This Sunday, we had the incredible opportunity of hearing from Renae Burford about thankfulness (which, as she reveals, is not only a commandment of God’s, but is also immunity-boosting. Praise!).
Firstly, let’s check out the physiological benefits of thankfulness (according to science): it boosts immunity, decreases aches and pains, produces greater interest in exercise, improves sleep and you feel more refreshed upon waking, improves alertness, increases joy, pleasure, optimism and happiness, helps with quicker recovery from stress and depressive episodes, increases capacity to help others, and decreases a sense of loneliness. Not only is thankfulness pleasing to the Lord, but it is actually really good for us.
Thankfulness, by definition is: “awareness of benefits received from an external source; expressive of thanks”. There are 98 times thankfulness is mentioned in scripture, but we are going to look specifically at 5 of them.
Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When we pray with thanksgiving in our hearts, that is the key to receiving the peace of God that guards our hearts and minds.
Additionally, thanksgiving gives us clarity when determining God’s will. 1 Thessalonians 3:16-18 states: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We are to rejoice, pray, and give thanks at all times, according to the Bible. Friends, we must remember thankfulness is not a tool of denial; the Bible does not guarantee we won’t face suffering in life. What is does promise, however, is God’s goodness in every circumstance (even painful ones).
Thankfulness gives us an alert mind in the midst of confusion. Colossians 4:2: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Scripture also gives us warning when we do not give thanks, as seen in Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Our minds are sharpened by thankfulness, and they are made dull by lack of thanksgiving.
Thankfulness gives us confidence when we are in need. David declares his confidence in Psalm 118:17: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”
Thankfulness is an alternative to temptation. Ephesians 5:3-4: “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper saints. Let there be no filthiness or foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Let your mind be so full of thanks that all the things that bring death and destruction are displaced.
According to a psychologist, “if I want more gratitude, I’ve got to be willing to actually participate in a change process by which I allow my brain to be aware of what it is grateful for.” Let there be thanksgiving; let it be. Allow yourself to be thankful. It begins by being aware of all that you have actually received. Your participation is key, not your circumstance. Thankfulness is such a powerful gift from God for us.
In order to become a more thankful person, we must be aware of its competitors: materialism (which says, “if I have this, its because I earned it”) and entitlement (which says, “because I exist, God owes me this”). Entitlement and materialism kill thankfulness because they cut it off at its beginning. Remember, thankfulness is “the awareness of the benefit received by an external source, or an expression of thanks”. God does not owe us anything, and certainly not just because we exist. Materialism and entitlement are so engrained in us as a society because we are a prideful people, and it is a rarity to admit our dependency on another. We want to be independent. To be thankful means you can acknowledge that you received something that you didn’t deserve, and awe is the right response to such great generosity. Jesus’ death on the cross is the most awesome gift we could ever receive, and to accept it is awesome because we must acknowledge that we don’t deserve such a gift. We are not entitled to God’s pursuit; his love is generous. We cannot earn it, but what we can do is be in awe of his generosity.
When we assume the kindness of God should just be ours because of our existence, we become more susceptible to sin, apathy, and anger toward him. It is your awe that will lead you to love God well, and your loving God well will lead you to joy in obedience (and receive the best that he has for us). Let us allow God’s generosity to lead us into awe of him, and be thankful for all that he has done.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! See you on Sunday for the beginning of a new series.