us want to examine our own lives to see if we express gratitude ourselves. What’s scary is not so much that we may not utter the words thank you, but the fact that not doing so reveals a heart that takes things for granted, kind of an entitlement mentality (I’m owed this).

With that as a context, I was startled to read in my morning devotions yesterday that when Jesus fed the four thousand it says, “He took the bread, broke it, gave thanks, and distributed it.” And then he says, (this is the part I never remembered seeing before), “Likewise, he took the fish and gave thanks again and distributed them” (Mark 8:6-7). Isn’t that amazing? Our Lord gave thanks twice for the same meal.

Lord, please give each of us truly grateful hearts for your mercies of each day. Also, help us to express it to you and to others who bless us.

That’s something we ought to be thinking about all year round, not just on Thanksgiving Day. But how can I offer up thanks to God and to others for the blessings that they have brought into my life.

Numerous times in the Psalms you’ll read verses about paying vows to the Lord. Often those references to vows are from somebody who makes a promise to God to bring a thank offering when their prayer of deliverance has been answered. Let me read you an example.

In Psalm 56 verses 12 and 13, David says, “I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (ESV).

David had been in a situation, and we actually have reason to believe that when he wrote this psalm his life was endangered by the Philistines. He had been seized, and he was in a crisis situation.

In the midst of that situation he cried out to God for deliverance. Then at the end of the Psalm (the deliverance maybe hadn’t even come yet, we don’t know for sure), he said, “I will pay my vows. I will offer thank offerings to you.” Why? Because you have delivered me. You’ve delivered my soul from death. You’ve kept my feet from falling so that I may walk before you in the light of life.

So when we give thanks to the Lord, we’re paying our debt. We owe God thanksgiving. We owe Him everything. But when we give Him thanks, we’re paying our debts to God. When we thank Him, we’re recognizing that God is the source of every good and perfect gift.

I hope that this day you’re thinking about what some of those gifts are. Maybe you’ve been taking time to write them down and to say thank you, Lord, for these gifts. When we give thanks, we express humility. We acknowledge that we are dependent creatures. We have no life, no hope, no health, no grace, no strength, no peace, no holiness, no anything that is good apart from Christ. So we express humility. “Lord, I need you, and that’s why I’m thanking you.”

When we’re thankful, when we give thanks . . . and as you give thanks this day, do you know what you’re doing? You’re transferring your focus from your problems to your blessings. I think of my dear [friend], now in heaven at the age of 92 recently, Mom Johnson, my dear friend who as she was in her later years of life would often say, “I have more blessings than problems.”

And it’s true if we stopped to count, if we stopped to think about it. Now I’m not saying that you don’t have problems. I have problems, and I assume you do as well. The problem is that we often spend too much time counting our problems. And you know what? Even the problems are blessings because as I’ve often said, “Anything that makes me need God is a blessing.” So thank God even for your problems. Consider them blessings.

Being thankful means a conscious choice to live a life that is God-centered rather than self-centered. I’m not going to focus on me, my wants, my desires, my needs. I’m going to live a life that is centered in God. When we give thanks we exalt God. We glorify God. When we do that we fulfill the purpose for which we were created. That’s why we exist—to put a spotlight on God, to glorify Him. That’s what happens when we give thanks.

Psalm chapter 50 beginning in verse 22 tells us that there are basically two kinds of people. I’m going to ask you today, “Which kind of person are you?” Verse 22 says: “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue.”

That’s one kind of person. It’s the person who forgets God, the person who forgets God, who forgets His redemptive works on their behalf. That person, according to this verse, may be left to fend for himself in the next battle. “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue.”

Verse 23, the next verse, tells us the other kind of person, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me” (NIV). Two kinds of people: The person who forgets God, and the person who sacrifices thank offerings.

If you’re not a thankful person, then you’re a person who is forgetting God. “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” Those who remember to thank God for His deliverance can expect to see God act again and again on their behalf.

I have a friend, a couple named John and Mary. Several months ago in the middle of the night they received a phone call that their 29 year-old son had been in a major car accident, arrived at the hospital in a semi-comatose condition, and had sustained a severe head trauma.

By the time they got to the hospital hours later, they didn’t know whether their son would live. At best it was expected that he would have severe brain damage. Within hours, not only John and Mary, the parents; but four younger siblings gathered at the hospital in St. Louis. Other friends, some from that area, but some from other places in the country joined them. People all over the country began to cry out to the Lord as soon as we got that e-mail that next morning.

Miraculously, over the next days and couple of weeks God intervened and spared Jeff’s life. And within a matter of weeks, to the astonishment of the doctors who had said there is no way you could be walking out of this hospital this quickly and in this kind of condition, this good condition; within a matter of weeks, he was restored to complete health.

Well, on the way back to Indiana, where John and Mary live, they took Jeff up there for some rehab. Driving from the hospital in St. Louis up to Indiana, about five hours into the trip, Jeff said to his dad, John, “Tell me what happened.” He didn’t remember anything about the hospital. It was just all a blur to him, and he wanted his dad to tell him, particularly that first several day period, what had happened.

So John and Mary began to tell Jeff about the provisions of God and the protection of God and the goodness of God and the grace of God and the sovereignty of God and about all the people, about how his sisters and his brothers and family members and friends had come to see him. And Jeff wasn’t remembering any of this from those early days.

They told about a man, a friend of their family, an older man who had lived in the St. Louis area who had come to the hospital right away and handed John, the dad, a credit card and said, “All your expenses while you’re here, you put on this card. You hold on to this card as long as you need it.”

Of course, the parents had been deeply moved through this whole experience to see this outpouring of love and grace and friendship and kindness and prayer. But Jeff had been out of it. As John began to tell this story, this 29 year-old son began to cry, sitting there in the car. Then he began to weep. Then at one point, Jeff said, “Dad, can you stop at Wal-Mart? I need to get some cards.”

So they pulled over to a Wal-Mart and got some cards. And Jeff sitting in that car began to write thank you notes to one person after another. John said within the next few days, on that trip and on the following few days, Jeff had written about 60 cards—one person after another.

In that car still after writing a few notes, Jeff said, “Dad, can I use your cell phone? I’ve got to call Brooke. I’ve got to call Alan. I’ve got to call . . . .” He started naming his sister and brother-in-law and his brothers. He said, “I’ve got to call them and thank them for what they did.” And he started making phone calls. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

You know, gratitude is a natural response to grace. When God delivers, when He blesses, when He answers prayer—and it’s not always in such dramatic ways that God is acting on our behalf, but He is always acting on our behalf—gratitude makes sense. It’s our reasonable act of worship. It’s foolish not to say thank you.

So let me just ask on this Thanksgiving Day. What has God done for you this past year? As you reflect on this year, have you remembered to thank Him? Do you have some thank you notes you need to write? Maybe one to the Lord first— just detailing His blessings in your life. Then maybe there are some people you need to say thank you to them.

Do you have an outstanding debt of gratitude? “He who sacrifices thanks offerings honors me and he prepares the way that I may show him the salvation of God.” Don’t let this day end without you paying your debt of gratitude to the Lord and to others. Happy Thanksgiving.

Leslie Basham: It’s so easy to get preoccupied with parades, turkey, and football on this holiday. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has helped us put our focus in the right place, thankfulness to God. If you’d like to learn to pay the debt of thankfulness more often, I hope you’ll go online and order a booklet Nancy wrote called The Attitude of Gratitude. It’ll help you continue developing a heart for thanksgiving even after all the leftover turkey’s been eaten.

When you order The Attitude of Gratitude, we’ll include some thank you notes to help you pay some debts of thanksgiving to other people as well. You can order online at ReviveOurHearts.com, and while you’re there you can do a search and find out what Nancy has to say about certain topics.

You can also get information about all of Nancy’s books and teaching CDs. It might be a great day to visit ReviveOurHearts.com and get a head start on Christmas shopping.

This holiday may find you in a less than ideal situation. We’re thankful that Revive Our Hearts can make its way to people in all sorts of environments, even in prison. We’ll hear more about that tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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