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November 24, 2016

Thanking God for the Good Times

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say, “thank you”? 

--William Ward 

Gratitude fuels faith. How do you feel when you’ve cooked a wonderful dinner for your family and they wolf it down and jump up from the table…without even a “Thanks, Mom!”? Instead of expressing gratitude, they turn on ESPN or jump on Facebook. Sound familiar? How do you feel when you’ve spent lots of time helping a friend, and she seems to take your availability for granted? I think that’s how God feels when we don’t stop to thank him for his blessings.

In the Word

Read all of Psalm 145 today and pay special attention to verses 4-5:

One generation commends our works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

How often did David praise God? Refer to your Bible and fill in the blanks below.

Verse 2: “_________________________ I will praise you.”

Verse 21: “Let every creature praise his holy name ________________________.”

In this acrostic psalm, David uses immense creativity to speak out thankfulness to God. Each of the 21 lines begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Tradition tells us that God’s people recited this psalm every single day, along with the Shema (1). While avoiding empty rituals, finding regular and creative ways to praise God helps discipline our hearts to ponder who God is.

Some of us face daunting problems that stagger us, but all of us need to ask God to give us eyes to see all the wonderful blessings he gives us each day. In our affluent culture, we take many of these blessings for granted. It’s so easy to forget, to leave God out of the equation and act as if he doesn’t even exist. Author Romano Guardini shows the absurdity of forgetting when he writes:

How is it that God permeates the universe, that everything that is comes from his hand, that every thought and emotion we have has significance only in him, yet we are neither shaken nor inflamed by the reality of his presence, but able to live as though he did not exist? How is this truly satanic deceit possible? (2)

I often think of the story of the ten lepers that Jesus healed. Only one of them returned to give Jesus thanks. Too often, I act like the other nine men—I receive God’s blessing, but don’t pause to thank him. I want to be that one who remembers how God has rescued me. Who is overwhelmed with Jesus’ kindness and love toward me. I’m committed to becoming like the one who returned. How about you?

Make it Real

Thelma Wells, whom I affectionately call “mama T,” often says, “Get your praise on!” God doesn’t want a shallow “Pollyanna” sort of happy, but a genuine, thankful heart. Which kind of person are you?

• A glass half full woman tends to see the good in every situation and every relationship.

• A glass half empty woman tends to be analytical, realistic, and even cynical.

Let me say it again—gratitude isn’t just a feel-good suggestion. Our spiritual health and our impact on those around us depend on our cultivation of this “attitude of gratitude.”

Praise brings joy to God’s heart (and ours), but that’s not all. Praise grows our faith in God! As we look back and remember how God has been faithful in the past—how he has provided, cared for, and worked miracles in our lives—we can’t help but trust God with the unknowns ahead. The more we see God working, the more our confidence grows that God really is who he says he is. And that’s faith.

Grab your Bible and read Psalm 145:1-5 again. Write down some of the blessings and gifts God has given you and take some time to thank him for them.

Read the story of the healed lepers in Luke 17:11-19. Are you more like the one man who returned or the nine who didn’t? How can you begin today to build gratitude into your life?

Get your praise on! Here are a few ideas to get you started. Add some of your own ideas at the bottom. Remember, worship is your creative expression to God, not an empty ritual!

• Make an ongoing list of things for which you are grateful to God.

• Carve out a block of time to thank God for answers to prayer.

• Journal, sing, dance, or paint in praise to God.

• Use your time in the shower, the car, or on a run to focus on praising Jesus.

• Post Scripture verses/quotes on your refrigerator, mirror, or desktop.

Take a moment to read each one of these verses and think about how they apply to your life. Wherever you can do it, insert your name in the verses. Pray these passages over your heart.

• “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

• “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

• “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:10-11).

Heart to Heart

I recall noticing how the focus of conversations with my dad changed when he started his cancer treatments. Before the diagnosis we discussed vacations, dreams, plans for the future…all the joys that Dad and I were grateful for. But after, we celebrated things like his good blood count numbers, full nights of sleep, effective pain medications, and nourishing meals kept down.

Dad and I chose to praise God in both situations. We were just praising him for different things. In looking for the big, stupendous blessings from God, it’s easy for us to get this praise stuff messed up. We forget the small, subtle, ordinary things that are also miracles.

These days, simple acts of holding a hand, watching a sunset, and calling my mom carry a deeper meaning than they did before Dad’s cancer. What about for you? Take a deep breath and think about it, and you may just begin to see things a whole lot differently. I did.

Lord, so often I forget to say thank you. I get busy or excited, and you just slip from my mind. Forgive me. Open my eyes up to see all of the ways you have been there for me…the ways you bless and take care of me. I want to invite you into every part of my life… 

(1) The Shema is a centerpiece of Jewish prayers, recited in the morning and evening. It is based on Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

(2) Romano Guardini, The Lord (Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1996), 246.

Taken from Becoming a Woman of Extraordinary Faith by Julie Clinton.

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