Now there is a hard admonition. How do you give thanks for cancer or loss of a job for example? Those are not good things, are they? No, not necessarily. By that I mean that thanksgiving is an attitude. A favorite preacher friend of mine said, “Gratitude is the attitude that determines the altitude of your life.” OK, but disease is still not a good thing, right? I agree, but here’s the thing. We give thanks in and for all things because God is in all things. “Be joyful always; pray continuously; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Now there indeed is some of the hardest teaching in Scripture. Rejoicing always, you have got to be kidding. Well, I didn’t write it, God did through the Apostle Paul. These verses contain some whole clothe that I want to exegete or take apart and put back together again.
This Thanksgiving season rejoice or give praises, why? “But You are holy,
Enthroned (Inhabit) in the praises of Israel (Psalm 22:3 NKJV). God hears our prayers and answers our prayers as long as we do not have un-confessed sin in us. Throughout Scripture God is being praised for what He has done, from bringing Israel out of bondage, to healing all of our diseases. Almost every psalm or hymn starts with praising and blessing the Lord. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1). There are 24 couplets of this thanksgiving repeated in this psalm alone. My favorite, Psalm 103 starts with, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. Who forgives all your iniquities (sins), who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth (desires of your heart) with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5). I am just in awe of that statement of truth. In fact it is these very words, cried out loud from my perilously sick bed that brought miraculous and instant healing from the illness of a deer tick bite. My physicians had already pronounced that I would probably die from it, but praise the Lord, God healed me as a great heat came through my body that night and I was able to jump out of my sweat soaked bed with frozen limbs to dance and rejoice in His love and power. You can read the whole story in my book Great is God’s Faithfulness.
Paul states a similar word about God in Ephesians 5:20 saying, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He has just said to not get drunk on much wine that leads to debauchery, instead “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). It is with our mouth that we praise Him, empowered by the Holy Spirit of God that lives with and within us. You might not feel like praising God, but “don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed on the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). We are shielded by the power of the Holy Spirit to avoid sin and be filled with demonstrations of praise and thanksgiving. He wants us to constantly and comprehensively give thanks confidently to the Lord. God is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called by His name (Romans 8:28).
Giving thanks and praising God in and for all things takes Holy Spirit power. It requires a love for God and others that is agape love. This is love that is only given through the Holy Spirit. We cannot do this on our own. If you try and fail to love and praise, perhaps you are not filled with the Holy Spirit. You may be saved or “born again,” but you are not totally filled with the Spirit. You still have “rocks” in you that block your total filling. You have all the Spirit you are going to get, but you have too much of you in the way. Being purified and cleansed as we confess our sins (1 John 1:9) will give us a life that is overflowing for God. This state where “my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5), is a state of praise and thanksgiving overwhelming us and therefore overflowing that others may see your “good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). You see, no matter what happens in this increasing immoral and godless world, we need to shine like Christ with the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit starts and continues with thanksgiving and praise in our hearts. This is the inside-out transformation that God makes in us as we praise Him. It is for our good and His glory. Happy Thanksgiving. AMEN