Psalm 100:4- Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Gratitude is the express pass into God’s presence. It is the red “admit one” ticket into His gates. It is the hand stamp that grants admittance to the throne of God. You can’t get in without thankfulness. Why? Because thankfulness is the ultimate indicator of humility. It is a tangible expression of our subservience to our Creator and Sustainer, and a stark admission that we are all merely beneficiaries of a great Benefactor. Children are slow to utter the words “thank you” to their siblings because it is tantamount to saying: “I owe you. You did something for me I was unwilling or unable to do for myself.” If you want to sense and experience God’s presence, start by practicing thankfulness.
Paul puts it this way: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:18)” Christians often view God’s will as personal and somewhat illusive Who should I marry? Where should I go to school? What do I do with my life? In our obsession to find God’s perfect will for us individually, we sometimes miss out on God’s will for all of humanity. It is His will that we are thankful for all circumstances. We are to be thankful for His blessings- the visible manifestations of His goodness in our lives. We are to be thankful for His benefits- the ordinary graces that we often fail to realize such as hot coffee, evening runs, and the laughter of a child. We are to be thankful for the burdens in our lives- the hardships and difficulties that he has redeemed for His good and our growth. God’s will is for us to be thankful for our blessings, benefits and burdens.
Giving thanks is no trite virtue. In a world of ingratitude and insincere platitudes, we have lost the ability to be genuinely thankful to God and to those God has placed in our lives. The consequences are great. For without thankfulness, we can’t experience His presence or find His will. There is something else at stake, mankind’s ability to experience the vastness of God is tied to our ability to be grateful. David proclaims: I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs (Psalm 69:30-31). There are two different types of magnification. One can take something small and insignificant and place it under a microscope so that in appears much bigger than it actually is. Or, one can use a telescope, focus the lens, and make something great appear as great as it actually is. When we magnify ourselves, we are doing the first kind of magnification. We are taking our relatively insignificant, here-today-gone-tomorrow, fade-like-the-grass-in-the field lives and blowing them way out of proportion. In the grand scope of eternity, we are but a speck of dust. And, most of the things that concern us have no eternal or universal significance.
Magnifying God, on the other hand, is of the second sort. We are not making Him big; we are positioning ourselves to realize His bigness. We are taking the telescope out and doing the best we can to comprehend the incomprehensible and to savor our great, big God. How do with this? With thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is our tool of magnification. Marriage to the microscope is the underlying cause of all ingratitude. Because we are so occupied with magnifying ourselves, we are unable to magnify God. And if we don’t magnify God, we can not be truly thankful. One writer said that if the stars came out but once a year, we would make any sacrifice to view them. However, they come out every night so we don’t even notice them. According to David, thanksgiving and magnification exist in a symbiotical relationship. Thanksgiving magnifies God and magnifying God results in thanksgiving.
David continues by claiming that God will be more satisfied with thanksgiving than with sacrifices. In many ways, religious acts hinder genuine thankfulness. We think that our acts of worship and virtuous deeds put God in our debt. We become the givers, and He becomes the receiver. So, He should be thankful to us. He should be grateful for our faithful church attendance, our consistent daily devotions, and our financial generosity. However, we must remember that we are perpetually in His debt. Our acts of righteousness are but pennies toward a billion-dollar bill. There is a lot at stake this Thanksgiving. You have an opportunity to view God for who He actually is, to experience His presence, and to discover His perfect will.