Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1-3, ESV)
The Bible doesn’t hesitate to urge us to thank God. If you are a new creation in Christ, the process of thanksgiving should be a continual interest to you. Psalm 136:1-3 begins with three expansive titles for God and makes each one a reason for gratitude, because “his steadfast love endures forever.”
The first reference to the Lord is His awesome, sovereign name, Yahweh. The second title, “God of gods,” highlights His supremacy. The Lord is not some god among other, lesser gods—there’s literally no one else in His category. Any other ‘gods’ are not God. The third title, “Lord of lords,” points to God’s divine authority and His rightful rule in our lives.
Taken alone, these titles should provoke an appropriate fear. We are giving thanks to One who doesn’t need our thanks, but receives our gratitude anyway. And He receives our thanks because He loves us with a steadfast, everlasting love, even though we don’t deserve it.
Scripture shows there are three learned levels of thankfulness, similar to our educational process. Every follower of Jesus is enrolled in the school of gratitude—and too many people are flunking out. We’re forgetting that God loves us with a steadfast love that endures forever. That’s why a regular review of the development of a thankful heart is important.
First, there’s basic elementary school thankfulness. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Thanksgiving is the sacrifice.
You might think, Okay, I know I should be more thankful. Fine, I’ll make a list of things I’m grateful for. I’ll make the sacrifice. I’ll be thankful.
Congratulations—you’re an elementary school graduate. It’s a place to start, but don’t stay there!
Once you have developed a consistent habit of thanksgiving, it’s time to graduate to the next level: high school thankfulness. First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything, give thanks.”
You’re making progress in gratitude when you discover something to be thankful for in every situation. The picture may be dismal, but learn to find a bright spot—a hint of God’s presence. For example, you may not feel thankful for your spouse at the moment, but you’re thankful for your kids and the life you have together. Or you might not feel thankful for your job, but you’re thankful for your health insurance and the ability to provide for yourself. In other words, go after deliberate, if selective, gratitude.
Finding something to be thankful for in everything is certainly a step above having only random grateful thoughts. But there is still plenty of room for developing a deeply thankful heart. Here’s what you’re going for: graduate school thankfulness. Ephesians 5:20 says, “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
No matter what’s happening, no matter how dark the moment, God is in control. He can be explicitly trusted. He’s working out a purpose beyond what you can imagine. Some of it you’ll see in this life; some of it you’ll see in the life to come. Give thanks to God—always and for everything! Go for it. Thank Him for the hardest part of your life. Just say, “Thank You, God, even for this,” and trust in His steadfast love which endures forever.
When I say “Thank You,” Lord, help me pause long enough to really mean what I’m saying. Help the attitude that should trigger those words be a more constant part of my character. Show me where I’m most lacking in gratitude, and give me strength to give You authentic thanks for those trying places. Please guide me into a graduate level of practical thanksgiving, Lord. And I will be forever grateful, in Jesus’ name, amen.