by Santosh Poonen
“Let us come before Him with thanksgiving” –Psalm 95:2
The word “thanksgiving” is popular around this time of year. I wonder, however, if we have stopped to ponder what it really means to give thanks, and more importantly, why thanksgiving is important to God.
Here are four thanksgiving relationships that we don’t often think about, but which Scripture highlights clearly:
1. Thanksgiving and Fellowship: Under the Levitical Law, if you wanted to offer an expression of thankfulness to God, the offering that you had to offer was called the “fellowship offering” (Leviticus 7:11-15). God is showing us here that thanksgiving is meaningless to Him unless it is offered in fellowship with Him. So, if your “thanksgiving” has a hollow ring to it or your praise seems to boomerang off the ceiling, perhaps God is putting His finger on an area of your life in which He cannot have fellowship with you. Surrender that to Him, and your gift of thanks will become acceptable to Him. The corollary is also true – you cannot have fellowship with God unless you first come with thanksgiving. David understood this when he wrote, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving” (Psalm 100:4). So, if your find that your attempts to experience God’s presence seem to be going nowhere, get rid of all resentments and grumbling and complaining from your life. Leave them at the cross, and pour out your thanks to God. You will then enjoy sweet fellowship with Him.
2. Thanksgiving and Suffering: When Jesus was about to drink the cup of suffering together with His disciples – symbolizing the New Covenant in His blood – the first thing He did was give thanks for it (Matthew 26:27-28). In fact, when Paul recounts the same incident, he actually calls it the “cup of thanksgiving” (I Corinthians 10:16). Most people give thanks to God only for their cup of blessing. But, that’s just the reasonable thing to do, and you only need good manners for that. Giving thanks to God for the cup of suffering He is giving you, on the other hand, is the truly “Christ-ian” thing to do. That takes faith, but it pleases God to no end (Hebrews 11:6; Isaiah 53:10).
3. Thanksgiving and Anxiety: The secret to not being overcome by evil is in doing good (Romans 12:21). This is the beautiful principle of godly living that can be applied to every situation we face. When we apply it in our daily lives, we find that every negative spiritual force, has a positive counterpoint, which is the way of escape that God has made for us (I Corinthians 10:13). And this certainly applies to the evil of anxiety. The secret to not being anxious about anything is in being thankful for everything (Philippians 4:6). Are you worried about some difficult situation in your life? Try thanking God for it. Sure, it seems counter-intuitive, but everything about God is counter-intuitive (Isaiah 55:8-9), and such people turn the world right-side-up.
4. Thanksgiving and Spiritual Gifts: The spiritual gift of speaking in tongues is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and abused of gifts today. Yet the Bible describes it as essentially the “giving of thanks” in the spirit (I Corinthians 14:16). When your thanksgiving transcends body and soul and reaches your spirit, then you’ll probably find that there are never enough words. But, you can’t speak in tongues (read: give thanks in heavenly languages), unless you’ve first run out of words with which to give thanks in your everyday language!
May we be a people who give thanks in everything (I Thessalonians 5:18).
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