Giving thanks to God is a powerful spiritual discipline that all Christians should develop. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When we give thanks to God, even in difficult times, it demonstrates our trust in His sovereignty, goodness, and faithfulness.
In this blog post, we will explore the profound spiritual benefits of cultivating an attitude of thanksgiving in our relationship with God. We will look at how thanksgiving transforms our perspective, strengthens our faith, and releases God’s power in our lives.
- Thanksgiving redirects our focus from problems to God’s presence and provision.
- Thanking God demonstrates our trust in His character and control over circumstances.
- Thanksgiving opens the door for God to work more powerfully in every area of our lives.
- Cultivating thankfulness leads to spiritual freedom and victory in Christ.
- Thanking God is a form of spiritual warfare against despair, discouragement and the enemy’s lies.
- Consistently giving thanks results in a joyful heart, stronger faith and a deeper intimacy with God.
Thanksgiving Redirects our Focus
When life gets difficult, it’s easy to become consumed by our problems and challenges. Financial pressures, health issues, relational conflicts and other trials can dominate our thinking and emotions. This focuses our attention on what is going wrong and what we lack.
But in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul doesn’t say to give thanks for all circumstances, but rather in all circumstances. This subtle distinction is important. We don’t have to be thankful for bad situations, but we can still be thankful in them. How? By intentionally shifting our focus to what God has given us: His presence, promises, help, guidance and provision.
Psalm 34:1 instructs, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Despite his frequent life-threatening trials, David chose to bless the Lord at all times. He redirected his focus to praising God rather than dwelling on problems.
Likewise, we can choose to set our minds on the goodness of God. When we make thanksgiving a regular spiritual discipline, it redirects our focus from what is lacking to what God has already supplied – Himself! This fills our hearts with hope, encouragement and renewed spiritual strength.
Thanksgiving Demonstrates our Trust
Giving thanks to God expresses our deep trust in His character and His complete control over every circumstance. It affirms that God is good, loving and just, even when life feels unfair or painful. As one pastor said, “A grateful heart is the parent of faith.” It is nearly impossible to persist in fear or anger when our hearts are overflowing with thankfulness to God.
Consider Ephesians 1:15-16: “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.” Even while enduring hardship for the sake of the gospel, Paul overflowed with thanksgiving for fellow believers.
Paul was convinced that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28). This unshakable confidence allowed him to give thanks in every situation. When we thank God during difficulties, it expresses our trust in His perfect plan and timing. We demonstrate faith that He will work every trial for our ultimate good and His glory.
Thanksgiving Opens the Door for God to Work
Thanking God does far more than just recalibrate our focus and express faith. It actually releases His power into every situation we face. God works through grateful, trusting hearts to accomplish His purposes in our lives and world.
In 2 Chronicles 20, an enemy army gathered against King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah. In fear, Jehoshaphat immediately sought the Lord for help. He prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (v. 12). God responded by saying, “Do not be afraid or dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s” (v. 15).
God then instructed the people to march into battle praising and giving thanks to Him. When they did this in faith, the Lord caused the enemy armies to turn against each other, and Judah won a miraculous victory without even fighting!
When we choose to thank God in the midst of difficulty, it releases His power to work mightily on our behalf. Just as God moved miraculously for Jehoshaphat against overwhelming odds, He wants to move in unlikely and supernatural ways for us as we give Him thanks (Ephesians 3:20).
This is why it pleases God when we trust Him enough to thank Him before we ever see our prayers answered or problems resolved. God uses grateful hearts as channels for His power. As we offer thanksgiving by faith, it allows Him to move in power to protect us, strengthen us, encourage us, provide for us and empower us to carry out His will.
Thanksgiving Leads to Spiritual Freedom
Consistently nurturing an attitude of thanksgiving profoundly transforms our lives. It reshapes our perspective of God, ourselves and our circumstances. As we make thanking God our continual practice, it leads to deep spiritual freedom and victory.
The psalmist declares in Psalm 107, “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” (Psalm 107:1-2). Thanking God reminds us of His enduring love and faithfulness. This awareness sets us free from anxiety, despair and discouragement when facing trouble.
Later in Psalm 107 it says, “Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” (Psalm 107:17-19).
Even when we suffer as a consequence of our own foolishness, God invites us to cry out to Him in repentance and thanksgiving. He is merciful to forgive those who earnestly seek Him. He redeems us out of trouble as we give Him thanks in the midst of distress. No matter what we face, thanking God leads to spiritual freedom and victory in Christ.
The more we nurture thankfulness, the more God’s peace and perspective guards our hearts from negative thinking patterns and emotions (Philippians 4:6-7). Thanking God should become our default reaction to any difficulty or disappointment. As we intentionally cultivate this reflex, it leads to profound freedom from fear, anxiety, bitterness and discouragement.
Thanksgiving as Spiritual Warfare
Satan endeavors to oppress believers with doubt, lies, fear, pride and ingratitude. He hates it when Christians live in the freedom for which Christ has set us free. Therefore, one of the most powerful weapons we have against the enemy’s schemes is to continually give thanks to God in all situations.
The more we thank God, the harder it is for the devil to keep us down, depressed or discouraged. Consistently nurturing thankfulness shuts the door on the enemy’s lies and despair. It also guards our hearts against pride when times are good. Lifting our souls to God in thanksgiving for everything large and small is a form of mighty spiritual warfare against evil forces.
In fact, the very first sin was fundamentally a lack of thankfulness toward God. Though Adam and Eve were blessed abundantly in the Garden of Eden, the devil deceived them into wanting more than God had given them. When we grumble and complain over what we don’t have, rather than overflowing with thanksgiving over what we do have, it repeats the essence of the first sin.
How different would history have been if Eve had responded to the serpent by saying, “Lord, thank You so much for all You’ve given us! We already have everything we need. We choose to worship You alone.” Giving thanks in the face of temptation shuts the enemy’s lies out of our hearts.
Likewise, we can live in freedom and victory when we make thanksgiving our default, no matter what the enemy or circumstances may bring against us. The joy of the Lord becomes our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Thankfulness Results in a Joyful Heart
The book of Philippians has much to teach us about living with thanksgiving in every situation. Paul wrote this letter from prison, yet overflowed with joy and thankfulness throughout. Consider Philippians 4:4-6:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
In all circumstances, including hardships, Paul compels us to continuously rejoice in the Lord. Such constant rejoicing is only possible for those who pray with thanksgiving, rather than anxiety, about everything. Those who continually give thanks to God tap into His supernatural joy. The nearness of His presence becomes their strength.
The more we thank God, the more our roots sink deeply in His unconditional love. We remember that our worth, identity and security are rooted in Him, not our circumstances. This provides unshakable inner joy and peace amid temporary trials. As Psalm 30:12 proclaims, “that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”
Thankfulness Strengthens our Faith
Giving thanks in difficult times may feel counterintuitive or even impossible in moments of deep grief or suffering. Yet it is often in our darkest valley that thanksgiving becomes most needed – and most powerfully transforms us. As we thank God by faith before breakthrough comes, it builds spiritual muscle in our lives. It strengthens our trust in God’s faithfulness and goodness.
James 1:2-4 explains it this way:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Thanking God in our trials demonstrates and develops persevering faith. We trust God is right alongside us in the fire, walking with us through the valley, growing us into the image of Christ. This fills us with joyful confidence in His purpose and plan for our lives. We gradually learn to thank God not just after He delivers us, but also while He is still developing our faith and character in the difficulty.
When the ten lepers were miraculously healed by Jesus in Luke 17:11-19, only one returned to give Him thanks afterwards. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” He then affirmed the Samaritan leper who glorified God in thanksgiving, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Even royal officials came to Jesus in desperation, pleading healing for their dying children or relatives. In Matthew 8 and John 4, when Jesus healed their loved ones in response to persistent faith, the officials later thanked Him with their entire households.
These stories demonstrate the close connection between thanksgiving and faith. We must persistently trust God enough to thank Him before we see the victory or answer. As we do, it results in a maturity, perspective and strength that carries us through every hardship.
Thankfulness Deepens our Intimacy with God
Most importantly, nurturing an attitude of thankfulness deepens our intimacy with God our Father. It keeps us aware of His presence and focused on His grace in our lives. It fills our hearts with love and appreciation for everything He has done for us, increasing our passion for His glory.
Thanksgiving fuels our worship and awakens our desire for more of Him. It also keeps us humble, because we know that all good gifts come from Him (James 1:17). A grateful heart recognizes our constant dependence, as little children, on the heavenly Father’s daily provision and care.
Psalm 95 exemplifies this beautifully. Verses 1-2 call us to joyfully thank and praise God:
The psalmist then gives the reason for such enthusiastic thanksgiving:
For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
We are compelled to thank God because of who He is – the almighty, loving Creator and Sustainer of all things. Our hearts overflow with gratitude in response to His supreme majesty, glory and care over every detail of our lives.
A posture of thankfulness keeps us rooted in intimacy with our Father. We recall the lavish blessings of His salvation. We remember that everything we enjoy comes ultimately from His hand. Thanking God for His gifts keeps them from becoming idolatrous ends in themselves. It maintains Him as the rightful focus of our devotion and source of our joy.
May God develop in all Christians a heart of persistent thanksgiving! There is simply no greater way to walk in freedom, faith and close fellowship with Him.
In closing, nurturing consistent thankfulness to God is a powerful spiritual discipline with life-changing effects. It transforms our perspective in difficulties, develops enduring faith, and releases God’s strength and joy in every situation. As we cultivate thankfulness in all circumstances, it deepens our intimacy with God and defeats the enemy’s lies. By God’s grace, may we persist in thanking Him at all times, allowing gratitude to guard our hearts and empower our lives.