“Thank you.” “Thanks!” “ Thx.”
A simple phrase, but effective nonetheless. In fact, people say this phrase roughly five times every day and around two thousand times every year on average. Why do we say thank you? We say it to, well, thank people, as a sign of appreciation for the good things that others give us and help us with.
All of us have been taught that this is one of the basic foundations for common etiquette from young ages. Perhaps that’s why we say thank you so automatically - to our friends, teachers, parents (I hope so!), siblings, and even strangers that help us in our daily lives.
So how would you feel if you helped someone, but they didn’t thank you?
I’d feel the same.
But unfortunately, that’s something we do so much of the time.
Let me ask you another question: How many times every day do you thank God?
Once? Twice? Maybe only before you eat, or sleep?
I realise that I’ll never be able to thank Him enough for the extent of His grace and mercy. But, I also know that I haven’t put much effort into thanking Him either. Before we delve further, let’s look at the times the Bible (God’s Word - another thing we need to thank God for!) records the instances when humans thank God.
Back to Genesis
Noah’s Ark - it’s a familiar Sunday School story to most of us. Noah and his family, the pairs of animals boarding the Ark, the flood itself - we’ve got it memorised backwards. But rereading it, there’s a part that often gets overlooked. After the water receded and the ark came to rest on Ararat, Noah and his family came out of the Ark, along with all the animals. What was the first thing that Noah did?
“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it” - Genesis 8:20
In other words, the first thing he did was thank God. He offered a sacrifice to God in thanksgiving, worshipping God for saving him and his family.
Obviously, we aren’t in danger of any world-class floods. But we have been saved - saved from our own sin and eternal death. The story of salvation is so familiar to us, that we lose the wholehearted gratitude and thankfulness that should instantly light up our heart every time we hear the Good News. The joyful gratitude is replaced with a slightly bored attitude. But think about it - we did absolutely nothing to deserve this mercy. No amount of good works, thoughts or intentions could achieve and buy us eternal life compared to the overwhelming mountain of sins that we have committed. Let us thank God with renewed joy!
What about hard times?
It’s easy to thank God in the good times - when everything is going well, and our own lives are comfortable. It’s much harder to thank Him when we experience bad times. Usually, when we suffer, our prayers consist of much complaining and groaning. In times like those, the priority of my prayers often shift from “Thank you God!” to a pleading, “Take me out of this suffering!”
If we look into the Old Testament, we can see that Daniel definitely faced plenty of hard times. Darius the king of the Medes and Persians had decreed that all the people of the land must only worship the king - otherwise they would face the lions.
But what did Daniel do?
“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” - Daniel 6:10
How could Daniel give thanks in such a time like that!? Yet he did so - and personally, I don’t think I would have if were him. What could Daniel possibly thank God for?
Flipping several pages backward, we can find answers - in the book of Psalms. Wars, persecution, and many attempted killings - King David faced these all. But in Psalms, we can find some of the most earnest and wholehearted prayers of thanksgiving that were written by him.
In Psalm 9, he laments, “LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death!” But, as we read on we see that he is still able to thank Him for His mercy and justice, for being his “refuge and fortress”, and a very sure and “very present help in trouble.”
“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.” - Psalms 1:2
The reason that Daniel, David, and even us now, can thank God is because we can trust in Him - we can trust that He will always protect us, love us, and be with us in any circumstance that we find ourselves in, good or bad.
Keeper of Promises
God is merciful - we often ignore that.
God is faithful - we often doubt that.
God keeps His promises - we often forget to thank Him.
I’ve made a lot of promises - to friends, to parents, even to God - but I’m guilty of not keeping all of them. Unlike us however, God keeps his promises.
If we read the first chapter of Luke, we are met with a miraculous scene - Mary, a young virgin betrothed to a carpenter named Joseph, is suddenly faced with the news of a lifetime. Not only is it delivered by an angel, but he tells her that she is to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God. Wow!
What is her response?
If you read on, to Luke 1:46, you’ll see that she thanked God. The verses following are now called ‘Mary’s Song’, and it is a beautiful and poetic exaltation, praising God’s timeless faithfulness to His people. She praises God for keeping His promises to His weak and hungry people, blessing and protecting them with His grace and justice, “remembering to be merciful… just as he promised our (Israel’s) ancestors.”
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” - Luke 1:46
Mary isn’t the only one who thanked God for keeping His promises. Luke mentions another woman who was met with a miraculous answer to God’s promises.
Anna, a prophetess from the tribe Asher, had lived in the temple as a widow, praising God day and night. When Mary and Joseph came to the temple to perform the traditional purification rites required by Jewish law for baby Jesus, Anna saw the child, and she immediately gave thanks to God. Why did she give thanks? She gave thanks because she knew that God had fulfilled His promise through Jesus Christ - His promise of salvation and redemption for His people was complete in the sending of the Messiah, God’s only Son.
So now, how can we thank God?
There are so many things that we can thank God for, that I haven’t even scraped the surface. Likewise, there are many ways we can thank God. When we thank others, we don’t always say it verbally. We sometimes text a message of thanks, give a card, or we give a present or gift. I know I’ve given friends brownies before, to say thanks for their help and friendship. Of course, we can’t ‘text’ God, but there are several ways we can thank God.
An obvious one is prayer. But as the song goes, “You can whisper in a crowd to Him.
You can cry when you’re alone to Him. You don’t have to pray out loud to Him; he knows your thoughts.”
Don’t limit your prayer life to hungry and sleepy amens. You can pray in thanksgiving to Him anytime - when you’re doing your chores, or when you find your mind wandering.
Another way we can remember to thank Him in prayer daily is to set apart a few minutes everyday, with minimum distractions, to just wholeheartedly and devotedly thank Him. A few minutes set apart for thanksgiving daily is nothing compared to all the years He has blessed us with.
Martin Luther says that “Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men.” We can not only thank God for music, but we can thank God with music.
He praised God through music, through voice and lyre.
She praised God through music, through her song of worship.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the form of singing hymns during Sunday service or by playing an instrument in your church’s orchestra. Along with Mary, David and countless others, we too can also praise God through music.
Live in thankfulness to Him
Giving thanks to God isn’t limited only to words or actions. We can live in thankfulness for Him. When our hearts focus more and more on thankfulness to God, and less on ourselves, we become less selfish and less proud. Because everything we enjoy today, from objects to people, was given by Him. Every second of our lives are a gift from God. So if we are truly thankful, we will not waste it for an idle lifestyle of scrolling through social media. We will cherish and treasure our time, and instead use it for God and His glory.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” - Psalm 100:4