This is the season we all have an opportunity to remind ourselves to have a spirit of gratitude and learn how to give thanks to God.
Even though we live in a society of abundance, we have a tendency to focus on what hasn’t gone well and complain about it instead of the things that did go well and feel grateful. Because of this, it seems wise that a special day for Thanksgiving was designated in the United States, a tradition since the 18th century which started as a harvest festival.
But the Biblical importance of giving thanks goes way back. The Bible has a lot to say about how to express gratitude to God both when all is well and when all is not so well.
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Biblical Examples of Giving Thanks to God
To help us appreciate the value of thanking God even for little things and under all circumstances, let us look at 4 characters in the scriptures and examine how to give thanks to God in response to different situations.
As you read, try to see if some of these examples resonate more with the situations in your life.
The story of Daniel is a popular and inspiring story about faith in God through all things. God blessed Daniel, a Jew brought as a captive from Jerusalem to Babylon at the age of twelve, and he becomes one of the wise men in king Nebuchadnezzar’s palace.
Then came a crisis when the king forgets a dream he had but, as strange as it may seem, expected his wise me to come up with his dream or else face the death penalty. An impossible assignment.
But God answered Daniel’s prayer and revealed the dream and its interpretation. What is Daniel’s response? He immediately shows his gratitude with a prayer of thanksgiving:
I offer thanks and praise to you, God of my fathers, because you have given me wisdom and power. And now you have let me know what we asked of you, for you have let us know the king’s mystery”. Daniel 2:23 CSB
We can say that Daniel thanked God in response to answered prayers. Don’t we all do the same? How about when things didn’t go that well? Yes, Daniel faced that situation a little later in his life. It happened during the reign of another king when Daniel had to face a royal decree that everyone should only pray to the king and no one else.
When the king’s order curbing the freedom of prayer was announced, Daniel calmly and deliberately continued to pray and thank his God openly. The Bible says
When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went into his house. The windows in its upstairs room opened toward Jerusalem, and three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Daniel 6:10 CSB.
As the story goes, Daniel was punished for being true to his beliefs by being thrown into a lion’s den and God miraculously rescued him.
Wow, what courage to be thankful and to be true his convictions even when things didn’t go his way!
The book of Psalms in the Bible, mostly written by King David, is said to be read more than any other book in the scriptures. We know that David was anointed at a young age by the prophet Samuel. A favorite Sunday school story is about how young David bravely faced and killed the giant Goliath with just a slingshot. He then went on to become a valiant warrior and reigned as the king of Israel for a long time.
In spite of the glamor, David’s life was also full of battles, family betrayals, murder plots, falling into sin and grieving the loss of a child. But each time he bounced back by God’s grace. All through these difficulties and triumphs David penned some of the beautiful and heart-felt poems in which giving thanks seems to be a common thread.
Here are just a few examples of eloquent thanksgiving verses from the Psalms:
I will thank the Lord with all my heart; I will declare all Your wondrous works.” Psalm 9:1
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love and his wondrous works for all humanity. For He has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:8-9
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1
I always turn to Psalms when I feel down and depressed. David’s words proclaiming God as his strength, refuge, hiding place, strong tower, and shelter in the storm keep lifting our spirits even today, and encourage us to be thankful in all circumstances.
Considered as one of the most important figures in the early Christianity, the Apostle Paul founded several churches in Asia Minor and Europe after his dramatic encounter with Christ and becoming His follower. But he also faced numerous troubles including imprisonment, beatings, threats and near-death encounters for boldly proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God.
Through all the difficult experiences, Paul not only learned the meaning of true thanksgiving but also applied it in his daily life. For example, when he was imprisoned in Rome, he wrote in his letter to the Ephesians,
Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20 (NIV)
With many early Christians looking to Paul as a role model, he encouraged them to give thanks at all times. He wrote,
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 (CSB)
Paul also makes it a point to thank God for his friends and church family when he wrote:
“We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you constantly in our prayers.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2 (CSB)
This verse might have influenced our tradition of expressing gratitude for food, family & friends as we gather at the Thanksgiving meal.
The example set before us by our Lord Jesus Christ shows us once again the importance of giving thanks.
Jesus gave thanks for the food as recorded several times in the scriptures. For example, at the time of the miraculous feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, it is written,
“Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks he distributed them to those who were seated—so also with the fish, as much as they wanted.” John 6:11 (CSB)
Another example recorded was at the scene of raising Lazarus who had been dead for three days. We read that Jesus prayed and thanked God even before the miracle by saying:
“Father, I thank you that you heard me.” John 11: 41b (CSB)
This intriguing prayer sets an example and a pattern we can follow. As we pray in faith and bring our petitions before God, we should practice an attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving strengthens faith and prepares us for the miracles of God.
I hope you find in these Biblical examples some answers for how to give thanks to God and a pattern to adapt to your own situation. Let us never become content with all our blessings but let us ALWAYS be thankful to God with a heart of gratitude and praise.
Guest Post by Annie Wesley
Annie is a believer in Christ, an international development professional, and a freelance virtual assistant. She is committed to encouraging women to discover freedom and truth in Jesus and have a positive attitude in life. He lives in Canada with her family and in her spare time, likes to read mystery books and share Bible quotes on social media.