How can we stay focused on a heart that gives thanks and glorifies God? How can we cultivate a grateful and giving heart this season?
Thanks for joining us for Week 3 of ‘Tis the Season: Preparing Our Hearts for a Christ-Centered Christmas. This week we’ll be focusing on verse 12 of Psalm 86.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. —Psalm 86:12
We have reason to give thanks everyday.
Jesus gives us reason to be grateful and give thanks every day! Psalm 107 is a wonderful psalm of thanksgiving. We’ll be examining it further this week as part of our homework, but read the opening verses of this psalm:
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
I love the repeated phrase in this psalm: Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! As those redeemed from an empty, hopeless and sinful life, we have reason to rejoice and give thanks! As we continue to focus on our heart attitudes in preparation for the Christmas season, these two will be some of the most impactful and perhaps most difficult to examine. I don’t know about you, but I love to shop and give gifts and I have a tendency to “over do”. But when the Lord began to impress on my heart the need to focus more on Christ and less on the commercialism of the season, He really did a huge work in my life and the lives of my family as it related to giving and generosity. (I shared this story with you in an earlier post.)
Today, let’s look at the heart attitudes that characterize grateful hearts that seek to glorify God.
How can we cultivate hearts that give thanks to the Lord with our entire being? Below you’ll find definitions for some of the words used in the New Testament for giving thanks, thanksgiving and being thankful.
give thanks —eucharisteo —to be thankful; to express one’s gratitude; give thanks
- Present tense — continuous or repeated action
- Imperative mood —used to give a command
- Active voice —action being accomplished by the subject of the verb (you do it!)
thanksgiving —eucharistia—gratitude; active, grateful language; thanks to God as an act of worship
be thankful —eucharistos—(used only in Colossians 3:15) — thankful, mindful of favors, grateful
In the midst of each of these words is the Greek word charis which means grace. Giving thanks is simply grateful language, a language of the heart. It is the overflow of our realization, acknowledgement of and gratitude for what God has done for us. He has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus. He has restored our peace and joy. He has brought us back into right relationship and fellowship with Him.
But what about those hard things in life? God’s Word tells us that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Our heart is not just our feelings, emotions, desires and affections, but also our mind and will. With our will we CHOOSE. Many times we may not FEEL like giving thanks but we can CHOOSE to do so as an act of worship to God.
“Feeling gratitude is not a prerequisite to giving thanks.” —T.M. Moore, The Thanksgiving Solution
What if every time I am tempted to be discontent, dissatisfied or worried, I turned that into a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord? How would this change my attitude and my demeanor?
When something comes to mind that causes discontent, disappointment, worry or anxiety —I turn it into an opportunity to be thankful. It changes my attitude and gives me new perspective. Psalm 69:30 says we magnify God with our thanksgiving. That describes a new perspective —my discontent or worry becomes smaller and He becomes greater. And I find myself experiencing the joy, peace and contentment that only He can provide.
Psalm 50:23 says, the one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me. My sacrifice of thanksgiving not only changes my mindset and attitude, but it brings glory to the Father!
What about you? Are you discontent, disappointed, frustrated, worried or anxious about something in your life right now? Why not use it as an opportunity to turn it into a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord.
A grateful heart produces a giving heart. I find in my own life the more grateful I am for the things in my life, big and small, the more I desire to give and serve others. It’s the overflow of the gospel at work in my heart and life.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. —Colossians 3:16-17
A grateful and giving heart is also a heart that glorifies the Lord. The word hallelujah in the Old Testament is a combination of two words:
Halal, one of the Old Testament word for praise meaning to praise, to shine forth light, to be bright, to boast, to celebrate, to glorify. At the heart of this root word is the idea of radiance. The well-known imperative phrase in the Hebrew “hallelujah” called for giving glory to God.
Jah is a contracted form of the word Jehovah(Yahweh) —LORD. It is the proper name of God. It is the name by which He has been known from the creation of the world and it is His forever name. I AM who I AM (Exodus 3:14-16). Jehovah means “He who is” and He subsists in a manner superior to all other beings! He is the self-existent, all sufficient One. He is the One who was, who IS and who will be. His name Yahweh/Jehovah, LORD, is often compounded with another word to describe the character of the Lord in greater detail. For example, Jehovah-Jireh in Genesis 22:14, the LORD who provides or in Exodus 17:15, Jehovah-Nissi, the LORD is my banner. Jah is the contracted form of this name. (Note: In the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation, they print JAH whenever this contracted form of the Lord God appears. It is found particularly in the Psalms).
We can translate hallelujah as Praise He is! I love that and so often I need that. I need to know that He IS in this moment. That He IS sovereign. That He IS all-powerful. That He IS unfailing love and so much more. There is great comfort for me in knowing God IS present in my every moment. Therefore, HE is to be the object and focus of my worship, because He alone is worthy. And when I focus on the greatness of the Great I AM, my preoccupation with self diminishes.
This week for your homework you’ll be reading through sections of Psalm 107 and noting what you learn about those redeemed by the Lord, those He has redeemed from trouble and gathered to Himself. As you read through each of the sections of Psalm 107, note the people involved. What were they facing? What were their circumstances? Then note how God what God does for them and how He meets their needs —all because He is!
What would your Psalm 107 be? Write your story of how God has worked in your life and reasons you have for giving thanks. Considering framing it within the text of…Hallelujah, Praise He IS…
“When it comes right down to it, these are the only two possible responses to Jesus Christ. We either want to be kings ourselves, as Herod did, or we surrender to the King of kings. We crucify him or we worship him. There is no middle ground.” —Ann Hibbard
How can you be more intentional about cultivating a heart of gratitude and giving in your life? If you have children at home, what steps can you take to cultivate hearts of gratitude and giving in their lives? (This week’s Preparing our Home has a few ideas). If there is something you’ve done in your family to foster generosity with your children, please share with us! Leave a comment.
Create a Thankful Tree – Create a tree for your family to use to begin your Christmas season. Here’s info on how to create your tree.
Giving Thanks Scripture Chain/Jar – Print verses on giving thanks and cut into strips. Form into a chain or place strips in a jar and each day read the Scripture as a family and share something you are thankful for that day. Close in a time of prayer focused on praising God and giving thanks. Consider praying the verse for the day back to the Lord. (It’s a great way to teach your children how to personalize and pray Scripture!)
The Orphan Advent Calendar – These calendars are free from Lifesong for Orphans. It’s an advent calendar with Scripture reading for each day, a prayer focus for orphans along with an activity to complete to that involves teaching our children to give to those in need. 100% of the profits go towards orphan care. For more info or to order a calendar visit, Lifesong for Orphans Advent Calendar
This post was originally published on Get Real on November 11, 2014.