We Should Give Thanks

Bible Book: Psalms  105 : 1-5
Subject: Thanks; Thanksgiving Day; Gratitude

The giving of thanks is a vital part of our worship of God.  Every spiritual and material blessing we enjoy comes from our Heavenly Father.  A heart full of gratitude will bless our Heavenly Father, exalt our Savior, encourage the saints and enlighten the sinner. Our focus in giving thanks must be to God and not the blessings He has given us.

Alex Haley, the author of "Roots," had an unusual picture hanging on his office wall. It was a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post. When asked, "Why is that there?" Alex Haley answered, "Every time I write something significant, every time I read my words and think that they are wonderful, and begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post and remember that he didn’t get there on his own. He had help."

The giving of thanks is a reminder of our blessings and who it is that gives us those blessings.

I. Worthiness of God

A. His Greatness.    

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honor of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness.” Psalm 145:3-9

“Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.” Psalm 150:1-3

B. His Goodness.

“Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” Psalm 107:15

“For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” Psalm 100:5

C. His Graciousness.

“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”  Ps. 145:8-9

Someone has said that “Thanksgiving Day is a distinctive holiday. It doesn’t commemorate a battle or anyone’s birthday or anniversary.”  It is a day set aside for Americans to give thanks to Almighty God.

In 1789, George Washington made this public proclamation.

"By the President of the United States of America. A proclamation: Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, & humbly to implore His protection & favor, and Whereas, Both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me `to recommend to the people of the United States a day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God. . .’ 

Now, Therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. . ."

II. Will of God

A. The Command to Give Thanks.

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thes. 5:18

Dr. James Montgomery Boice was diagnosed with liver cancer. It appeared suddenly and took his life quickly. When Dr. Boice stood before his congregation on May 7, 2000 it was his task to inform his congregation of his physical condition.

“God is in charge. When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It's not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by. . . God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good. Everything He does is good. And what Romans 12:1,2 says is that we have the opportunity by the renewal of our minds --that is, how we think about these things--actually to prove what God's will is. . . If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you'd change it, you'd make it worse. It wouldn't be as good. So that's why we want to accept it and move forward, and who knows what God will do?”

Scottish minister Alexander Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something for which to be grateful. One Sunday morning the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to himself, "Certainly the preacher won't think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a wretched day like this." Much to his surprise, however, Whyte began by praying, "We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this."

B. The Circumstances for Giving Thanks.

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Eph. 5:20

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Phil. 4:6

The real Thanksgiving story starts in 1621, in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts. Those pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower started the custom of a day of Thanksgiving to God.  They knew nothing of the blessings we enjoy today. They had no homes, little food, no money and no place to spend it anyway. Life was hard for the Pilgrims settling in the new world, and through the first winter the tiny colony endured hunger and hardship. Nearly all of them fell sick, and half did not survive the winter. Yet, they did possess a great faith in God. 

In 1631 in Boston, Massachusetts, a Puritan colony faced starvation when a ship carrying food supplies was delayed. Governor Winthrop declared a day of prayer to God. On the appointed day, as they were praying, the ship sailed into the harbor. The day of petition was turned into a day of feasting and thanksgiving.

The first American Thanksgiving didn't occur in 1621 when a group of Pilgrims shared a feast with a group of friendly Indians. The first recorded thanksgiving took place in Virginia more than 11 years earlier, and it wasn't a feast.

Horatio G. Spafford wrote the words to the beloved hymn: “It is well with my soul.” He was a successful lawyer in Chicago and a Christian. In 1871, Spafford son died.  He had also invested a huge amount in real estate. A fire in Chicage wiped out his holdings. Two years after the fire, Horatio Spafford planned a trip to Europe for him and his family. He wanted a rest for his wife and four daughters, and also to assist D. L. Moody and Sankey in one of their evangelistic campaigns in Great Britain. He was not meant to travel with his family. The day in November they were due to depart, Spafford had a last minute business transaction and had to stay behind in Chicago. Nevertheless, he still sent his wife and four daughters on ahead, expecting to follow in a few days. On November 22, the ship with his wife and daughters was struck by another vessal and sank in 20 minutes. His wife was saved but his four daughters perished. After the survivors were finally landed somewhere at Cardiff, Wales, Spafford's wife cabled her husband with two simple words, "Saved alone." Shortly after, Spafford left by ship on his way where his beloved four daughters had drowned, and pen at hand, he wrote the words to the hymn:

It is Well with My Soul
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like the sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
‘It is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

III. Worship of God

A. Giving Thanks Exalts the Savior.

The giving of thanks is an act of worship. In our worship, we express to God His worthiness.  As we offer our thanks to God, we are exalting the Savior.  It is of the essence for us to give thanks.

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” Psalm 100:4

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Hebrews 13:15

“Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” Psalm 97:12

“Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” Psalm 30:4

The Lord healed 10 lepers. Only one “returned to give glory to God.” (Luke 17:11-19) The Samaritan “fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.”  The other 9 were thankful for the healing but failed to give thanks to God.

Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. Warren Wiersbe illustrated this problem in his commentary on Colossians. He told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.

B. Giving Thanks Encourages the Saints.

“I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.” Psalm 35:18

C. Giving Thanks Enlightens the Sinner.

“Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.” Psalm 18:49

Spring came for those early pilgrims, the crops were planted, and the first harvest proved bountiful. Governor William Bradford called a special feast to give thanks to the Creator. They celebrated for a week, along with 100 Indians they invited to join them. 

Lessons for Life

1. Our gratitude must be directed to God from whom all our blessings flow.

2. Thankfulness flows from the person who is filled with the Holy Spirit.

3. It is God’s will for you to be thankful regardless of your circumstances.

4. A person who is thankful will have a joyful spirit and a positive witness to everyone he meets.