Just before I left the plane in Istanbul on a recent trip, the stewardess announced that we had to go through passport control here. So I zipped down the long halls in order to speed up the process. However, when I arrived, there were at least 500 people in line before me. The line snaked back and forth seven long times.
After half an hour I had only made it through the first two turns with five more to go. At this rate I would certainly miss my next plane. I began to complain, “Look at that, half the passport booths up there are empty, and look how slowly the police are working!”
Immediately the Spirit rebuked me, “Remember Psalm 50:23!”
“Ah, yes, Lord, forgive me for my unbelief! I praise you for this delay. If I miss my next plane, you have something else for me. I can trust you in this!”
Within five minutes several more policemen showed up and began checking passports. The line moved much more quickly and within 15 minutes I was through and on my way to my next flight.
Would the same thing have happened if I hadn’t praised? I don’t know, but praising sure made a difference in me and gave God glory as He helped me trust Him. He certainly saved me from complaining, unhappiness, stress and worry, while making sure I got to my next plane in time.
Giving thanks is a privilege. In it God is calling us to a partnership with Him where He has rich gifts awaiting us. Psalm 50:23 shows us some of those gifts.
“He who offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me…” Note that this speaks of sacrifice, denying self, giving thanks when it is not natural, when it costs us. This obedience is a great means of glorifying God. When we trust Him by giving thanks in the midst of uncertainty, hurt, disappointment, suffering or loss, the angels stand in awe, the demons cringe in defeat, our family and friends are amazed and God’s name is lifted on high.
Giving God such glory is the purpose for which we were created. So every time we find ourselves in situations where there is no solution, no discernible good, no positive point, and we choose to believe that God is good, at work and trustable, we can give thanks. In doing so we are fulfilling the reason for our existence: glorifying God. It is doing something that will last for eternity. And we should be noting all the positive things in our lives and giving thanks for those, too. This privilege of honoring Him through giving thanks is the first gift.
The verse goes on, “He who offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving…prepares the way that I may show him the salvation of the Lord.” The second gift is the possibility of partnering with God in bringing the solution to our situation. He puts lots of power into our hands. This truth is echoed in 2 Cor. 12:9b where Paul says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest on me.” As we give thanks and praise in our inability to bring change, God moves to bring the resolution and conclusion He’s planned and prepared. It may come right away, or it may not be visible until years later, as with Joseph in Egypt. Whether seen or unseen, He is moving and we can in faith praise Him for it.
A third gift God has for us when we give thanks is the privilege to be a powerful witness in a unique way to those around us. Our unnatural, supernatural response to troubles, and our persistent penchant for proclaiming in thanksgiving all the good things He gives us puts us right up on the stage of grace, shining the light of Truth on God’s gracious character in a way that words alone could never do.
A fourth gift is that in giving thanks, in expressing gratitude in things positive and things difficult, we actually cooperate with God in improving our emotional, mental and physical health. A secular article entitled “Giving Thanks Makes Us Happier,” points out research showing how an attitude of gratitude brings many benefits.
You can read the whole article at:
A summary says, “Researchers delving into the physiology of gratitude have discovered it acts powerfully upon neurotransmitters in the brain to increase happiness, reduce stress, boost energy and even improve sleep.” Another benefit is that it strengthens our immune system. This, of course, is simply discovering what God has told us all along: giving thanks is right, good and powerful.
It is our possibility and privilege to make every day a “thanksgiving celebration” and every moment a “gratitude opportunity.” Let’s follow the lead of Jesus and join Him in doing so continually.