Biblical Thankfulness

We know thanksgiving is not just a day in November, but it is an activity we’re supposed to engage in year-round. But our annual thankful holiday does help turn our thoughts a more grateful direction.

In past years I’ve made lists of what I am thankful for throughout November, either once a day or all on Thanksgiving Day. I usually ended up with pretty much the same items on my list. That’s fine. We should continue to be thankful for what we have every year.

It’s harder to be thankful some years. Health issues cropped up, loved ones are no longer with us, finances have taken a downturn. The Bible speaks of the “sacrifice of praise”: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15). I’ve often wondered at that wording. “Sacrifice” hearkens back to some of the OT sacrifices, but here it is applied specifically to praise. I’ve thought that perhaps it’s a sacrifice because we have to turn our attention from ourselves to God. But maybe it’s also a sacrifice because we do it whether or not we “feel” it. Joni Eareckson Tada has said, “To give thanks is not the same as ‘feeling thankful.’ To give thanks in the midst of pain and problems is to take a step of faith based on the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:18: God tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (not just those we can handle or feel on top of). For what things can you give thanks, even while you’re hurting?”

C. S. Lewis said, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is ‘good,’ because is it good, if ‘bad’ because it works in us patience, humility, and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.”

One year I did a study on thanks and thanksgiving in the Bible.Just one aspect of it was noticing what people in the Bible thanked God for. It’s perfectly fine to thank God for material blessings and the people He has placed in our lives. But we can expand our thanks to include:

Attributes of God Himself

God’s goodness. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (I Chronicles 16:34; Ezra 3:11; Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136)

God’s holiness. “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” (Psalm 30:4, KJV)

God’s righteous judgments. At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments. (Psalm 119: 62, KJV)

God’s greatness. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:1-3)

God’s power and reign. “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.” (Revelation 11:17)

God’s love and wonderful works. “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” (Psalm 107:21-2)

What God gives us or does for us

Saving us. “Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:12-14)

Bearing us.Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.” (Psalm 68:19)

Victory over death. “Death is swallowed up in victory. ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57)

Deliverance from mourning. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12)

Comfort: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Causing us to triumph, making Himself known through us. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14, KJV)

God’s provision, enough for ourselves plus for giving to others. “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11-12)

God’s inexpressible gift. “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Food. “. . . foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:3b-5)

Authorities. Really? Yes: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Other people.

But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you.” (2 Corinthians 8:16)

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . .” (Ephesians 1:16)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints” (Colossians 1:3-4) (See also I Thessalonians 1:1-3; 3:9-10; II Thessalonians 2:13-14.)

Everything.

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3)

This is probably just the tip of the iceberg! I’m sure further study would reveal even more things to be thankful for in the Bible.

I’ve been looking for a quote that I thought came from Martin Luther, but I can’t seem to find it with various searches. But it went something like this: God saved me when I didn’t deserve it. I could and should thank Him eternally for just that. Anything else He gives me or does for me after that is just extra blessings. (If you know this quote, please share in the comments. I would be so grateful.) We’re truly “loaded with benefits”: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.” (Psalm 68:19, KJV).

No doubt August Storm had done a thanksgiving study of his own when he composed this hymn in 1891:

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

~ August L. Storm, 1891

What are you most thankful for this year?

(Sharing with Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Literary Musing Monday, Hearth and Soul, Tell His Story, Happy Now, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday,
Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday, Wise Woman, Let’s Have Coffee,
Grace and Truth, Faith ‘n Friends)

18 thoughts on “Biblical Thankfulness

  1. Thanks, Barbara, for this moment of meditation. Gratitude is very vogue in November, but as followers of Christ, we have plenty to carry us throughout the year with thanksgiving. And we know WHOM to thank, as well, which makes it so much more meaningful.

  2. What a great compilation of gratitude, and, as stated, this is just a portion of that with which we are blessed. O, Lord, may we recognize Your presence in our every opportunity, as well as in the adversity the world would use to separate us from Your love, for You are our strength and our light!!!!!

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  3. Barbara, I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for the study you’ve done, whether it be in the past or the present, and sharing it with us. I love all of the rich Scripture verses that you have shared. Last evening at church after our Thanksgiving meal our pastor went around with a bag of slips of paper on which he’d typed and run off different Scripture verses. He asked who wanted to be the first to read their verse and then tell at least one thing that we were most thankful. It was a beautiful time of sweet fellowship (and tears, and laughter) as one by one we read our verse and shared what we were thankful for. I’m most thankful for God’s plan of redemption…for Jesus who left Heaven in order to shed His blood and rise again to fulfill God’s price for redemption…for the Holy Spirit who convicted me of my sin and wooed me to Himself that I might have that precious gift.

  4. Barbara, I love your list. You have inspired me to add a few to my list. I love this time of year when we turn our thoughts towards what God has blessed us with. I agree we must keep up the habit throughout the year. Maree

  5. Indeed, we should always strive to be thankful in whatever season of life we find ourselves. Far too often we are consumed with worry and doubt, and we begin losing this perspective. Thank you for the beautiful post and the reminder that we always have a reason to give thanks!

  6. So nice! I’ve noted the ‘sacrifice of praise’ verbiage also and it does seem appropriate: sometimes praise DOES feel like a sacrifice, or at least not easy. Love the thoughts you have pulled together here. What am I most thankful for? So many things; I can’t narrow it to just one. I love your maybe-Luther quote idea that even if we had nothing else, salvation itself is enough to be eternally grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  7. Thank you for this beautiful gathering of Scriptures of thanksgiving. Yes, may I continually offer up praise and thanksgiving to our God, even on the hard days. I appreciated the quotes by Joni and C.S. Lewis so much too. Blessings to you this Thanksgiving Season!

  8. I love how you looked up all the different reasons people thanked God in Scripture. Even when we face trials and difficulties we do have so many things to be thankful for!

  9. It’s so good to stay mindful of the attributes of God. We can take them for granted sometimes, but each one is worthy of praise in and of itself! I’m most thankful this year for our newest grandbaby having a safe delivery and being born healthy. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Barbara!

  10. I love your points here. So through. Loved ones who are no longer with us makes this season of thankfulness difficult for many. I will be speaking next week at the Christmas meeting for a GriefShare group on the subject of surviving the holidays and creating JOY! It’s hard. I know.

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

  11. Barbara, you have brought something to think on today as I prepare for Thanksgiving. I love the quote from Joni. We have so much to be thankful for in having God with us each and every day. I am most grateful for His Presence with us through the last year of my dad’s bypass and recovery. May you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving!

  12. Pingback: End-of-November Musings | Stray Thoughts

  13. I always try to practice an attitude of gratitude, but I confess that I have definitely missed thanking God for some of the things you suggested, Barbara. This is such a thought-provoking post. I also really enjoyed the hymn from August Storm. Although I know a lot of the old hymns, this isn’t one I was familiar with. It’s so meaningful. Thank you for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party community, Barbara. Wishing you and yours a Thanksgiving full of blessings.

  14. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in Australia, so I love reading about it from all of my American friends. Thank you for this wonderful list of God’s character for us to give thanks for. He truly is so good! I especially love the CS Lewis quote. Thank you.

  15. I like to give thanks everyday for my family – they are the most important thing in the world to me and with twins on the way I now have a huge amount to be thankful for! I agree, we should try to give thanks everyday for all that we have. Life is so busy it is all too easy to forget. Thank you so much for linking up to #globalblogging and hope to see you back next week x

  16. Pingback: Christmas Season of Angels, Love | Mary-andering Creatively

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