In part 1 we began our discussion of the power of giving thanks, and today we're going to pick right back up where we left off. We had just gone through an excerpt from The Hiding Place in which Corrie Ten Boom described her and her sister Betsie's experience in a Nazi concentration camp barracks that happened to be swarming with fleas - and how God used the situation (and the fleas) to reach many women for Him!
Needless to say, I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that I listened to this book when I did, as I was dealing with fleas in my own life at that moment, in a much lesser degree of hardship. So I began to thank God even more. I began to thank him for the work this move was doing inside of us and thank him for the work it would do through us. I began to thank him that it was teaching us to trust and endure. And I began to thank him for the good things that were happening right alongside the hard things.
At the same time we were experiencing injuries, sickness, and death with the cattle, we were also experiencing healing, miracles, and birth. So I would thank God for those things.
At the same time we were dealing with flooding and drought, we were also learning to trust God’s sovereignty. So I would thank him for it.
At the same time we were experiencing tragedies, accidents, and health challenges, we were also experiencing miracles, provision, and peace that surpasses understanding. So I would thank him for those things.
At the same time my kids were walking through the emotions of starting new, they were also learning to lean on God. At the same time they were watching my husband and I navigate hardship, they were also learning what it looked like to trust God. At the same time they saw my husband and I mess up and have to ask forgiveness when our flesh won out over our spirit, they were also learning the humility of introspect and repentance. At the same time my kids were put in situations bigger than themselves, they were also experiencing God show up in personal, miraculous ways which would solidify their foundations of faith. So I would thank God for those things.
And at the same time we were dealing with backed up septic tanks, power outages, loss of water, mice, fleas, and smells, I was learning that my life is not about me. I was learning that living a comfortable life isn’t the goal of life. So I began to thank God for those things.
I’m using past tense here, but these are still the things I’m learning to practice. Just since I’ve started writing this blog post, there have been more “disasters” and accidents (yes, both plural), and there have been more miracles and peace that surpasses understanding. So basically, there have been more opportunities to practice what I’m preaching.
You see, thanksgiving and praise aren’t only offered out of our emotions. Sometimes they are, but not always. Sometimes they’re offered out of our will, out of our obedience. However, praise and thanksgiving always affect our emotions.
That’s the power of it!
Prayer, praise, and thanksgiving are where Heaven meets earth. Psalm 95:2 and Psalm 100:4 say we enter into God’s presence with thanksgiving and praise. When we thank and praise God, we enter into his presence, and we can more easily perceive his presence. Praise and thanksgiving redirect our focal point, increase our faith, restore our joy, and renew our peace.
In the Old Testament, one of the ways God’s people worshipped him was by offering sacrifices. The thank offering in the Old Testament was part of what was called the peace offering, and thanksgiving and peace have gone together in Scripture ever since. Let’s look at this well known passage written by Paul:
Philippians 4:6-7, NIV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Greek word translated “peace” means “wholeness” and “when all essential parts are joined together.”
Now, take a look at what the Greek word translated “anxiety” means literally:
“Divided into parts, a part as opposed to a whole, to go to pieces because pulled apart in different directions.”
I don’t think there could be a more accurate depiction of what anxiety feels like. It is quite literally the opposite of peace.
But this verse is a promise of peace to us. It is a promise that when we pray with thanksgiving, this peace will guard our hearts and minds. A supernatural peace. God’s peace. A peace that comes not from understanding the good of our circumstances, but a peace that comes from understanding our God is good in our circumstances and our God is working good in our circumstances (Romans 8:28).
Paul goes on to instruct us, in verse 8, to think about things that are worthy of praise. Peace comes when we thank and praise God. Purposefully. Continually. All the time. In everything. I heard a speaker recently say we have to be “aggressively thankful.” I love that!
As I’ve learned to thank and praise God during this season of my life, I’ve experienced something to a degree in which I’ve never experienced it before - the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, guarding my heart and mind. It has been absolutely profound. It is the first time in my life in which I have experienced the co-existence of peace and hardship in such an intense way. I’ve never before so personally experienced the progression of prayer, praise and thanksgiving ushering in the peace of God amidst pain, difficulty, and confusion.
So many psalms are pictures of this progression for us - the progression of prayer and praise giving way to peace. The psalm will begin with the writer pouring out their prayer, their pain, their complaint, and their need before God. Then they will begin to recount who God is and what he’s done, until it ends with a declaration of praise, thanks, and trust in God! The prayer, praise, and thanksgiving of the psalmists turn their anxiety into peace right before our eyes.
But what about the times in our lives when the pain and hardship are so intense we can’t even form words? What about the times when we are so full of emotion we can’t even will our minds to think or our mouths to speak?
Romans 8:26 MSG
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.
So God knows there are times we’re going to feel this way. I’ve learned that when we struggle to fill our mouth with praise, we can still fill our atmosphere with praise! Turn on the worship music. When you need it loud, turn it on loudly. When you need it soft, turn it on softly. When we fill our atmosphere with praise, even if we don’t have the strength to pour it out of our mouth, we can still pour it out of our heart. God can still use praise offered silently to send his peace!
The Bible says God dwells in the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3) and that where God is present there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Remember, prayer and praise are where Heaven touches earth!
We’re going to end with one last point. We’ve talked about praise and thanksgiving having power to bless our God and to affect change in our hearts, but there’s another thing the Bible shows us about this topic:
Praise and thanksgiving have power to affect change in our circumstances.
Let’s quickly take a look back at the list we went through earlier of Bible heroes who gave thanks and praise in difficulty and see what happened in their situations:
For King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah - God fought the battle ahead of them by causing their enemies to turn on and completely destroy each other, and God provided them the blessing of the plunder.
For Hannah - God birthed more children through her and used Samuel, the son she gave to the Lord, to usher in the Jewish monarchy.
For David - He did escape his situation, and soon afterward God brought him an army of lifelong, loyal followers, some of whom would remain throughout the entirety of his life.
For Paul and Silas - The prison’s foundations were shaken, their chains released, and the jailer and his family believed in Jesus Christ!
There’s power in our praise! So much power.
You know what happens when you praise and thank God in your battle? God is blessed, you have peace, and God fights your battle while you reap the blessing!
You know what happens when you praise and thank God in your sacrifice? God is blessed, you have peace, and God births more through you and uses your obedience to build his kingdom!
You want to know what happens when you praise and thank God in your desperation? God is blessed, you have peace, and God delivers you and forms an army of allies you weren’t even looking for!
You want to know what happens when you praise God in your prisons? God is blessed, you have peace, the foundations of your strongholds are shaken, and people come to know Jesus Christ because of it!
Oh God, thank you! Teach us to adopt an attitude of praise and thanksgiving that overflows to every part of our lives in every situation. Teach us to be aggressively thankful. Amen.