I once opened a letter from a prisoner in Texas and out fell a strip of a dozen postage stamps. In the world of most prisoners….and, I know, in the world of this particular prisoner, that a dozen postage stamps is a big deal. He simply does not have much money at all. So, why did he give me a dozen stamps? One 2-word phrase in his letter would answer that:
Many people say “thank you” because it is what is expected. This man’s actions were those of gratitude; he was living out his thankfulness in an active manner. Through my letter writing and other things that this ministry has done to benefit him, he was blessed. He wanted to respond. His active gratitude reminded me of several principles that can benefit us all as we consider how God has blessed us and how we should respond to that.
Now, the verses and principles that follow are all ones that refer to gratefulness to God – not to man. I use these verses, though, because God often uses people to bless other people. When I thank a person, for instance, for supporting our work I am essentially acknowledging the effect God has had on them as He blesses us through them. My thanks, then, not only take note of the fact that they have been obedient to God but also are a way of thanking God for touching us through that yielded Christian.
- First, we must spend some time thinking about what God has done to bless us.
A generic “God has been good to me” just doesn’t seem to be good enough. In Luke 8 Jesus casts legions of demons out of a man. He knows exactly what has happened to him. As he sits at the feet of Jesus, his gratefulness is reflected. Jesus prompts him to do more with it as He says:
"Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you." (Luke 8:39a)
It is worth noting that he immediately went and did what Jesus said to do.
Obedience is a GREAT sign of the presence of gratefulness.
- In the Old Testament (Leviticus 22:29; Psalms 50:23) sacrifices are mandated but they were expected to be voluntary.
This follows God’s pattern of commanding us to do things that are healthy for us to do, that we must then choose to do if we are to harvest those benefits. Gratitude is an attitude: a personal quality that molds us and shapes our lives – not just something we do or say.
- In the New Testament, "the fruit of our lips" is a type of offering or sacrifice to God. Talking about it, telling what He has done as a form of praise is a good thing.
"... let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks". (Hebrews 13:15)
- God desires genuine gratefulness: from the heart. When a person is grateful to God he or she can’t help but serve the Lord thankfully.
“Willingly I will sacrifice to Thee; I will give thanks to Thy name, O Lord, for it is good.” (Psalms 54:6) and God tells us that to be thankful is good for us. “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord ...” (Psalms 92:1)
* God tells us that there are many ways to express gratitude.
We can express it audibly: with our voice by saying it, not just in our thoughts.
“I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalms 34:1)
We can also give thanks to God through verbal testimony – bragging on Him.
"Give thanks unto the Lord, ... make known his deeds among the people” (1 Chronicles 16:8).
Why not take a few moments right now to become quiet? Ask the Lord to show you what He has done for you. What has He done for you? And I don’t mean generic things. For instance, I often thank the Lord for oxygen and gravity. He has done this for all living things and I truly am grateful He gave me air to breathe.
What I’m talking about, though, is also being aware of things He has done just for you and not for me. Take a look around you. There are some combinations of people that are unique to you and that are just flat out good to know. God arranged that for you. Just for you. So, spend some time taking inventory of these sorts of blessings in your life.
Then, do this: tell Him “Thank You” aloud. There is something about making a verbal pronouncement that blesses us. It helps us focus on Him. It helps us receive the full impact of His blessing…because we think about it three times when we speak it aloud: once to consider it, once to put it into words and once when we hear it.
Finally, if any demons are listening in, they get to hear what, to them, is bad news: that God loves and is blessing you…and that you know it! This also helps keep us in a proper alignment (in our minds) with God – with Him in his rightful place as Provider and with us in our proper place as humble and thankful receivers of His grace.
Next, consider telling someone what He did for you. Imagine the effect it might have on someone if next time you are in line at your favorite store you turned to the person next to you and said, “Do you know what God did for me today?” (Bring smelling salts!)
Jesus said that one of the first things that would happen (Acts 1:8) when the Spirit came, would be that the believers would be “…witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” As God touches you personally with a blessing, perhaps the people in your family, workplace, neighborhood, etc. will be your personal Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, etc.
“Witnessing” is a word that simply means “telling what happened to you”. Just tell someone.
- God says that gratefulness is a good indicator of our spiritual condition.
In Romans 1:21 God tells us through Paul that the wicked are ungrateful: "For ... they did not honor him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened". In contrast, the Bible says that "the righteous shall give thanks unto thy (God’s) name." (Psalms 140:1).
When that man wrote me that letter he said, “Thank you” in words and in deed then he said, “I am grateful to God for you”.
I am grateful to God for you. I thank you and I thank the Lord for you.