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Devotionals Inspiration & Encouragement

Giving Thanks with a Grateful Heart

The word ‘thanksgiving’ according to means “the act of giving thanks: or grateful acknowledgement of benefits or favours, especially to God”. For some, there is a day dedicated solely to thanksgiving where bellies are filled, and hearts are bursting with gratitude for life’s many blessings; a day where friends and families gather and take turns around the dinner table to share that which they are most grateful for. For us, children of the Most High God – who claim heirship with Christ – every day is a day of thanksgiving. Lamentations 3:22 reminds us that “it is only because of the mercies of the Lord that we are sustained, His great faithfulness”. Psalm 35:27 says “Let them shout for joy and be glad…let them say continually, Let the Lord be magnified which hath pleasure in the prosperity of His servant”.

As we have much to be thankful for, this should stir in us an attitude of gratitude. So let’s discuss, what does gratitude look like?

Gratitude is potent – and palpable. Matthew 12:34 tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. To expand on this, our whole being – our entire deportment – will reflect whatever state we are in. Think about a time when you have been sad or excited and those around you accurately guessed just how you were feeling. Gratitude is visible. Recall, the woman in Mark 14, who in gratitude poured out her life’s savings from the alabaster box on Jesus.

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Psalm 105:1-3

A grateful heart is a content heart. “Be anxious for nothing but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God” – Philippians 4:6.

A grateful heart recognizes that we are not entitled to anything that we have been blessed with, rather we are at the mercy of God.

A grateful heart is a giving heart. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son to bear the debt and burden of sin for us (John 3:16). As recipients of this bountiful gift, what choice do we have but to freely share that gift which we have been given? “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt 5:14). A grateful heart is also a selfless heart. Freely we have received and so freely we ought to give.

A grateful heart rejoices in all things. We are grateful even in the direst of circumstances because we recognize that even when all isn’t well (and we shouldn’t expect it to be because the world of sin is at odds with the righteousness of God and those called according to that righteousness), God is STILL good. Remember, He promised that he only had plans to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11), on the condition of reciprocated faithfulness and obedience.

In the face of the recent pandemic, we can agree that we have all been faced with loss, disappointment, and a rollercoaster of other emotions. It has also been a test of the state of our hearts. In our lowest moments, we are more prone to feelings of vulnerability coupled with despondency and it is at this time that fears and doubts tend to creep in – these are the enemies of joy and worship which are seeds of gratitude. Before you know it, we are moping and griping and complaining. Lamenting “woe is me” to all who will listen and trailing our dark cloud behind us.

Personally, the last year into this one has been hard. At the start of the pandemic, I grappled with the loss of a close friend and halfway into what was our new normal, I was at my lowest. My praise was muted; I had no desire to read, to pray, to sing (and I promise you singing is my second favourite thing to do – albeit terribly but when we get to heaven I will be singing with the angels).

My friends will also agree that I am a very passionate person, but, friends, I could not find that passion. I relayed this to a very close friend who gave me a praise playlist and a strong word of encouragement (I want to quickly highlight that it is good to have friends who will laugh with us in the happy times but we deserve friends who will BE THERE to offer support and bear us up in the difficult, ugly times). One of the songs from that playlist was ‘Praise Him In Advance’ by Marvin Sapp & went like this:

“I’ve had my share of ups and downs
Times when there was no one around
God came and spoke these words to me
Praise will confuse the enemy
I started singing, I started clapping
I started dancing, people were laughing
They knew my problems, they knew my pain
But I knew God would take them away
Praise him in the good times
Praise him when things are going wrong”.

Not only does praise confuse the enemy, but it speaks life into your difficult circumstances. Can you imagine singing songs of praise and worship and still moping? Impossible! There is a reason Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 2: 1-4), David (Psalm 34), and even Paul & Silas (Acts 16:25-34) chose to sing praises to God in their hard times. It buoys up the spirit and it reminds us of what our weary downtrodden spirits may have forgotten – God is still present and able. It also witnesses to and encourages those who might be looking at our circumstances. Recall, our lives should be testimonies and witness for our Lord.

Recognizing that even in the hard times, we have much to be thankful for, how do we show forth that gratitude? “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands… enter into his gates with thanksgiving & into his courts with PRAISE!” (Psalm 100:1,4).

In encouraging me, my friend reminded me that at our lowest is when our praises of thanksgiving should be loudest. Our praises of thanksgiving and worship should be shaking the bars of our self-made prisons and busting down the walls of our discouragement.

Our praises of thanksgiving and worship should be shaking the bars of our self-made prisons and busting down the walls of our discouragement.

Our praises of thanksgiving and worship should be shaking the bars of our self-made prisons and busting down the walls of our discouragement.

In the valleys and upon the hills of life, we should always be reminded that God is faithful (especially when we cannot see it) and is always worthy to be praised.

If you find yourself in the dumps and might have forgotten who and whose you are, queue up a praise and worship playlist. I promise you that your outlook will change drastically, even if the outward circumstances seem to take a longer time to turn around. Paul said in 2 Cor 4:8-9 “we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed but not in despair”. What made the difference? The hope he had in God. Because of that hope, he had much to be grateful for – more than enough reasons to utter praises of thanksgiving, and so do we.

My favourite verse of Phil 4 is verse 7 which says “and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”. That is the source of our gratitude. That is the beginning and the end – unexplainable peace and contentment in our God. That is why we sing, that is why we praise.

Friends, what then is the conclusion of the whole matter? “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth… my soul shall make her boast in the Lord”. “O bless Our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard, which sufffereth not our feet to be moved”. Fear God and give glory to Him. Praise Him through the good times and the bad times – rejoice always! Enter his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise. Give thanks with a grateful heart – Our God is faithful and worthy to be praised and thus we give Him thanks.

Pray: God, I give you thanks for all things and in all circumstances. Though outwardly I may appear to be defeated, I give thanks that you are dwelling in me and have filled me with the peace that transcends human understanding and will ultimately grant me the victory. As I continue to praise you without ceasing, I ask that others will see this joy and will desire to know You, who is the source of my joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.