1 Chronicles 29:16 - "Everything has come from you and everything belongs to You." (NCV) When we start saying, "What can we be thankful for?" we really have to thank God for everything. But I have a few favourite things I like to thank God for. Choose some favourites of your own - to spend time giving thanks to God.
1. Reasons to Give Thanks
A. I'm grateful to God for the grace he's shown to me.
Ephesians 2: 8: "You have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God." What is grace? Grace is everything God does for you even though you don't deserve it. Psalm 103 lists some of the things God does in our lives by grace. "I will not forget the glorious things God does for me. He forgives all my sins. He heals me. He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with love. He fills my life with good things. He is merciful and tender to those who don't deserve it. He is slow to get angry. He never bears a grudge. He has not punished us as we deserve for our sins."
When I think about the grace of God, my heart explodes with gratitude. Before I met Christ, I was hopeless - headed for hell with no hope for the future. I never would have been good enough to earn my salvation. But God came along in his wonderful love and said, "I'm just going to show you grace."
B. I am thankful to God for the plan he has for me.
Because I'm alive, I know God has a plan for my life and he has a plan for your life too. God's plan is good. Jeremiah 29: 11 "I have good plans for you. I don't plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future." God doesn't say that his plan for your life is all happiness and comfort. God's plan sometimes includes pain, disappointments and unanswered prayers. But we don't have to worry about God's plan or be afraid of it. God's plan is so great that he even takes our faults, our failures and the things that other people do to hurt us and he weaves them into something good.
The more I stay in the centre of God's plan for my life, the more my true potential comes out. God says: "I have good plans for you." I'm grateful for those plans.
C. I'm grateful for the home he's prepared for me in heaven.
2 Corinthians 5: 1 "We know that our body will be destroyed. But when that happens God will have a house for us. It will not be a house made by human hands. Instead it will be a home in heaven that will last forever." You will spend eternity 1 of 2 places - heaven or hell, depending on whether you received Christ and trusted his grace or not. Jesus talked a lot about heaven and hell, and he says they're real places.
As a Christian, I don't have to fear the future. I know I'm going to heaven. Does everybody go to heaven? Absolutely not. Heaven is only for God's children. How do you get to be his child? By asking in faith to become a part of his family, by trusting in his son, Jesus Christ.
A home in heaven! What is heaven like? We can describe it in 4 words:
i. Reunited: In heaven, we're going to be reunited with loved ones who are believers.
ii. Rewarded: In heaven we will be rewarded for our faith, our service, our trust in Christ, and our faithfulness in praying and serving and giving and sharing.
iii. Reassigned: In heaven, we will all be reassigned new, fulfilling tasks.
iv. Released: In heaven we will all be released from pain, fear, depression, sorrow, conflict, tears, and stress; instead, there will be great joy. No matter what happens in the rest of my life, I'm ending up in heaven. I'm thankful for that.
D. I'm thankful to God for the changes he's making in me.
I am so glad that I am not the same person I used to be. God is helping make changes in my life that I could never do on my own. God sees our potential when nobody else sees it. When everybody else is writing you off as worthless, God says, "No, I see the diamond in you. I made you and I value you. I'm going to start making some changes in you." Though God loves you just the way you are, he loves you far too much to let you stay that way.
Philippians 2: 13 "God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him." Jesus has the power to change you that nobody else does. Jesus changes wife beaters into loving husbands, addicts in the street into responsible citizens, pompous business people into unselfish servants of God. I've seen God put marriages back together that were filled with daggers of hate. Only God can make those kinds of changes in our lives. I am so thankful.
The Power of Thanksgiving
Paul and Silas, 2 of the first Christians, are thrown in prison. In a dark, dank jail at midnight they decide to start thanking God. They start singing and praising God - and God does a miracle. He sends an earthquake that rattles all the jail doors loose. The jailer says, "I'm going to kill myself because all the prisoners are loose now." Paul says, "No, we're all here." The jailer says, "What kind of prisoners are you?" "Christians," Paul says.
So the jailer takes Paul and Silas to his home and Paul tells them about Christ. That night the jailer's whole family accepts the Lord.
Paul and Silas's prison doors were unlocked when they began to praise and thank God. What prison are you in? An emotional prison? A financial prison? A relational prison? Are you locked up with guilt? Are you locked up with worry? Are you locked up with discouragement and disappointment? Are you locked up in a habit that you can't break loose from? Conflict? Whatever it is, start thanking God and watch the prison doors open wide.
2. Ways to Give Thanks
If you want to show gratitude to a friend, you might write a note, give a gift, or do a favour for that person. But how can you say thanks to God? Here are 4 suggestions:
Psalm 147: 7 "Sing out your thanks to him, sing praises to God." Nothing makes you more aware of God's presence faster than praising God. You say you can't sing? You don't have to. The Bible says make a joyful noise. Even pigs do that when they eat! Some of you can’t carry a tune but you can still sing to the Lord.
You can sing to God in your home, your office, your car - or your shower! Christianity is a singing faith. Did you know that more songs have been written about Jesus Christ than any other single subject in history? Why? Because he's the one worthy of our praise.
Singing is good for you too. If you're feeling down, just start singing and watch the miracle of thanksgiving take place in your heart.
We sing with our lips but we serve with our lives. "Serve the Lord with gladness." Hebrews 12: 28 "Since we have a Kingdom that nothing can destroy, let us please God by serving him with thankful hearts."
Everything you have is a gift of God. So thank him through service - by using your abilities and talents to do something totally unselfish. When we serve God, it's not a burden or obligation. It's a privilege. We serve God in gratitude.
"Give an offering to show thanks to God. Give him what you promised." The level of my giving shows the level of my gratitude. If I'm not giving, I'm not very grateful.
Deuteronomy 16: 10: "Celebrate the harvest festival to honor the Lord your God by bringing him a free will offering in proportion to the blessings he has given you." This is a biblical principle. God established a Thanksgiving festival that he called the Feast of Weeks where his people were to bring him an offering.
Tell others about Jesus. Every time you tell somebody the Good News, you're thanking God. Isaiah 12: 4 "Thank the Lord, praise his name. Tell the world of his wondrous love and how mighty he is." We have the greatest news in the world, and everyone needs to know it. You can start by sharing your own testimony of how God has worked in your life. If you don't tell it, who will? Not me. If you don't tell your story, it's not going to get shared and the world is at a loss because of that.
So be thankful - sing praises to God, serve someone without getting anything in return, give an offering to God and tell someone about Jesus. When you do all those things you'll be giving thanks to God.
3. Giving Thanks in all Cicumstances
Some of you are having a tough year. You’ve endured your share of criticism. Maybe you’ve lost a job. Maybe you’re going through a rough patch in your marriage. Can we thank God even when times are tough? Yes, we can.
1 Thessalonians 5: 18 “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (GNB) This verse does not say give thanks for everything. It says give thanks for every circumstance. I see it misinterpreted all the time. You don’t have to give thanks for evil in the world. If my children were murdered, I would not be thankful. If my wife was sick, I would not be thankful. The Bible does not say be thankful for evil. But in every circumstance, no matter how bad it is, you can give thanks to God because …
A. His purpose is bigger than my problem.
B. He will give me the power to overcome my problem.
C. I know I will grow through the experience if I allow God to help me grow.
I may not be thankful forevil, but I can be thankful despite evil. How can you be grateful when you’ve lost your job, your health, or a spouse? You look not at what you’ve lost – but what you have. And you have an awful lot left. You’re alive for one thing!
So the question is: What are you taking for granted? Your health? Your freedom? Your relationships? There is an old song, “Count Your Blessings, Name Them One By One.” We need to do that. We need to make lists of what we are thankful for – our families, friends, our ministries, whatever we are thankful for. When times are tough, that’s when you need to be reminded of everything God has given you.
Becoming a truly grateful person can be the healthiest change you make in your life – better than any diet or exercise plan you start on. Love isn’t the healthiest emotion out there – gratitude is. When you are thankful despite your circumstances, you’re more resistant to illness and stress.
Besides, you can’t find God’s will for your life when you’re ungrateful. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:18 again. “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will.” If you’re not living a grateful life – despite your circumstances – you’re out of God’s will. It’s that simple.