When is a good time to be thankful? I think intuitively we know it’s not just on Thanksgiving Day. If we’re honest, that can become the most contentious day of the year for many families. People who are bonded by blood, but not ideology, passions, or careers, get together to share a meal and pass out in front of football games.
That’s not your home? It’s okay. My point remains, gratitude seems to be a daily issue, not an annual one. Let’s explore seven times scripture calls us to be thankful.
#1: Be thankful all the time
Paul tells the Ephesians to not only give thanks for everything God has done but to do it always (Eph. 5:20). All the time. Continuously. Sounds clear enough, but it also sounds impossible. Of course, that’s the point. In a different context, Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). We can’t possibly thank God all the time without the Holy Spirit.
#2: When we enter God’s house
Psalm 100:4 starts out, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” When you prepare to worship God do you think of all the reasons you have to be thankful? Or do you prepare as if you were going to a movie, a concert, or some other place of entertainment? What might it be like if for the next 12 weeks you made an intentional decision to prepare a list of things for which you’re thankful before you go to worship? Once there, find a way to quietly present your prayers of thanks to God each Sunday.
#3: When we arise and when we go to sleep
In Psalm 92:2 the psalmist declares, “It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.” One of the ways I like to start my day is by taking a few deep breaths and on each exhale telling God something I’m thankful for. I’m thinking that might be a good way to end the day also.
#4: In times of trouble
If we were to ever get a pass on being thankful, it should be when we are sick, grieving, or under duress. However, that doesn’t seem to fit the model of scripture. In Psalm 118, the psalmist faces adversity with confidence because God is with him (vs. 6). Jesus gave thanks when he broke the bread with his disciples even though he faced certain death the following day. Paul and Silas sang hymns of praise while in prison. The list goes on to provide myriad examples of disciples giving thanks when in trouble. May God show us how to do the same.
#5: Even while we sleep
Here’s another one that sounds impossible. However, researchers know that our dreams often reflect what we were thinking about right before we go to sleep. If we spend time in thankful prayer before we retire for the night, we might do what the sons of Korah proclaim:
“But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,Psalm 42:8
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.”
#6: Thankful in all circumstances
This is a slight nuance to point #1. Not only are we to continuously give thanks, but in each and every circumstance we find ourselves in. Paul told the Thessalonians, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:20). Each and every moment and situation we find ourselves in, good, bad, or otherwise, we can find a way to give thanks.
#7: As soon as God answers our prayers
When God answers your prayers, how do you respond? I find that when it’s a significant answer to prayer, it’s far easier to stop and acknowledge his miraculous intervention. But what about the small answers? Watch how a blind man responds after Jesus heals him, “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God” (Luke 18:43 NIV). Immediately.
I don’t know about you, but after studying all these times I’m supposed to be thankful it feels rather daunting. I am aware of how far I have to go. Thanks be to God for the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in my life. I recognize that ninety days can’t possibly turn me into a continuously grateful person, but may I become just a bit more like Jesus.
Prepare for worship this week by bringing a thanks offering of things you and your family are thankful for. Write them down. If there’s a way to prayerfully leave it at the altar or place it in the offering basket, do so.
Father, I thank you that you are with me. I praise you that you are awakening this desire to become more thankful, but I see that I have a long way to go. I pray you will open my eyes to see more ways you are at work around me. Open my heart to receive your love with greater gratitude. Open my ears to hear your words of encouragement and instruction. Open my lips to declare your thanks immediately. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.