Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Why Be Thankful?

Leslie Basham: What are you most thankful for?

Woman 1: Oh, my family, my health.

Woman 2: The best husband in the world and a wonderful family and a cute little house.

Woman 3: I’m thankful for my husband. He’s taking care of my children all weekend while I get away with the girls.

Woman 4: I’m thankful that the Lord saved my soul, and I’m thankful for the air I breathe and the sun that shines every day.

Woman 5: I’m thankful for my son because he’s a joy to me, and especially when we play music together.

Woman 6: I’m thankful for my salvation, very much so. It’s new life from the one I had before, which was definitely disappointing.

Leslie: Happy Thanksgiving!

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Thanksgiving is a deeply enjoyable and meaningful day, but it’s far more than just a day on the calendar, especially for those who know what it means to be forgiven.

Nancy explains why, continuing in the series, The Attitude of Gratitude.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I think that an unthankful Christian is really a contradiction. There really shouldn’t be any such thing when you think about it. We were guilty, condemned sinners, no relationship with God, cut off from God, separate from Him, no hope—that’s what was true of each of us. That’s the condition we were born into.

Then God in His great mercy and grace saw fit to save us, to redeem us, to purchase us out of sin, to deliver us, to send Jesus for us, to give us His Holy Spirit, to give us His Word, to give us His body and His people, to give us the hope and the promises of eternal life.

Isn’t it unthinkable that we should be anything other than grateful? Guilt, grace, and gratitude—that’s the gospel, and we so often for some reason fall short on the gratitude part. I think we just need to be reminded—I know I do—of the grace of God and where God found us and what He saved us from.

Some of us who came to know the Lord as little children, it’s hard to remember what it was like. I have no memories before I got saved. Coming to trust Jesus was my first memory. Sometimes we forget where God found us and where we were apart from Him and what a wonder it is that He would save us.

My dad was not a very emotional man, but when he would talk about where God found him as a young man, a rebel, in his mid-twenties and how God saved him—Friday, October 13, 1950—he would get weepy because he never got over the wonder of what it meant that God had saved him.

I don’t ever want to get over the wonder, and I think a grateful heart is a way to keep the wonder; and keeping the wonder is a way to help keep a grateful heart.

We’ve been talking over the last several sessions about the attitude of gratitude, what it is, why it’s important, reasons we have to be thankful, the characteristics of a grateful heart versus an ungrateful heart, and how to know which we have.

Then we talked in the last session about how we should give thanks:

  • We need to thank the Lord out loud. We need to speak our thanks, not just think it.
  • We thank Him with music. We sing to the Lord—“Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving.”
  • We thank Him with our prayers as the apostle Paul often did in the New Testament epistles.
  • We talked about thanking God privately and about thanking Him publically.

Some of us are more comfortable with the private aspect of that than with the public aspect of that. But it’s a good thing in the congregation of the righteous to give thanks to the Lord to remind each other of how great God is.

I can remember last Thanksgiving at the church I’ve been attending here in Little Rock, the night before Thanksgiving there was a special Thanksgiving eve service. An opportunity was opened up for people to just share out of the past year their testimony of God’s faithfulness and God’s greatness and what He had done for them.

One after another, men, women, one little girl, some older people, some younger people, some who’d known the Lord for years, some who had known the Lord just a short period of time came up to the microphone and just gave their personal testimony of what God had done for them over the past year. They gave thanks.

My heart was so encouraged as I listened to their testimonies—from different walks of life. So many different life experiences over this past year, and yet I heard them in unison giving thanks to the Lord. It just caused thanksgiving to well up in my own heart because these people were willing to come to a microphone and say, “God has been so good. I give Him thanks.”

We want to talk today not just about the how of giving thanks but the when of giving thanks. When should we give thanks to the Lord?

Let me start by saying—all the time we should give thanks to the Lord—and we’re going to talk about that, but there’s some particular times that we should give thanks to the Lord. I want to point several of those.

The first is, I think there’s some special occasions when it’s especially appropriate to give thanks to the Lord—holidays, for example. That word really came originally from two words: holy days. So as we think about Thanksgiving, about Christmas, about some of the holy days on our church calendar—Reformation Day, the last day of October—some of these holy days that are intended to be opportunities for us to stop and think about our Christian faith and about what it means to us and about what God has done for us; to stop and take stock, and in a special way set aside time to give thanks to the Lord.

I love taking time around holidays to give thanks to God as I reflect on His goodness.

I love doing that on New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s Day. In fact, for several years one of the great blessings of my year has been a special New Year’s Eve service that we have held in my home. We’ve had families come together. They just bring snacks and it's just kind-of potluck, put them on the table. We have children and teens and parents, and we have a great time of just fellowshipping and enjoying each other.

Then we come together toward the close of the evening and have a time of praise and thanksgiving. We give testimonies of what the Lord has done over the past year and His goodness. We read Scripture together. We praise in and pray in the New Year. We praise God for the mercies He’s shown us over the past year and for the faithfulness we anticipate over the next year. That has been such a precious time.

Special occasions for thanking the Lord. In the Old Testament the Jews had their own holidays. There were three times a year, for example, that all the Jewish males were to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, primarily for the purpose of thanking the Lord. Two of those occasions were at the beginning and at the end of the harvest.

So at the beginning of the harvest, they would offer up their first fruits of the harvest to the Lord and say, “Thank You, Lord, for what You’ve provided and for what we know You are going to provide.” Then at the end of the harvest, when all of the grain and the wheat and the food provisions had been gathered in, they would stop and take a time to reflect on God’s goodness, to say, “Thank You, Lord,” to offer up their tithes and their offerings and their thanksgiving to the Lord.

Special times of the year, special times in our lives for offering thanks. There are times in the Scripture and times in our own lives when we stop to give thanks to God at the completion of a task or an undertaking.

I think about how when the temple was built the people had a wonderful thanksgiving service. When the wall was rebuilt in Jerusalem after the 70 years of exile, the people stopped. They’d worked hard and long, and then they stopped to say, “Thank You,” to the Lord, to praise Him. In fact, there were people whose job was to be thankers, to lead the people in thanksgiving. These were musicians, instrumentalists, and singers, and they helped in the offering of thanks to the Lord.

As we have undertakings in the course of our lives, it’s a good thing to stop at the beginning and at the end to say, “Thank You, Lord, for what You’re going to do, and thank You, Lord, for what You have done.”

I remember when I built my home. At the end of that time, we had a house dedication. We offered it to the Lord, but we gave thanksgiving. At the end of the first year of recording of Revive Our Hearts, we had a special gathering, and we just gave thanks to the Lord for what He had done in giving birth to this ministry and for the people who’d been a part of that.

Weddings and even funerals are occasions, when there are believers involved, for giving thanks. When my dad went home to be with the Lord, we had a celebration service, a time of celebrating his life and God’s goodness in giving that dad and husband and friend to those of us who were present.

All of these different occasions provide opportunities to give thanks to the Lord, but not only on special occasions. The Scripture says that His mercies are new to us every morning and that every day the Lord loads us down with benefits. So if He’s gracing us in giving us gifts every day, He’s giving us new mercies every day, doesn’t it seem that our gratitude should be daily?

Daily—every day—every morning and every evening—there were Levites in the Old Testament who were assigned "to stand every morning to thank and to praise the Lord, and likewise at evening," 1 Chronicles 23:30 (NASB) tells us.

Then the psalmist says, “Even in the middle of the night, I will rise to give thanks to You” (Psalm 119:62, paraphrased).

Three times every day Daniel bowed and prayed and thanked the Lord.

Continually we’re to give thanks to God as He blesses us continually.

Ephesians 5 says, “Giving thanks always for all things” (verse 20, NKJV).

First Thessalonians chapter 1, Paul says, “We give thanks to God always for you all" (verse 2, NASB).

Hebrews chapter 13, “Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (verse 15, KJV).

Continually—Psalms chapter 34, “I will bless the Lord [when?] at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (verse 1, NASB).

Now that doesn’t mean that things are always going well at all times, from our human vantage point. It doesn’t mean that circumstances are always to our liking or always comfortable or easy or convenient, but the psalmist says, “As an act of my will, I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will continually be in my mouth.”

It’s not just in this life, but Psalm 30, verse 12, says, “O, LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever”—forever (NASB).

This is what we will be doing for all of eternity—giving thanks, worshiping, praising, honoring the One who has poured such grace into our lives.

Thanksgiving is not just a day in the year, not just an event in the year. It’s good to have those special occasions when we do stop and in a conscious way give thanks. But thanksgiving really should be thanksliving—a way of life—day in, day out, morning, noon, and night—continually, forever giving thanks to the Lord.

Leslie: The spirit of Thanksgiving truly doesn’t have to end today. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been encouraging you to show thankfulness every day all year long.

She’ll be right back, but I’ll let you know about a powerful way you can grow in thankfulness: Get a copy of Nancy’s new book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.

We’ll send you this new hard cover when you donate any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Just donate any amount at our website, ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for Choosing Gratitude when you call 1-800-569-5959.

Now, let’s get back to Nancy’s teaching.

Nancy: One Thanksgiving Ann Landers published in her column a list of things to be thankful for that had been sent to her from someone else. Here’s how that list read:

Be thankful for the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means you have enough to eat.

Be thankful for the mess you clean up after a party because it means you’ve been surrounded by friends.

Be thankful for the taxes you pay because it means you’re employed.

Be thankful that your lawn needs mowing and your windows need fixing because it means you have a home.

Be thankful for your heating bill because it means you are warm.

Be thankful for the laundry because it means you have clothes to wear.

Be thankful for the space you found at the far end of the parking lot because it means you can walk.

Be thankful for the lady who sings off key behind you at church because it means you can hear.

Be thankful when people complain about the government because it means we have freedom of speech.

Be thankful for the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means you’re alive.

We have so much for which to be thankful, and we want to talk about what we should be thankful for. What are some of the things for which we should give thanks? We’ve said we have all the reason in the world to have an attitude of gratitude for we were guilty, and God poured out His grace upon us and gratitude is our reasonable response—guilt, grace, and gratitude. That’s the gospel of Christ.

We’ve got to start by saying that according to the Scripture we are to be thankful for everything, and that includes, well, it includes everything.

Ephesians chapter 5 Paul says, “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 20, NKJV).

What are some of those things that fit under everything for which we should be thankful?

I want us to look at thanking God for physical and material blessings and thanking God for spiritual blessings.

First, physical and material blessings. Let me hasten to say that those are not the most important blessings, but they are often the ones that come to mind first and that get us started as we’re trying to express gratitude to the Lord.

God’s Word says that "every good and every perfect gift comes from above" (James 1:17, NIV). God is the giver. We don’t have anything good that we came up with ourselves. Every gift we have comes from God.

First Chronicles 29 is an account of the praise service, the thanksgiving service that took place after the Jews had brought all their offerings that were going to be used to build the temple. When all the offerings had been collected, King David led in a prayer of thanksgiving. He thanked the Lord for the material and the physical blessings that He had provided for the temple.

David said in this wonderful psalm of praise,

Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name (verses 12-13, NKJV).

David was saying, “All that we have comes from You. It’s all a gift from You, and even what we give to You, You’ve given to us to give back to You. We don’t have anything that didn’t come from You, so we give You thanks.”

So we need to thank God for those things we often overlook—health, a home, food, clothing—those tangible, material blessings.

I think of how often Jesus gave thanks before partaking of a meal. Thanking God for our food reminds us that we have so many other things for which to be thankful.

Then we have not only physical and material blessings; God has loaded us down with spiritual blessings, too numerous to count. I find it’s so good for me to make a list of some of these blessings and to stimulate my memory and my mind about all the things God has done for me in the spiritual realm.

Let me just list here some of the things that, as I was studying the Scripture, some of the verses that spoke to me about spiritual blessings for which we are to be thankful:

Psalm 75, verse 1, says, “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near” (NKJV).

Giving thanks for the nearness of God’s presence.

Do you know that in the Old Testament era, the time of the old covenant until Christ came and died on the cross, the Jewish believers could not approach near to God. There was a thick veil that separated them from the holiest place where God’s presence dwelt. But when Jesus died, that curtain was torn from top to bottom, and we were given access into the presence of God. We are invited now to come near to God.

I got an email last week from a woman who said that at a recent women’s retreat they had a life-size model of the tabernacle, and they were given the opportunity to walk through the tabernacle. She said, “I didn’t realize how much stepping into the Holy of Holies would impact me. I was overwhelmed when I realized I didn’t have to risk death when coming into God’s presence as the Israelites did.”

Such a great reminder of how thankful we are to experience God’s presence whenever and wherever we are—thanking God for the nearness of His presence.

Then Psalm 30 says we should "give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness"—thanking God for His holiness (verse 4, KJV).

Isaiah 12 says we thank God for His mercy. “I will give thanks to You, O LORD; for although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me”—thanking God for His mercy (verse 1, NASB).

Paul said in 2 Corinthians chapter 9, we give thanks for Jesus. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (verse 15, NIV). That’s enough to keep us thanking God for all of eternity, and then with Christ comes so many other blessings.

Colossians chapter 1,

Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (verses 12-14, NKJV).

Paul said that he thanked Christ Jesus “because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry”—the call to minister (1 Timothy 1:12, NKJV).

You say, “Well, I’ve not been called to minister; I have a regular job.”

I don’t know what kind of job you have, but I know that God has called us all to be His servants, to be priests unto Him, to serve Him, and to serve others. Paul says this is an incredible blessing.

I thank God for the privilege of ministering His Word, both in group settings like this and one on one just in the course of everyday life. That’s a blessing. It’s a privilege for which I am deeply grateful.

Then Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 that he thanked God for victory over death and the grave. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 57, NKJV).

Death is an enemy, but no longer a final enemy. Christ has come and broken the power of death and Hell and sin and set us free from death and the grave.

Then Paul goes through that whole long piece in Romans chapter 7 where he talks about the problems that he has with wanting to do right but not always having the power to do what’s right and the struggle that goes on within him because of indwelling sin.

Then he comes to the end of that passage, and he says, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (verse 24, NKJV). Who will deliver me from this dominion of sin?

Then he says, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” (verse 25).

What is he saying? “I thank God for deliverance through Christ from the dominion, the control of sin in my life.”

Then Paul thanked God for the triumph of the gospel. “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Corinthian 2:14, NKJV).

This world may look like it’s winning against Christ and against His kingdom, but the gates of Hell will not prevail against the kingdom of Christ against the church of Christ. His gospel is triumphant.

So the elders and the 24 elders in heaven thanked God for Christ’s power and reign. Revelation chapter 11, “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned” (verse 17, NKJV).

We thank Him for His eternal rule and reign. He reigns this day and for all of eternity over all the kings and presidents and principalities and powers and rulers of this earth. He reigns over everything in heaven and over everything on earth and over everything under the earth. All the powers of Hell are under His ultimate authority.

So many other spiritual blessings—I thank Him for His Holy Spirit. I thank Him for conviction of sin. I thank Him for His Word. I thank Him for the Church, the Body of Christ, and for what that means in my life personally, and for the privilege of being a part of that body. So we give Him thanks.

Oh Father, for all of eternity we will not have time enough to thank You, but our hearts are full, and we are grateful, and we say, “Thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You.” Amen.

Leslie: Did you know a big part of the New Testament was written from a place of gratitude? Find out why, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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