A fundamental part of Christian worship is Continual Thanksgiving. In order to understand the importance of thanksgiving, we’ll need to examine three aspects of thanksgiving; Who, When and Why.
On a general note, we should show gratitude to anyone who does good to us. As Christians however, the primary focus of out gratitude is God. The Bible is filled with many commands to give thanks to God. Psalm 106:1, 107:1 and 118:1 all echo the song in 1 Chronicles 16:34. *Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!*
God is the source of every gift we enjoy. But He doesn’t just stop there. By the time we enjoy today’s benefits, He’s got tomorrow’s benefits ready for us to enjoy. He never runs out of good things to do for His children. (James 1:17)
Even when we struggle to find something to be thankful for, God is working all things out for our good.
When God led the children of Israel out of captivity, they gave God thanks because they knew that it took the mighty hand of God to set them free from their oppression at the hands of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The Song of the Sea also referred to as Az Yashir Moshe or Song of Moses appeared in the Book of Exodus 15:1-19. In 2 Samuel 6:14-22, when the Ark of the Lord was returned to the City of David, we read that David danced before the Lord with all of his might. He didn’t care that he was king, in fact he shed his kingly robe for priestly garments I guess so that the ceremonial robes don’t get in the way of his dancing before the Lord.
I grew up learning that no matter how people try to help or be of assistance to me, except the Lord gives them the grace or power to do so, they would not be able to do so no matter how determined they may be. This helped me deal with disappointments when people go back on their promises but also helped me to channel my thanksgiving, with the understanding that it was God that enabled that person provide the help that they gave.
Our next point is when to give thanks. It is always easy to be thankful when things are going well for us. It is however still worth mentioning that we should give thanks to God at all times and in any situation. One of my best times for giving thanks to God is in the morning when I wake up. This is because I always see every new day as a gift from God. I recognise that no one is guaranteed to go to bed at night and wake up the next day. Sleeping and waking up to me, is a miracle in itself. For may, this may seem like an ordinary part of human life but for me, it is something worth giving thanks to God for.
There are times when it is easy to give thanks and there are other times when we struggle to be thankful. How do you tell a man who has just lost his job or means of livelihood to be thankful? How do you tell someone who has just lost a loved one to be thankful? If you just received the results of a medical test and been told you have serious medical problem, will you burst out in songs of thanksgiving?
The answer lies in 1 Thessalonians 5;16-18. Paul gives us the blueprint of how to live as believers through the help of the Holy Spirit. These commands do not make sense humanly speaking. They only make sense when examined in the context of the new birth. Does that mean even when things aren’t looking good for me, when I am in a tough place, I should just put on a brave smiling face when people ask me how I am doing? Definitely not. We need to understand that these commands are not based on emotions but in trusting and obedience to the Lord.
Emotionally, Jesus wasn’t always happy. The Bible gives instances where He was angry, sorrowful and in fact, the shortest verse in the Bible reads ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35) Spiritually however, Jesus rejoiced even in sorrow because He was one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Even Paul mentioned his sorrow in 2 Corinthians 6:10 (as sorrowful, but always rejoicing) as well as instructing us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) Giving thanks in every situation is a conscious attitude of hope and trust in the Lord in spite of the circumstances. It is not a denial of how we feel, it is a constant hope in the Lord who is ever-present and ever-faithful.
Finally, we come to why we should give thanks. Thirteen years before his conversion, John Wesley had a conversation one night with a porter of his college that impressed Wesley that there was more to Christianity than he had found. The porter had only one coat. He had eaten no food that day and yet his heart was full of gratitude to God. Wesley said to him, “You thank God when you have nothing to wear, nothing to eat, and no bed to lie upon? What else do you thank him for?” “I thank him,” answered the porter, “that He has given me my life and being, and a heart to love Him, and a desire to serve Him.” (A. Skevington Wood, *The Inextinguishable Blaze* [Eerdmans], p. 100)
God appreciates those who give thanks. This can be deduced from the reaction of Jesus when one of the ten Lepers He healed came back to give thanks (Luke 17: 11-17) The Psalmist encourages us to give thanks to the Lord, "because His mercies endures forever" (Psalm 106:1) Paul tells us we should give thanks in all things because it is God's will in Christ Jesus concerning us (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Being thankful reminds us of how much we have, rather than on what we don’t have. When we focus on blessings rather than wants, we live a more happier and fulfilling lives.