Thanksgiving is Expressed in Shouting to the LORD – “Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!”
We shout when we watch our favorite baseball players hit a home run, or when our football team scores a touchdown, but it seems that Christians in our culture rarely shout to the LORD in gratitude. Why is that? When was the last time you shouted in gratitude or praise to the LORD? I remember hiking to the top of Mt. Washburn at Yellowstone National Park with Carrie a few years ago. From the top we had a panoramic view of the park. I could see the grand canyon of Yellowstone, the lake, the whole park, and it was breath-taking, literally. The air was thin. The hike was exhausting. Yet the beauty all around us was exhilarating. On the way down the mountain, I could not contain the joy that was welling up inside me. This was God’s creation. He made all of this beauty around me. Like the waters of the geyser Old Faithful that we had witnessed the previous day, the joy gushed out of me in praise. I shouted, “Praise the LORD!”
But I cannot remember other occasions in which I have shouted to the LORD. I have thanked Him. I have praised Him, but shouting? Why is it that there is so little shouting among Christians? Is it because we are concerned about what those around us will think? No one thinks we are nuts when we stand up and shout while watching a sporting event, but will others think we are strange if we shout to the LORD?
I think there is another reason there is not enough shouting going on. We do not spend enough time meditating on gratitude or thankfulness. When we give appropriate time to meditating on who God is and what great things He has done for us, we will not be able to contain our joy. It will gush out of us in shouting. Old Faithful cannot contain it’s waters, but must let them burst forth. So also, the grateful heart cannot contain its joy.
Thanksgiving is Expressed in Joyful Serving – “Serve the LORD with gladness.”
Jesus, “the Son of Man, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom “for many” (Matthew 20:28). This holiday season, are you looking forward to being served or to serving God and others? If you are planning to serve, are you enthusiastic about serving, or is it something you dread? If serving the LORD and serving others is not on your radar, or if you know you are expected to serve, but it is something you are not excited about, perhaps it is because you have not spent enough time meditating on who God is and what He has done for you. Gratitude erupts not only in shouting, but also in joyful serving.
A victim mentality says, “I must be served.” I have been short-changed. I am a victim because I have been mistreated, have experienced suffering, or because I do not have it as good as someone else. But a gratitude mentality focuses on what we have in the LORD–on what we have been given. We have been given so much, we must give back to the LORD and share our joy in Him by serving others.
Thanksgiving is Expressed in Singing – “Come before His presence with singing.”
The joy of gratitude erupts in shouting and serving, and the joy of gratitude erupts in singing. Singing for the believer is one of the marks of being filled with the Holy Spirit. We sing at church when we are together, formally. But is singing part of our every day life? As we express thanks to the LORD, does singing burst forth from souls of gratitude? Sometimes, I have to correct the teenagers I work with for singing inappropriate songs. If teenagers are so excited about the music they listen to that they just start singing at random times, why is there so little singing among Christians? Perhaps where there is little singing, there is little meditation on who God is and on what He has done for us. Perhaps where there is little singing, there is little gratitude.
The Thankful Heart Acknowledges that the LORD is God and that We Are Not – “Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.”
The message that God is God and that we are not and that God is our Creator and that we are not self-made men and women is a message that is very much needed in our world and our nation and a message that we very much need to hear ourselves. Most people go about life as if they had made themselves and their purpose should be self-determined.
The prosperity Gospel teachers, motivational speakers, self-help gurus, and their followers need to listen to the Psalmist. We cannot speak things into existence such as our desires or destinies. Only God can do that. Only He creates out of nothing with His words. Only He determines our destinies. We cannot simply bring our desires to pass by speaking them or thinking them enough. We are not little gods as Creflo Dollar claims. We are created beings created to fulfill His purposes, not our own. Lamentations 3:37 says, “Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it?” We may ask of God, and if we ask according to His will, He hears us and grants our petitions, but ultimately, it is His will that determines our future, not ours (See 1 John 5:14-15).
The psychotherapists and their followers need to hear that we are made by God and for His glory, not for self-actualization. Those who identify as transgender need to hear the words of the Psalmist. It is God who has made us male or female. We should not and cannot decide or change our own gender. In Matthew 19:4, alluding to Genesis, Jesus said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female.'” Men and women who identify as transgender have real struggles and need our compassion as we share the truth with them. But he or she who would determine his or her own gender acts as if he or she is the creator rather than God. The sexually immoral need to hear the Psalmist and the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians. “Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord . . . or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” Not only are we created by God, we have been bought by him at a price. Our bodies were made and purchased to serve Him, not for self-gratification.
You and I need to hear the message of the Psalmist when we get angry that things do not turn out the way we want them to or when we don’t get our way–even if we don’t get what we want for Christmas. We need to hear the message of the Psalmist when we are short or impatient with others as if they were made to serve us, or when we pat ourselves on our backs for our own accomplishments. We are not self-made men. We are not responsible for our own success. If we have a talent or skill or an ability or possession, it is because God has gifted us, and we should be thankful to Him. We are not made to serve our own agendas. It is he who has made us and not we ourselves.
God has created us to be knights and not kings. A knight is content to serve the interests of the king and to work to accomplish the king’s purposes. A knight is thankful to be allowed to serve the king and to approach the king at court. When knights begin to act as kings, they become dissatisfied. When knights become dissatisfied and ungrateful, they begin to act like usurpers. God is the King and we are made to serve His kingdom, not the kingdom of Self. It is He who has made us and not we ourselves. When we remember that the world revolves around Him and not us, we will be grateful knights, content in serving the king.
The Thankful Heart rejoices that we are the LORD’s people and the sheep of His pasture – “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”
Sheep do not do well when they do not follow the shepherd. They go astray and get into trouble. We were designed to follow our shepherd and to be His people, not to blaze our own trail and do what is right in our own eyes.
The purpose of sheep is to belong to the shepherd, but because they belong to him, the shepherd values and cares for his sheep. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. Not only does He feed His sheep with the Word and protect his sheep from robbers and lions. He lay down His life for the sheep. That is how much He loves us. We give thanks to Him for His provision, care, and His sacrificial death for His people.
The Thankful Heart approaches the LORD’s Presence with thanksgiving and praise – “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.”
We begin our worship service with songs of praise. We praise the LORD for His attributes and His works when we worship together. We should also begin our personal prayer time with thanksgiving and praise. When you pray do you spend time thanking God for His many blessings and praising Him for His goodness, mercy, and truth, or are you only asking? Jesus said that we should ask, but the Psalmist says that we should also give thanks for all the blessings with which He has already bestowed us.
The Thankful Heart proclaims the LORD’s goodness – “For the LORD is good.”
Goodness can mean moral goodness or benevolence. I believe the Psalmist is referring to the LORD’s benevolence here. This means that God is good to His people. He takes care of us and provides for us and does what is best for us. We can always trust Him to act in our best interest as the Good Shepherd always acts for the best for His sheep. Even when evil befalls us, God has a good purpose in it for us. He works all things together for the good of His people.
The Thankful Heart delights in the LORD’s mercy – “His mercy is everlasting.”
The LORD’s mercy here refers to His grace or unmerited love, favor, kindness, and blessings. This includes foremost His salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life in Christ, which are only possible because we partake of the body and blood of our LORD Jesus Christ through faith in His sacrifice for our sins on the cross.
I don’t know of anything that we should be more thankful for than the grace of our LORD. We love Him because He first loved us and sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins. The LORD will continue to show us His kindness in Christ Jesus for all eternity. Those who delight in God’s mercy love to tell the story of Jesus. They want to share the good news of the Gospel with others.
The Thankful Heart exults in the LORD’s truth – “And His truth endures to all generations.”
Do you love God’s word? Do you exalt in it’s timeless truth and power. Do you spend time reading, meditating, memorizing, and proclaiming the Word of God to others? The LORD’s truth is His Word, which has been preserved by Him through the ages. Not only is it preserved in written form. It is embraced and proclaimed by His people, the body of Christ throughout the world. Isn’t it amazing that in this age of skepticism about the Bible and hatred for what the Bible teaches that God’s Word,t he Bible, is still embraced and proclaimed by His true people. Those who reject the inerrant truth of God’s Word reject Him. A thankful heart exults in the LORD’s truth because the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. And the Scriptures are sufficient to equip us for every good work and to provide for us all that pertains to life and godliness. This Thanksgiving and every other day of the year, we as Christians have the most for which to be thankful. In the words of the Battle Hymn of the Republic: “Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on,” or in the words of the Psalmist, “His truth endures to all generations.”