Mark Altrogge is a Pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, Pennsylvania. He blogs regularly at The BlazingCenter
In his word, God commands us again and again to be thankful.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 107:1)
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20)
God doesn’t command us to be thankful because he needs our thanks; all his commands to us are for our benefit and joy. When God commands us to serve him or give to the kingdom or sing his praises, it’s not because he needs his ego stroked; he commands us to obey for our benefit. So he can pour out blessings on us.
Here are a few benefits of being thankful:
Thankfulness helps us remember God’s blessings in the past.
We humans are so forgetful. We are all like the Israelites after God delivered them from Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt. They witnessed miracle after miracle. They saw God move upon the Egyptians to give them gold, silver and jewels, then bring them out of Egypt. Yet when they came to the Red Sea, and Pharaoh and his chariots pursued them, they cried out to Moses:
“Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:11-12)
But God rescued the Israelites, split the Red Sea, brought them through, and wiped out Pharaoh’s chariots. And they sang and rejoiced – for a short while. But only 3 days later, they were grumbling again:
Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” (Exodus 15:22-24)
When I read about Israel’s forgetfulness, I am amazed that they could see God’s miracles, then forget about his power and kindness so quickly. But I’m no different. When I’m facing a tough situation, I can forget the thousands of ways God has blessed me, especially how he saved me from sins and eternal punishment and adopted me as his very own son. But thankfulness helps me remember those blessings. Thankfulness is an antidote to our tendency to forget. If we are intentional about remembering and thanking God for his blessings, we won’t accuse God when we’re next to our Red Sea and hear chariots in the distance. Along these lines….
I have tomorrow’s date (Dec 19) marked on my calendar, because in 2011, I got a stent in one of the major arteries in my heart. I believe it was 99% blocked. I could have had a heart attack and died. Instead, here I am, 7 years later, still annoying my wife (I mean, enjoying my wife and life). God has been so merciful to me. When I thanked my family doctor for encouraging me to have a stress test when I felt some burning in my chest, he shook my hand and said, “We beat the big one! We beat the big one!” God beat the big one for me, and I don’t want to forget his mercy to me.
Thankfulness helps us appreciate God’s blessings in the present
Years ago Phil Collins sang his song “Another Day in Paradise.” The chorus went:
Oh think twice, it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, ’cause it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it
A while back I was shopping in a local grocery store and it seemed that no one in the store looked happy. They were just pushing their baskets with glum expressions on their faces. Then I looked to my right and saw a whole aisle devoted to pets. Bags and bags of dog and cat food. All kinds of accessories and pet toys. I thought to myself, “We are living in one of the richest nations on earth. We are so rich we have whole aisles dedicated to pets. All of us in here should be overflowing with joy. I should be the most thankful guy on the face of the earth.”
We are swimming in God’s blessings. Thankfulness helps us to be more aware of them.
Thankfulness cultivates faith for the future
When we thank God for his faithfulness and goodness to us in the past, it strengthens our faith for the future. When we thank God for how he has come through for us a thousand times in the past, God builds our faith that he will continue to bless us in the future. Thankfulness helps us to believe that God is causing all things to work together for our good. Thankfulness gives us hope that God will change things. That he will help us as he has again and again. We have faith to bring all our needs to our loving, generous Father.
Thankfulness helps us experience God’s peace
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
When we cry out to God for help and bring all our requests to him, God says don’t forget to add thanksgiving – “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” – as we thank God for answering our prayers in the past, God’s peace guards our hearts and minds. God has answered so many of our prayers in the past, surely he will answer these requests.
Thankfulness helps us to avoid complaining and shine as lights in the world
You would think that as those who have been saved from hell, made joint-heirs with Christ, been given every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies and adopted as God’s very own children, that we wouldn’t complain. Yet how easily we slip into it. I can grumble if I hit 2 red lights in a row. I can complain if I have to wait 5 minutes at a checkout counter. “They can put a man on the moon but they can’t…” you fill in the blank. God tells us in Philippians 2:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15)
Most people in the world complain and grumble. When we are thankful and cheerful, those around us see the light of Christ shining. They may not identify that light, but God tells us we are shining. At Christmastime and Thanksgiving and other times when families gather, we have a great opportunity to be cheerful and thankful around those we love.
Thankfulness stimulates us to be generous, to want to bless others.
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered. (Proverbs 11:24-25)
As we practice thankfulness to the Lord for all the ways he has blessed us, it motivates us to want to bless others. And the more we bless others, the more God pours out on us. The more we thank God for all the ways he blesses us, the more we will have faith to bless others. The more we thank God for his generosity, the more he makes us want to be generous.
Finally, thankfulness brings contentment and joy into our lives.
As I said earlier, all God’s commands are for our joy. As we thank God for all his blessings, we experience his joy. Rather than being like a child at Christmas who rips open a present, looks at it for 1.2 seconds, then sets it aside so he can tear into the next present, we can appreciate all the gifts God has poured out on us. Thankfulness yields joy. They are tied together. Our joy and contentment does not come from the act of thankfulness, but from Jesus Christ. But thankfulness puts our focus on Jesus Christ, our inheritance, our portion, our satisfaction, our delight and our satisfaction.
Let us who know Jesus seek to be the most thankful people on the face of the earth. Hey, there’s a good New Year’s resolution for you! Make it your goal to be the most thankful person in the world.