BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
Thanksgiving should not be something you do towards the end of December. Neither should it be something you consider when some important things have happened to you. It is something you should do as a lifestyle. You should thank God at all times for who He is, what He has done for you in the past and what He will still do. And also, what He is doing right now. The writer of Psalm 34, David, said in verse 1 that he would bless the Lord at all times (not occasionally or sometimes) and His praise would continually (perpetually) be in his month. You also should be a habitual thanks giver.
Jesus is our perfect example of a habitual thanksgiver. He gave God thanks at all times – at different settings. Let’s look at these instances.
1.Jesus thanked God for hiding the truth of His word from the wise and clever “At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes’” (Matt 11:25 NKJV).
2. Jesus thanked God at the feeding of 5,000 people. “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted” (John 6:11 NKJV). It’s an example for us to thank God for our food before eating. It’s not a discipline for children alone. Many of us were taught to do this as children, and we did, but as we become adults we threw it away as if only children should thank God for their meals.
3. Jesus thanked God at the feeding of 4,000 people. “And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude” (Matt 5:36 NKJV). Mark 8:6 says a similar thing.
On these two occasions, the Bible records that there was a multiplication of the limited loaves of bread and fishes available to feed the multitude such that people ate to satisfaction and there remained leftover fragments. As you learn to give thanks to God over the little you have (instead of grumbling or complaining), God will multiply it; your little becomes more than enough.
4. Jesus gave thanks at the eating of the last supper with the disciples. “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me’” (Luke 22:17-19 NKJV). Jesus didn’t go straightaway to start giving the disciples the wine and bread for the communion, he gave thanks. The same account is in Matt 26:27, Mark 14:23 and 1 Cor 11:24) This again shows us that giving of thanks to God was an integral part of Jesus’ life; He couldn’t do without it. You and I need to emulate him.
5. Jesus gave thanks at the tomb of Lazarus. Before doing anything after he had been taken to Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus first gave thanks to God. The Bible says, “And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me’” (John 11:41-42 NKJV). That was the Son of God. He didn’t commit the sin of familiarity; He didn’t take God for granted. He thanked God. No wonder God answered His request, and Lazarus who has been dead for four days came out of the grave alive. If you want Heaven to answer your prayer when you pray cultivate the habit of thanksgiving. Behave yourself wisely in the presence of God; don’t think you can order God around.
Paul is another habitual thanksgiver. In the epistles that Paul wrote, we see this habit in Paul thanking God not just for himself but for others. In Rom 1: 8, Paul says to the Romans, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (NKJV). And to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 1:4 NKJV).
And appreciating his deliverance from the body of death, Paul says, “I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:25 NKJV). In 1 Cor 1:14, Paul says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name” (NKJV). In 1 Cor 14:18, he says, “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all.” (NKJV) In 1 Cor 15:57, thankful Paul says, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV). If you read Philippians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 2:13, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Colossians 1:3, 1 Timothy 1:12, 2 Timothy 1:3 and Philemon 4, you will see Paul expressing his gratitude to God for one thing or the other. He was a habitual thanksgiver.
But Paul not only thanked God habitually, he taught the church, Christians, to offer thanksgiving to God. In Phil 4:6, Paul tells us to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (NKJV). In Col 2:7, he urges us: “Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done” (NLT). Paul also says in Col 4:2, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (NKJV). Giving warning concerning false teachers forbidding people from eating certain food, Paul says, “But God created those foods to be eaten with thanksgiving by people who know and believe the truth” (1Tim 4:3 NLT). According to Paul, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1Thess 5:18 NKJV). And in Eph 5:20, Paul talks about “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV).
Having looked at all these Scriptures, you can see that it is fitting description to call Paul a habitual thanksgiver that every Christian should emulate.
Basic truths about thanksgiving
But before one embarks on this important discipline, it is important to understand some basic truths about thanksgiving.
1. Thanksgiving is an ordinance (a command) of God. In Lev 7:12 and Lev 22:29, thanksgiving offering is mentioned. The children of Israel offer this to God as a requirement. Ps 122:3-4 says, “Jerusalem is a well-built city, knit together as a single unit. All the people of Israel — the LORD’s people — make their pilgrimage here. They come to give thanks to the name of the LORD as the law requires” (NLT). God requires thanksgiving from His children. He says, “I don’t need the bulls you sacrifice; I don’t need the blood of goats. What I want instead is your true thanks to God. I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High” (Ps 50:13-14 NLT). Therefore, not to offer thanksgiving to God is to act contrary to the ordinance.
2. Thanksgiving must be offered in an acceptable manner. God doesn’t accept just any thanks. “When you bring a thanksgiving offering to the LORD, it must be sacrificed properly so it will be accepted on your behalf” (Lev 22:29 NLT).
3. Thanksgiving must start with right thinking. If you can think, you can thank. Those who cannot engage in right thinking, feel that God has done nothing for them that deserves giving thanks to Him. But that is not true. Blindness to what God has done for them and forgetfulness do not allow the kind of thinking that leads to thanksgiving. If they can think properly, they will see that, no matter the challenges they may be facing, there are things they can and should thank God for.
4. Thanksgiving must be heartfelt – it must not be mechanical, perfunctory or uttering words of thanks not based on a feeling of gratitude. You must really feel grateful not just saying, “Thank you Jesus” that you don’t mean. God rejects some thanksgiving, He is discriminatory about the thanks he receives or rejects.
For instance, in Luke 18:9-14, there is nothing to show that God accepted the Pharisee’s thanksgiving. “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14 NKJV).
The Pharisee’s thanks to God made no sense because he was he was a self-righteous, proud man. He didn’t approach God with humility.
Importance of Thanksgiving
1. Thanksgiving helps you to show and convey your gratitude to God. It helps you to thank God for who He is to you and for what He has done for you including salvation, blessings and miracles (Ps 103).
2. It helps you to express your acknowledgement that God is the source of your blessings. Through thanksgiving you tell God that He owns you and all that you have.
3. Thanksgiving keeps you humble. True heartfelt thanksgiving protects you against pride. It empties you of pride as you continually thank God. Because you are giving the credit to God, you remain humble. There is nothing to boast about.
4. Thanksgiving keeps you focused on God and not yourself or your circumstances. Because you’re focused on Him, He keeps increasing in your life. God takes you over. “But if God himself takes up residence in your life you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him” (Rom 8:9 The Message).
5. Thanksgiving invigorates you; it energizes you. Thanksgiving releases joy, and the joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh 8:10). One who gives thanks habitually cannot be a captive of his circumstance. Thanksgiving is an antidote for depression or a sorrowful spirit.
6. Thanksgiving enables you to gain heaven`s perspective especially in times of adversity. When you’re thanking God in such a situation, God will show you more than what you can see physically, something that will make you rejoice rather than sorrowful.
In Acts 5, the disciples saw beyond their suffering and were rejoicing after they had been beaten by the religious authorities. “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41 NKJV). Their persecutors must have been dumbfounded. 1 Thess 5:18 says, “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT).
7. Thanksgiving delivers you from anxiety. In Matt 6:25-34, Jesus taught us not to worry because worry changes nothing. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you” (NLT).
When you thank God for what He has done for you and for the requests you believe He has granted, you don’t get paralyzed by worry. Thanksgiving frees you from worry. Phil 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus” (NKJV). Take note of that phrase: “with thanksgiving.”
8. Thanksgiving provides an avenue for you to honour God. Thanksgiving brings honour to God. “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God” (Ps 50:23 NLT). So make sure you honour God regularly by offering sacrifice of thanksgiving to God. And you can rest assured that if you honour him He will honour you. “But I will honor only those who honor me, and I will despise those who despise me” (1 Sam 2:30 NLT).
9. It shows your continuous dependence on God. It is a proof that you’re not living independent of Him; you acknowledge that it is He that has given you power to get wealth. (Deut 8:18) And you know without Him you are nothing and you can do nothing. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NKJV). One dependent on God gives thanks to him often.
10. Through Thanksgiving, you bring more and more glory to God. Great thanksgiving from those who come to God will bring more and more glory to Him. “All of these things are for your benefit. And as God’s grace brings more and more people to Christ, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory” (2 Cor 4:15 NLT).
Ensure that you don’t deny God the glory that is due to him because He expects you to give glory to Him. “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created” (Rev 4:11 NLT). When one of the ten lepers Jesus healed saw that he was healed, the Bible says, he returned, “And with a loud voice glorified God” (Luke 17:15 NKJV). Let your thanksgiving bring glory, and more glory to God too every day.
11. Thanksgiving is good and giving thanks makes you align yourself with the will of God. When you give thanks to God habitually, you`re doing what is good. Ps 92:1 says, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to the Most High” (NLT). And when you offer thanks to God, you’re in His will. “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:18 NLT). God loves thanksgiving that’s why Jesus asked for the remaining ungrateful nine lepers. “Jesus asked, ‘Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?’” (NLT). Those nine lepers were outside the will of God. Be in the will of God – offer Him thanksgiving habitually.
12. Thanksgiving is a catalyst for divine multiplication and honour, a trigger for God’s blessings. Jer 30:19 says, “Then out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of those who make merry; I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small” (NKJV).
When you give thanks to God and make merry in His presence, God says, “I will make them increase and not diminish them. I will make them honoured and not disdained” (Jerusalem Bible). That means a habitual thanksgiver will never decrease; he will always increase. He won’t know demotion; he will experience promotion.
So instead of worrying and grumbling about a negative condition, keep giving thanks to God. And from where you are, God will multiply you just as He multiplied those loaves of bread and fishes that Jesus, after giving thanks, used to feed no fewer than 5,000 and 4,000 people on two occasions; God will bless you abundantly. Choose to be a habitual thanksgiver and not an unrepentant grumbler. Your life will improve tremendously as you give thanks to God regularly.
13. Thanksgiving is good for your health. This should excite you because good health is a great asset, and everybody that I know cherishes good health.
Prof Robert Emmons, described as the world leading scientific expert on gratitude says that studies have shown that gratitude is good for our bodies, our minds and our relationships.
Prof. Robert A. Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, in his research with his colleagues on the effects of gratitude on physical health, psychological well-being and relationships with others, discovered that gratitude has a lot of physical, psychological and social benefits. Some of the physical benefits he discovered in the research include stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, better health care, longer sleep, etc.
On the psychological benefits, grateful people enjoy higher levels of positive emotions, are more alert, alive and awake, have more joy and pleasure and enjoy more optimism and happiness. And as regards social benefits, grateful people are more helpful, generous and compassionate, more forgiving, more outgoing and feel less lonely and isolated.
I believe that the physical, psychological and social benefits can even be higher when the gratitude is towards God and not just man. God will always give more back to us when we give to Him.
If you’re not born again, I urge you to take the following steps:*Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent and confess my sins. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible believing, Bible teaching church in your area where you will be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. May the Lord be with you.I’ll be glad to hear from you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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