When our children were very small, I remember constantly having to remind them to say “Thank you” when they were given anything, such as a drink or food. This didn’t come naturally - they had to be trained to do it. When our grandchildren are with us, before they leave the table after a meal, they’ve been taught to say, “Thank you for my lovely lunch.” Mostly this now comes automatically, but occasionally they need reminding.
The reason for training our children in this way is not for our benefit directly, but in order that they may develop into well-mannered, considerate and thoughtful human beings, not always thinking of themselves. I believe that this is why God reminds us to give thanks. Our thanks and praise obviously pleases Him, but I don’t think He really needs it for Himself. He wants to develop our characters. As we thank and praise Him, it takes our eyes off ourselves and focuses them on Him.
The Bible contains many accounts of the people giving thanks for wonderful things that had happened, for example when David brought the ark into Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 16) or at the completion of the temple by Solomon (2 Chronicles 5:13). However, today’s verse reminds us that it isn’t just in the good times that we are to give thanks, but in all circumstances.
An example of this is in 2 Chronicles 20, when the people of Israel are being confronted by a vast army. King Jehoshaphat calls a fast and the people come together to seek the Lord. God then gives a strategy and tells them that the battle is His and He will deliver them. When they go into battle, Jehoshaphat doesn’t put his strongest fighters at the head of the army, but he appoints singers to go out in front. The amazing thing to me is that they weren’t singing rousing battle hymns, but they were thanking God for His love (‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever’)!
As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes among their enemies, who started to destroy each other. The people of Israel had a mighty victory without even having to fight! All they did was sing and praise, thanking God for His love! I wonder if that is a lesson that God wants to teach each of us.
A few weeks ago, in the midst of difficult circumstances, I was starting to feel slightly overwhelmed, when God reminded me of the need to give thanks in all circumstances. I started to thank Him for different aspects of who He is, for the blessings that I did have, and I found that my perspective instantly changed. The circumstances remained the same, but my focus, my attitude and my feelings were completely transformed, rather like when a large cloud moves out of the way of the sun.
In a recent sermon at our Ellel Pierrepont Centre, someone posed the question: “If you only had today what you had thanked God for yesterday, how much would you have?” What a sobering thought! Perhaps God wants to remind us today to be thankful, even in the midst of a battle.
Prayer: Lord, I’m sorry that I keep forgetting to be thankful. I want to thank You today for who You are and for all the blessings that I have … (be specific). Amen.
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