Thanksgiving for the believer is more than just a season or holiday to be celebrated once a year. It can be a way of life that enables us to experience God on a whole new plane. Psalm 100:4 tells us that a thankful heart is the entry into God's presence. That is quite a statement. And it can be a life-changing concept for believers who are living their lives in pursuit of God's presence (company).
Though at first glance the thought of a thankful heart may seem quite simple, if we consider our human nature, we quickly recognize it is not. Studies show the nature of the mind at rest is to turn toward the negative and dwell there. In other words, when the television and radio are off and we have a few quiet moments, our nature is to entertain negative thoughts. Maybe that's why the world is in such a buzz. Lost humanity cannot bear to slow down and discover the darkness that lies inside.
We may tend to blame this tendency toward negativity of living under the daily stress and strain of a hectic post modern society. But, if we look back to an ancient time, Noah's day, we can see that every inclination and thought of man's heart was only evil all the time (Gen. 6:5). I believe that is the nature of a fallen, sinful race.
But the good news is God has always had a divine plan to restore man to a place of blessing and favor. Our relationship with Christ is that redeeming factor. Living and abiding in His presence will elevate our own nature to a godly nature. That's where a thankful heart comes in. When we practice living in a continual attitude of thankfulness to God, our focus is no longer on our circumstances. Our focus is on God. That's why I Thessalonians 5:18 says, "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." When we develop a lifestyle of thankfulness, it builds our faith. By daily being thankful, we are causing ourselves to remember what God has already done instead of looking at what we lack or need.
So what if your circumstances are truly bleak?
What if you need healing or there's a financial crisis? When circumstances are at an all time low, it is the best time to put I Thessalonians 5:18 into practice. There was a time in my life when I couldn't see how God could ever fix the situation I was in. Though I had no one to blame but myself for arriving at such a state, it was still very painful. I admit expressing thanks to God was not what came naturally. There were days I had to search for things to be thankful for. Many times, being determined to see Him work on my behalf, I verbalized my thanks to God with sorrowful tears streaming down my face. But each time I chose to be thankful, my point of view changed. I felt hopeful and faith began to grow in my heart. I still needed an answer and desired for God to bring relief in my life. Yet, as I spoke God's word and tried consistently to be obedient to what it said, I began to change. Though my circumstances didn't change right away, a thankful heart gave me the grace to stand in the middle of a life crisis that lasted for several years.
I can truly say that God is faithful to His word. A thankful heart allowed me to experience God's presence in my life during a difficult time. I know more than ever that a thankful heart brings me to a place to receive from God and only good comes from His hand. Thanks be to God who always leads us to triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14).