Growing a Heart of Thanksgiving

In Blogs, Devotional by Paul PierceLeave a Comment

This article was originally published on November 20, 2020.

“Thank you” was an expected response my parents reinforced in our lives. Praying at the table to give thanks was, and remains, a common practice. We also sought to establish this habit in our family as well. While many, if not most, believers have been encouraged to give thanks, pray regularly, and likely heard numerous messages on thanksgiving, are we really being thankful?

Admittedly, in America, Thanksgiving is a wonderful family-focused event complete with far too much to eat—especially desserts. From childhood we remember the accounts of the Pilgrims and Native Americans enjoying a feast together (and who can forget the coloring pages of turkeys, Pilgrims, and cornucopias?), but are we really being thankful?

While many, if not most, believers have been encouraged to give thanks, pray regularly, and likely heard numerous messages on thanksgiving, are we really being thankful?

For the sake of full disclosure, I also have to admit my thankfulness too often centers on what I am experiencing (such as our nation’s rich heritage of freedom, good health, love of family, etc.) and what I have received (gifts, encouragement, assistance, etc.)—the things that directly impact me or are beneficial to me. But am I really being thankful? 

An Expectation of God’s Chosen People

In Psalm 100:4–5 we are exhorted,“Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courtyards with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lᴏʀᴅ is good; His mercy is everlasting and His faithfulness is to all generations” (NASB). What did the psalmist have in mind? What are the “gates” he is referring to? 

Psalm 100 teaches the people of God to act in response to who God is—to shout, serve, come before Him, and know that the Lord is God. But verses 4–5 reveal an increasing nearness to God, as one of God’s Chosen People would enter His gates (the city of Jerusalem) and His courts (the Temple). The context does not reveal any “things” or experiences of the people, but simply a clear focus on the person and character of God. 

The children of Israel are God’s Chosen People (Genesis 12:1–3). In choosing them, God desired that, through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all the earth would be blessed. When David slew the giant Goliath, he did so “that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:46). While Psalm 100 is certainly applicable to believers of all ages, it was an exhortation given to God’s Chosen People to respond to God with hearts overflowing with praise and thankfulness.

Why did they have to be reminded to offer praise and thanksgiving to God? How could they possibly forget the Exodus out of Egypt, the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:29), the provision of manna (16:4), and the fact that their sandals never wore out during the 40 years of wandering (Deuteronomy 29:5)? How was it possible that they did not remember the meaning of the “standing stones” by the Jordan River after they crossed into the Promised Land on dry ground (Joshua 4:1–9)? 

We can become so entrenched in our own circumstances, experiences, and pursuits that we lose our eternal and spiritual perspective, just like they did.

The instances of God’s intervention in their lives and His deliverance of His people from their enemies seem impossible to forget (Psalm 78). However, it’s not really too difficult to imagine. We can become so entrenched in our own circumstances, experiences, and pursuits that we lose our eternal and spiritual perspective, just like they did. 

An Expectation of God’s Church

Colossians 2:6–7 reads: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” (NASB).

In his letter to the church of Colosse, Paul rejoiced in the evidence of the Colossian believers’ salvation and prayed for their continued growth. He was concerned for the man-centered philosophies of the day that could prove to be a distraction for them or even persuasive arguments that could lead them away from a true knowledge of Christ. He longed to know of their stability of faith in Christ and knew that such stability would be accompanied with heartfelt and abundant thankfulness. 

To quickly summarize a portion of Paul’s letter, we read that a life centered on Christ (1:15) and reconciled to God in Christ (vv. 21–23) is a life with the hope of glory in Christ (v. 27); and a life rooted and established in Christ (2:6–7) will produce overflowing gratitude.

I am continually reminded of God’s provision of a Savior, the grace of God that saved and keeps me, and His plan and purpose for each life.

A few years ago, I suffered a heart attack; and by God’s merciful and miraculous provision, I survived. That night, I was totally helpless and could do nothing of my own volition but trust those who were caring for me. The circumstances of the evening, as I discovered later, were clearly of God’s providential work—there could be no other explanation.

While my family and I are thankful for such provision, we were all reminded that our lives are in His hands, and we are here for His purposes. Since then, I have chosen to discipline my mind to think on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. In this discipline, I am continually reminded of God’s provision of a Savior, the grace of God that saved and keeps me, and His plan and purpose for each life. Each and every believer is a trophy of God’s grace by His work alone! 

The Jewish people were reminded to draw nearer to God’s dwelling place (the Temple) with a growing thankfulness and praise. Paul reminded believers of the need to reflect on their lives in Christ and in doing so they would overflow with gratitude. That doesn’t mean that we should not enjoy or be thankful for our daily blessings such as food, health, jobs, and freedoms, nor should we neglect the cultivation of thankfulness in the hearts of our children. But while such blessings may one day become a memory of the past, the joy of rooting ourselves in Christ and knowing our eternal Heavenly Father will last forever.

About the Author
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Paul Pierce

Paul is the Church Ministries Manager and a Bible teacher for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry in the Pacific Northwest.

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