Thanksgiving and gratitude

Thanksgiving is very important key to the kingdom that unlocks God’s blessing and power. It touches the heart of God and is very pleasing to Him. Bible says, in Psalms 136.1, “It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.” It does not only please God, but it is also good for us to do so. Many problems in our lives will change in an atmosphere of thanksgiving. For the purposes of this study, we will also connect the words gratitude, gratefulness, thankfulness, giving thanks to the word thanksgiving. They all convey the same thought and meaning.

The definition of thanksgiving is: A positive reaction to what has happened and is happening to us. It can also mean a readiness to show appreciation.

The Biblical foundation of thanksgiving is an understanding that God is good and He wants to do good things for us. We read in Jeremiah 32.41, “I rejoice over them to do them good.” It is in God’s nature to do good things for us. In Romans 8.32 we read that “If God is for us, who can be against us, He did not spare His Own Son but gave Him up for us, how shall He not also with Him give us all things.

Important principles of thanksgiving:

Firstly, it should be the reason why we obey and serve the Lord: We have the example of Joseph when the wife of Potiphar tempted him with sexual immorality. Joseph said to her, “There is no greater in his (Potiphar’s) house than I, nor has he kept anything back from me…how then can I do this wickedness and sin against God.” (Genesis 39.8-9) His thankfulness for the good things that Potiphar had done for him prevented him from committing adultery with his wife. In the same way, we obey God and desire to please Him because we are so thankful for Who He is and what He has done for us.

Secondly: It should not depend on our circumstances: In the well-known verse in 1 Thessalonians 5.18 we read, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This applies to all circumstances whether positive or negative.  Although our circumstances should not influence our thanksgiving, thanksgiving on the other hand can change our circumstances. We have the example of Jonah in the belly of the whale. His circumstances were very negative. In Jonah 2.9 he says, “I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving.” In verse 10 we read, “And the Lord spoke to the whale and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” When he gave thanks, God intervened and delivered from his terrible situation. God often acts on behalf of those who give thanks.

In Psalm 107:22 we read, “And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.” It speaks here about a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Sometimes we need to be thankful even if we do not feel like doing so! I am sure that Jonah did not feel like thanking God in the belly of the whale!

Many years ago, we were travelling with friends in South Africa when their car broke down. We were stranded on a lonely road, with temperatures well below freezing and we did not have warm enough clothing for the weather. The engine of the car had completely seized and we were in a desperate situation. Instead of praying panic prayers, we decided to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. We thanked the Lord for what had happened, and for the miracle that He was about to do. My friend, Keith, the driver of the car, tried once more to start the car. This time the engine sprang to life and we were able to return home. The following morning when Keith tried to start his car, he found that the engine was completely damaged and beyond repair. We realized that God had done a great miracle in response to our thanksgiving.

Thirdly, thanksgiving is a form of prayer: Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1, “I exhort Therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.” Prayer and thanksgiving work together. In fact, thanksgiving or thankfulness is a catalyst to make our prayers more effective. In Colossians 4.2 we read, “Continue earnestly in prayer with thanksgiving.” The more we thank God, the easier it is to pray. Even if we do not know how to pray, we can always give thanks.

A powerful example of prayer and thanksgiving working together is when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, We read in John 11:41, “And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard me.”  Like Jesus, we can thank God for the miracle, even before it manifests. Therefore, if we do not know how to pray, we can spend time just thanking God for who He is and for all the wonderful things He has done for us.

Fourthly, praying in tongues is also a prayer of thanksgiving: In Acts 2 we read about the day of Pentecost and how they all spoke in tongues. In verse 11 it says, “We hear them speaking … the wonderful works of God.” They were thanking God for His wonderful works in languages that they had never spoken before. In 1 Corinthians 14.17, Paul when wrote about praying in tongues he said, “For indeed you give thanks well.” Often our minds are limited and we are not able to give God the thanks that He deserves. That is why He has given us a prayer language to help us do so.

Fifthly, we should focus on the things that have happened, and not on the things that have not happened.  We have the example of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. Their focus was on their needs and on their lack and not on the good things that God had done for them in the past. There was once I once a certain businessman who supported us financially when we first came to Russia. One day he got offended and stopped supporting us. I was tempted to be upset, but I decided rather to thank God for all the support that he gave us in the past when we really needed it.

Giving thanks for what God and others have done for us will protect us from being offended and will protect our relationships. It is better to be thankful for what God and others have done for us, than to complain for what they are not doing for us. That is why we read in Psalm 103.2: “Bless the Lord O my soul and do not forget all His benefits.” There is so much we can thank God for every day of our lives. We can thank Him for our health, our food, our homes, our friends and for so many other things!

Some of the amazing benefits of thankfulness:

1. Thanksgiving will set us free from worry: We read in Philippians 4:4-6. “Be careful for nothing, (do not worry about anything) but in everything, by prayers and supplications with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God and the peace of God which passes understanding will keep (or guard) your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”It says here, do not worry but pray with thanksgiving and it will bring peace into our minds. The peace of God will then protect our minds and hearts from worry.

2. Thanksgiving is one of the keys to renew our minds: Thanksgiving will guard and protect our minds from negative thoughts and demonic attack. We also read in Romans 1.21: “Because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their imaginations and their foolish hearts were darkened.” If lack of thankfulness caused their minds to be darkened, then the opposite must also be true. Giving thanks will enlighten and renew our minds and our hearts.  The Bible says that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Therefore, thanksgiving, not only renews our minds by it can transform our lives.

3. Giving thanks makes it easier for us to bring our requests to God: We have already referred to Philippians 4:6 where it says “… with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” Prayer and thanksgiving work together.

4. When we give thanks, we usually receive more from God:  We have the example of Jesus and the ten lepers. In Luke 17:15-16 we read, “And one of them when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.” In verse 19 Jesus responds to him and said, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” What we notice here, is that the other nine lepers only received healing, but this man who gave thanks, was made whole. He not only received healing in his body, but was made completely whole.

In John 6:11 we read, “And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; …” When Jesus gave thanks for the few loaves and fishes, they increased and became many. In the same way, when we thank God for the small things He does for us, He will often give us more in the future.  That is why it is a good practice to always testify of what God does for us, even if it is something small. It may lead to larger miracles in the future. 

 5. Thanksgiving will make us aware of God’s presence: In Psalm 100:4 we read, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” The correct way to approach God in prayer is to first give thanks. It is like the high priest entering into the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle. He first goes into the Holy Place before He enters into the Holy of Holies, which is the manifest presence of God. Thanksgiving is like passing through the Holy Place into the presence of God.

6. Thanksgiving will enable us to be filled with the Holy Spirit: The Bible says in Ephesians 5:18, “…be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” In verse 20 we read, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This is a very powerful verse! We should we always give thanks and not only when we feel like doing so! Furthermore, we give thanks for all things because God is good and He can turn bad things into good things. When Jonah gave thanks in the belly of the whale, God delivered him from that terrible situation.

7. Thanksgiving will strengthen our faith: When the leper gave thanks to Jesus for his healing, Jesus said to him in Luke 17:19, “your faith has made you whole.” There is a link between faith and thankfulness. In fact, thankfulness will strengthen our faith and enables us to focus on God who is much bigger than our problems.  It also enables us to see our miracles even before they manifest. The word ‘whole’ in this sentence can also mean to ‘protect or preserve’. Not only did Jesus heal him, but his healing was protected. There are many who receive healings and after a period of time they lose it. Thanksgiving is one of the ways that will enable us to protect and keep our miracles.

Finally, we read in Revelations 11:17, “We give thanks to You O God.” The atmosphere in heaven is filled with thanksgiving and gratitude. We will spend eternity thanking Jesus for what He has done for us and for who He is. When we give thanks on earth, we are creating the atmosphere of heaven right here on earth. Therefore, “It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord.”  Amen