A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
(Psalm 95:1-2)

Today is Thanksgiving, the day we intentionally pause to express our gratitude for all the blessings we have. Many have actually taken the entire month of November to post on social media about the people, possessions, and circumstances they are grateful for in their lives. It has been encouraging and uplifting to read these reflections on a daily basis.

As I reflected on all the blessings in my own life this morning (There are many!), God brought me back to a post I wrote in 2016. The prior year had been a rough one—probably one of the hardest years of my life–but it was a year that God used to transform me in many ways

In addition to learning that sometimes the worst experiences in our lives can become the launching pad to a glorious future, I learned an important truth: God calls us not only to thank Him for what He has done, but also to thank Him for who He is.

Sure, thankfulness comes easily when we consider people, possessions, health, and favorable circumstances–when we consider the “things” in life that make life enjoyable.  To be thankful is to appreciate what we have been given, and on some occasions, what we have not been given. 

Yet I believe God also calls us to go deeper; He often calls us to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving. What is the difference between being thankful and offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving? I believe it comes down to our focus.  When my  heart is thankful for God’s goodness evident  in my life, my focus is on what God has done.  When I offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, my focus is on who God is, regardless of any external evidence present in my life.

Let me explain. The other day as I got on my knees to pray, my heart was immediately overwhelmed with thankfulness.  The thankfulness, however, was not because of anything specific within my life.  There was nothing apparently new to be thankful for.  In fact, life was kind of crazy and overwhelming.   My thankfulness at that moment, however, was actually to God for–well–being God.  I just knelt beside my bed in adoration and thankfulness that He is God. Yes, God.  No matter what is going on in life, God is still God.  In 2015, even though I felt my life was at its worst, God was still at His best.  God was still in control–even when I was not.

God is God.  And as God, He calls us not only to thank Him for the great things He has done, but also to thank Him for who He is.

Look at Psalm 95.  The verses above encourage us to come into His presence with thanksgiving and to enter His courts with praise.  For what reason?

Health?  No.  

Prosperity?  No.  

Relationships?  No. 

Psalm 95 doesn’t call us to thank God for what He does for us; it calls us to thank God for who He is. Go ahead and read with me the reason we are told to enter His presence with thanksgiving:

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;

    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    and the sheep of his hand.
(Psalm 95:2-7) 

We enter His presence with thanksgiving because He is God–a great God–King of all gods.  He created the earth.  He created the sea.  He created me.  He created you.  We are to enter His presence with thanksgiving, not because of what is going on, but rather because of who He is.  Circumstances do not change who God is; circumstances may glorify God, but they are not the reason He is worthy of our praise.  He Himself is worthy of our praise because He is God.  I AM is, whether or not life appears to align with His goodness.  Regardless the place I find myself–regardless of the mountain that is before me–regardless of the pain, the grief, the sadness–God is good.  And God is God.

Man will never remove God from His throne.

And for this I am thankful.

You see, the sacrifice of thanksgiving is not about who we are or where we are; it is about who God is.  God is above all, over all, and in all.  Even in our darkest moments, God is there, and God is God. In 2015, when I found myself on the side of the road wondering what had happened to my life, God was there.   In 2016, when the house we thought we should get was stolen out from under us by no fault of our own, God was there. In 2020, when countless lives have been and continue to be affected by Covid-19, God is here, and God is still God.

God is not just there when life is good and things are going our way.  God is there through the darkness as well.  We may not understand the darkness. We may not understand the grief.  But we can know and be thankful for the truth–the truth that God is God, God is good, and we are His children.

So are things going your way and life seems to be going well right now? Then by all means, thank God for His goodness present in your life.   Yet I also encourage you to take a moment to bow before Him and just thank Him for being Who He is–for being God.  Because if He did nothing else visibly good in your life from this point forward, He is still worthy–still worthy of praise and thanksgiving.

Are things not going well?  Are you reading this and thinking to yourself, “What do you know?!  I am grieving! I’m struggling! I am hurt!  I am alone!  I’ve lost everything important to me!”

Let me encourage you today, dear friend. First, you are right in that I do not know exactly what you are feeling at this very moment.  But God does.  Every aspect of grief, every heartache, every pain, every struggle–God Himself experienced through His Son Jesus.  God knows.  He knows the path you are traveling.  He knows where this path will lead.  He knows.  And He cares.  And He is working all things out according to His ultimate plan.  As a good friend once encouraged me, God is working His “perfect plan in an imperfect world.”

So please remember this important truth:  God is God; you are His child.  He is orchestrating every moment, even the horrific ones, for His good and His glory.

So praise Him. Follow the directive of 1 Thessalonians 5:18,  and “Be thankful in all circumstances….”  Get on your knees this very moment and praise Him.  Thank Him for being who He is in spite of the circumstances you find yourself enduring.  Thank God for who He is even though what you are experiencing is beyond your understanding and contrary to what you thought would be.

And as you thank Him, trust Him. He is faithful. Trust that He sees you, sees your heart, and sees your sacrifice of thanksgiving.  And what God sees in secret, He will reward in the open–if not in this age, then definitely in the one to come.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!
(Psalm 50:23)