He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me. (Psalm 50:23, NASB)
Offering thanks to God does not sound like a sacrifice, but sometimes it is. We can be so bogged down — by a hard situation or just the daily demands of life — that we forget to be thankful. It takes effort to consciously include it in our thoughts and prayers. God knows this, so He gave us clear instructions:
Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this. (I Thessalonians 5:18, GW)
God’s will — His desire, His best plan for us — is that we thankfully remember all He has done for us and all He provides for us. We find far more life when we look beyond our circumstances and give thanks. Thankfulness is a powerful tool that helps us keep our hearts and minds in alignment with His perspective.
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; (Colossians 4:2, NASB)
I confess that I spend more prayer time asking God for things than thanking Him. It is easy to focus on my request — especially when interceding for someone else — and forget to thank God. When I fail to give thanks, I can easily slip into the mindset that God should do what I want and fulfill all my wishes, desires, and requests. But that is not God’s best for me!
When we follow His instruction and maintain an attitude of thankfulness in our prayers we are more likely to walk in far more life. We become alert to thoughts and feelings that are contrary to the power of the Spirit. We more consistently experience the peace, joy, and other fruit of the Spirit rather than falling into anger, apathy, or dissatisfaction. We handle disappointment better and can more fully connect with others in their joys and struggles. We feel more satisfied and find far more life even in circumstances where it previously eluded us.
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. (Psalm 9:1, NASB)
Focusing on thankfulness helps us recognize God’s work in and around us, often in situations where we would otherwise overlook it. We are faster to give God credit and our faith is strengthened. We grow in patience, kindness, generosity, and graciousness since we see the evidence of His work. We are slower to become fearful or worried as our trust in Him increases. We are also more aware of our need for Him and our limitations, which makes us more likely to follow His instructions. Giving thanks goes beyond the words we say; it is a far more life mindset that impacts how we perceive and respond to the world around us.
There is scientific support that supports God’s instruction. A 2014 article in Forbes shared these research-backed benefits of thankfulness:
- Gratitude opens the door to more relationships; people are more likely to seek out a relationship with someone who expresses thanks.
- Gratitude improves physical health, including fewer aches and pains and increased likelihood of exercise and self-care.
- Gratitude improves psychological health, including increased happiness and decreased depression.
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression, leading to lower interest in retaliation or revenge.
- People sleep better and longer when they write in a thankfulness journal before bed.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem and reduces comparing ourselves to others.
- Gratitude increases mental strength, reducing stress and increasing resilience to difficulty.
No wonder God instructed us to be thankful!
I know many people have Thanksgiving traditions to help them remember thankfulness. Consider building on that to form a new habit: daily thankfulness. The sacrifice is small compared to the far more life it reaps.
Does giving thanks require sacrifice? What barriers get in your way?
What helps you give thanks in difficult circumstances?
How can you incorporate more thanksgiving into your prayers?
What benefits do you notice at times you are thankful?
I hope today is the start of a year of thankfulness — and a year of far more life!
Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso