Benefits of Giving Thanks

Though our US holiday of Thanksgiving is over, giving thanks should continue. This year I saw some benefits to thanksgiving, some of which I don’t remember noticing before.

Thanksgiving reminds us what we’re supposed to be doing all year long. A man in our Sunday School class shared how the Lord delivered him from a life-threatening illness. Then he remarked, “I should be thanking and praising God every day, but I take this gift for granted.” We all do that, don’t we?

Thanksgiving reminds us where our gifts come from. We forget that even a good job, the availability of good food, clean water, warm beds, family, and so much more, are gifts from God. They could all be taken away in a moment.

Thanksgiving reminds us how God has led or provided for us in the past, through both good and bad times. As people shared testimonies in our midweek service, they tended to recall special moments in the past where God’s help was especially displayed. I call these “Ebenezer moments.” In 1 Samuel 7, after God delivered Israel from the Philistines, Samuel set up a memorial stone and called it Ebenezer, meaning “stone of help.” A few years ago, I was inspired to make a list of “Ebenezer” moments. Going over that list inspires love and praise to God for how He has worked in my life. “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:5-8).

Thanksgiving needs to be intentional. Maybe some people are naturally geared towards gratefulness. But most of us notice the problems, irritations, and imperfections of life first. In Joy: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback, she says this: “If we are not looking for the good things, we may fail to see them when they come. That’s part of why thankfulness is so important. Offering thanks to God, no matter what is going on in our lives, is a way of acknowledging that he knows exactly what he is doing and that we can trust him” (p. 28, Kindle version).

Thanksgiving isn’t always a feeling. Another quote from Lydia’s book: “Sometimes thankfulness is a choice we make rather than a feeling we have” (p. 28).

Thanksgiving leads to more thanksgiving. Once you start looking for things to be thankful for, your list keeps growing. At the testimony service mentioned above, after everyone had a chance to share, people started saying, “His story reminds of the time God did this. . . “

Thanksgiving melts away our worries. When we remind ourselves of the ways God has helped and provided for us in the past, we’re encouraged to trust Him for the present and future.

Thanksgiving recalibrates our perspective. I can’t find the source now, but I recently read of a woman who was having an awful start to her day. On her way to work, she began deliberately looking for things to be thankful for. By the time she arrived, her mood and outlook had completely changed.

Thanksgiving shared with others increases opportunities to glorify God. As we heard each others’ stories at our testimony service, we thanked God not just for what He did for us, but also for what He did for others. “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15).

Thanksgiving shared knits hearts together. Testimony services leave us not only with warm feelings towards God, but also towards each other.

So let thanksgiving continue! Let’s make it a point to look for God’s hand and thank Him as often as we can.

Have you found these or any other benefits to giving thanks?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

A Confession of Praise

A study Bible footnote unexpectedly intersected with thoughts about Thanksgiving.

I’m not a Hebrew scholar by any means. But the ESV Study Bible noted that the Hebrew word todah could be translated as “make confession” or “give thanks or praise,” depending on the context. The footnote goes on to say, “Some overlap of these meanings is not surprising because rightful confession is itself a kind of worship of God” (p. 820).

We don’t usually connect confession of sin with worship and praise, but the one does lead to the other, doesn’t it? Once we’ve confessed sin to the Lord and rested in His grace and forgiveness, we overflow with joy and thankfulness.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2).

But I began to wonder at another connection.

I was taught that confession of sin means saying the same thing God says about it. In other words, we don’t downplay our sin. We’re honest about it. We don’t say, “Oh, I just told a little fib.” No, to adequately confess sin, we have to call it what it is and own up to it: “I lied.”

So I wonder if giving thanks or praise carries that same connotation. When we praise God, we’re agreeing with what He says about Himself. It’s not that He needs the affirmation, but we need to recognize Him for who He is. And when we do, we can’t help but praise Him. And the more we behold Him, the more our cares and concerns melt away, because we remind ourselves He is more than able to handle any need we have.

Confessing also seems to carry the connotation of personal experience. I might share or rejoice in what God has done in someone else’s life. But if I am confessing, whether it’s sin or praise, I’m sharing what God has done in my life.

In Psalm 95:2, todah is the word translated thanksgiving: “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”

Many of the psalms combine confession of sin, thankfulness for God’s grace, amazement at His greatness, and confession of His people’s personal experience of His provision, protection.

Psalm 145 is a beautiful example of this. Part of it says:

One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
    and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Psalm 65 does as well:

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
    and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hear prayer,
    to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me,
    you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple!

These thoughts brought to mind Ron and Shelly Hamilton’s song, “Worthy of Praise”:

My heart overflows with praise to the Lord
I will lift up my voice to the King
He brought me out of the pit of despair
And taught my heart to sing


Worthy of all my praise
You are worthy of all my praise
I bow at Your throne
And I worship You alone
Lord You are worthy
Worthy of praise

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with food, family, and praise for Him who is worthy.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

The Sacrifice of Praise

Some days it’s easy to thank and praise God. A prayer is answered just the way we wanted, an unexpected gift arrives, a loved one recovers from an illness. When God does something obvious for us, we respond in praise to Him.

But other times, praise is hard. The prayer is answered “No.” A loved one does not recover. Needs and hardships abound with no relief in sight.

Psalm 116:17 speaks of offering “the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” After speaking of the sacrifice Jesus made of His own blood so that we could be saved. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”

Why would it be called a sacrifice to praise God?

Sacrifices cost something. They acknowledge the worthiness of the one sacrificed to. They encourage faith even as they express faith.

Why does God want our praise? Everyone appreciates a “thank you.” But God doesn’t need praise from us. He is totally self-sufficient. He asks for our praise because we need it. He lifts our chin upwards so our gaze rests on Him. When times are hard, looking to Him reminds us that He is sovereign, wise, powerful, loving, kind. When we praise Him, we acknowledge His greatness for our own hearts as well as others. We remind ourselves that all our answers and provisions come from Him. We don’t ignore the pain or heartache, but we acknowledge God in them.

As Nancy Guthrie shares in Hoping for Something Better: Refusing to Settle for Life as Usual:

When we choose to praise God for His goodness, despite His allowing what we would nor describe as good into our lives, that is a sacrifice of praise. When we praise Him for His sovereignty, even though we don’t understand the whys of His plans, that is a sacrifice of praise (p. 177).

In On Asking God Why, Elisabeth Elliot wrote of finding help to praise when she wasn’t feeling particularly thankful:

When I stumble out of bed in the morning, put on a robe, and go into my study, words do not spring spontaneously to my lips–other than words like, “Lord, here I am again to talk to you. It’s cold. I’m not feeling terribly spiritual….” Who can go on and on like that morning after morning, and who can bear to listen to it day after day?

I need help in order to worship God. Nothing helps me more than the Psalms. Here we find human cries–of praise, adoration, anguish, complaint, petition. There is an immediacy, an authenticity, about those cries. They speak for me to God–that is, they say what I often want to say, but for which I cannot find words.

Surely the Holy Spirit preserved those Psalms in order that we might have paradigms of prayer and of our individual dealings with God. It is immensely comforting to find that even David, the great king, wailed about his loneliness, his enemies, his pains, his sorrows, and his fears. But then he turned from them to God in paeans of praise.

He found expression for praise far beyond my poor powers, so I use his and am lifted out of myself, up into heights of adoration, even though I’m still the same ordinary woman alone in the same little room.

She goes on to tell how hymns also help her find words with which to praise:

By putting into words things on earth for which we thank him, we are training ourselves to be ever more aware of such things as we live our lives. It is easy otherwise to be oblivious of the thousand evidences of his care.

This year has been full of various hardships. Thanksgiving may not hold its usual luster. In fact, it might be hard to find something to thank God for. But I have found those times when I have to search for God’s blessings to be especially meaningful. He always leaves evidence of His care, and sometimes we miss them unless we’ve especially tuned our hearts to see them. 

One hymn which helps me praise is “O God, Beyond All Praising” by Michael Perry. A few lines express the truths discussed here:

And whether our tomorrows
Be filled with good or ill,
We’II triumph through our sorrows
And rise to bless you still:
To marvel at your beauty
And glory in your ways,
And make a joyful duty
Our sacrifice of praise.

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