A Thankful Heart

By Rev. Larry Rice Are you aware how a thankful heart opens us up to a new awareness of the presence of God in our lives?  As Psalm 92:1 declares, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the […]

By Rev. Larry Rice

Are you aware how a thankful heart opens us up to a new awareness of the presence of God in our lives?  As Psalm 92:1 declares, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.”

God never intended thanksgiving to be shut up in a single day.  Remember that hymn which declares, “Now thank we all our God, with heart and hand and voices who wondrous things hath done, In whom His world rejoices.”

The rest of creation is inviting us to join it in giving thanks unto the Lord.  That is why Ps. 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”  This is a direct command to human beings to stop their on going destruction of life on this planet.  If we only think of the earth as a natural resource and all that lives upon it to be used for our pleasure how are we encouraging Ps 148:7-10 to be fulfilled?  “Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightening and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds.”  All this plus more was created for the prime purpose of worshipping and thanking God.

One of the worst forms of blasphemy is to thank God with uplifted hands one minute and then not fight for the rights of all creation to praise and thank the Lord.  This is done as we continue our materialistic lifestyles indifferent to our energy consumption and the price it demands from the rest of creation.  As a result 1000 species of life each year is destroyed and no longer able to praise and thank their Creator and Provider.

Our unfaithfulness at being earth keepers rather than earth breakers has robbed us of the opportunity to learn from creation.  We do not see the sun, moon and stars as our brothers and sister.  When was the last time you thanked God for these gifts along with the gift of the earth?  God’s response is found in Isaiah 1:15-17.  “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.  Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean.  Take your evil deeds out of my sight? Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!  Seek justice and encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”  As believers we must seek justice allowing those in need, along with the rest of creation to be able to exist and thank the Lord.

E.D. Buckaner nearly a century ago wrote this in response to Ps. 148:7—10 and Psalm 150:6, “The animate and inanimate creation all contribute to the true worship of God.  All of creation must worship at whatever level they possess.  Jesus said if men held back their praise, even the stones might ‘cry out’ in worship.”

The time has come for us to broaden our understanding of thanksgiving.  It involves being stewards of the earth who can harmonize with the rest of creation in thanking and praising God for His daily provision.  What a privilege it is to thank God along with those who Jesus used as an example of faith in Matt. 6:25—34.  The birds, the lilies, the animals, the fish and all the rest of creation depend upon God for their daily provision.  “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing”(Ps.145:15,16).

As stewards of the earth awoke to the wonders of creation and God’s provision of such we are free to thank and praise Him along with the rest of nature as commanded in Ps 148.  “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens.  Praise Him in the heights!  Praise Him, all His angels, Praise Him all His hosts!  Praises Him sun and moon, Praise Him all stars of light!  Praise Him, highest heavens, and waters that are above the heavens!  Let them praise the name of the Lord, for He commanded and they were created.  He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree, which will not pass away.  Praise the Lord from the earth, sea monsters and all deeps; fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word; Mountains and all hills; fruit trees and all cedars:  Beasts and cattle; creeping things and winged fowl; kings of the earth and all people; Princes and all judge of earth; Both young men and virgins; Old men and children.  Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven”(Ps 148:1-13).  By being faithful stewards of creation we as human beings can join in thanking God along with the rest of creation.  It is our love for God’s creation reflected through our caring of nature, which reveals to all the earth that we have indeed been created in the image of God and desire to daily thank Him for His blessings.

Thanking God is the great antidote for depression, discouragement and doubting.  It opens the curtain of hopelessness to the wonderful hope of endless blessings provided through our loving heavenly Father.  How is it that we feel so free to keep asking God for more and more blessings when we haven’t even thanked Him for the ones we have already received?

I am sure that many times God must feel like Edward Spencer who as a young man saw a boat on Lake Michigan sink one mile off the Illinois coast.  That boat had 393 people aboard.  As it sank Spencer swam out and saved seventeen lives by dragging them to shore one by one.  That day when 270 people on board drowned, this young man saved seventeen lives.  Such a heroic effort cost him dearly.  By the time he had saved the seventeenth, he collapsed.  He had damaged the nerves and muscles in his legs severely.  As a result, Edward Spencer spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair.  On his eightieth birthday someone asked him to relate his most vivid memory of his heroic event.  He responded by stating that not one of the seventeen people he rescued ever came back to thank him.  Such indifference and ungratefulness to being rescued may seem unthinkable.  The fact is how many times recently have we thanked God for sending His only begotten Son to die on a cross for our sins and be resurrected in order that we may live for all eternity with Him?

For our own physical, mental and spiritual well being we need with thankful hearts, to praise God along with the rest of creation and declare with David the words of Ps. 103:1-6.  “Praise the Lord, O my soul; and forget not all His benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.”

The fact is we have even more than all these wonderful blessings and all of creation for which we have to be thankful for.  We have the privilege of thanking God for the resurrected Christ and all He has done for us.  That is why Paul said, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1:16-19).

The reason we don’t frequently experience this incomparably great power and the thankful hearts accompanying such is because we look for it in the wrong places.  We accept the lies of this materialistic age that happiness and power can be found in all of our possessions.  This reminds me of a story about a kindergarten teacher who was trying to get her children to think about the holidays.  She told the class “Thanksgiving is that day when we think about all the things we have and how everybody else has more than we do.  It’s the day when we think about no body but ourselves.”  Then all the kids started yelling, “No”.  One little boy hollering louder than the rest said, “No, Miss Jones, that’s not Thanksgiving, that’s Christmas!”

That is not what Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other day of the year should be.  The teacher was hoping the children would respond by saying that Thanksgiving is to be a day we all express our thankfulness for all of our blessings.  Instead the one little boy who spoke up expressed the greed that is so prevalent not only among children but adults as well.

When we read Jonah’s prayer found in Jonah 2:2-9 we see the cry of a man who finally woke up to what really mattered in life after he was in the bottom of the ocean in a whale’s belly.  Many right now who feel they are in the whale’s belly of deep economic recession would benefit from meditating on the words of Jonah. He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’”

Jonah had discovered what so many are beginning to realize when they lose all their possessions that “those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that would be theirs.”  God is not against us possessing things, but He is against things possessing us.  Un-thankfulness, which is a result of clinging to worthless idols, kills those God moments of experiencing an awareness of God’s grace in a new and powerful way.  Thanksgiving keeps us from being a fearful, anxiety driven people.  It awakens us to a new awareness of the river of grace flowing from the throne of God.  Read Psalm 136:1-9 with a heart of thanksgiving and let that river of God’s goodness and grace begin to flow through you now.  “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. To him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever. Who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever. Who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever. Who made the great lights— His love endures forever. The sun to govern the day, His love endures forever. The moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.” The joy and gladness of the Lord’s love generates spontaneous thanksgiving and praise.  Yes, “thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15).

In 1 Corinthians 15:57 Paul goes into further detail on thanksgiving for this indescribable gift, which results in standing firm and giving oneself fully to the work of the Lord.  “But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers (and sisters) stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Instead of giving in to fear, frustration and depression at a time of high unemployment, home foreclosures and increased homelessness, let us give thanks to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  By living with an attitude of gratitude, we are able to stand firm in faith, thanking God for His blessings and knowing in the depths of our soul that He has everything under control.  With thankful hearts we don’t have to let anything move us in fear as we trust in God daily.  Instead of giving up in the midst of difficulties, we can thank God for His faithfulness and give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because we know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Let us give thanks.  As we do this our work for the Lord becomes worship.  I Chron. 16:8 tells us to “give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.”

Thank God for His goodness, His grace and His mercy.  Thank God for the sun, the moon, the stars and all that He has created.  Thank God for Jesus and the opportunities He has made available to us to serve Him both now and for all eternity.  “Therefore, since we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’” (Heb. 12:28, 29).

Let us give thanks for “the Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.  The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down” (Ps. 145:13, 14).

Now let us, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thess. 5:16-18).