Jesus’s blood seals our fate, and his Holy Spirit is our guarantee. The Father himself loves us. And if we have the Father’s love, we have everything we’ll ever need because he’s a good Father. The spiritual discipline of thanksgiving gives us eyes to see the goodness of God, and when we see the goodness of God, we can’t help but thank him for who he is.
When Paul drilled down to the very heart of sin in Romans 1:21, he said, “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” A thankless heart isn’t just a problem. It is a sin against God. Every kind of evil begins there. Francis Schaeffer said, “A heart giving thanks at any given moment is the real test of the extent to which we love God at that moment” (A Christian View of Spirituality, 205). Thanking God is loving God. Thanksgiving is not an optional add-on to the Christian life; the Christian life cannot be lived without thanksgiving.
But giving thanks is hard, isn’t it? Paul called this world the “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). It’s not easy to thank God with a broken heart or a tragic diagnosis. It’s not easy to thank God in the depths of anxiety and depression. It’s not easy to thank God in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep and don’t know what’s coming tomorrow, but you think it’s more than you can bear. Nowhere does the Bible say thanking God is easy. But nowhere does the Bible say thanking God is optional. It’s not a practice reserved only for the good times. It’s a spiritual discipline necessary at all times.
Becoming Psalm 100 People
The Bible says, “If there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). One classic Psalm of thanksgiving, Psalm 100, gives us things of which we can think about. In fact, Psalm 100 is a perfect Psalm to grow in the spiritual discipline of thanksgiving.
We start in the middle of Psalm 100, in verse 3, because it shows us the ground for our thanksgiving. Our God is the only God. It all begins there. The one true God is ours by grace in Christ. We are his people, his very own creation. He didn’t plop us here and retreat to heaven to see how this played out. He is involved in every detail of our life, the good and the bad, the sins and the successes. He is our Good Shepherd who takes care of us and watches over us, and even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, it’s so he can take us to the green pastures and still waters we long for. We are not the first people to experience this. The Bible is filled with those who have come before us, bearing witness to these truths. God has been faithful for generations. Throughout history, God has never disappointed anyone who trusted him, and he will not start with us. “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 100:5).
These truths find their ultimate expression in the person and work of Jesus Christ. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Cor. 1:20a). Every promise in the Bible that God made, every hope in the Bible that God gave, and every joy in the Bible that God promised find their Yes in Jesus. Yes, life is still hard and still hurts, but in Christ, even death is now a portal into a better world with him. “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28a). We have victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). We’ve been rescued! Jesus is the reason for our greatest thanks.
We can give thanks even in the hard stuff, because no matter how hopeless today may seem, there is hope for tomorrow. As Ray Ortlund said, “God has designed reality in such a way that we praise our way into a better future.” Thanksgiving moves us closer to God’s heart and a better tomorrow.