Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” –Psalm 100
Gratitude, appreciation, an acknowledgement of something done or a service delivered: these are the hallmarks of respect that we give to people and institutions, when deserved, as a courtesy. It’s good manners: part of the social contract and part of our make-up as human beings. Recognition of the positive behavior of others is key to the continuation of that behavior.
But there’s more to it than simply checking off the required etiquette. In Japan for example, there are rigid systems in place regarding expectations of social behavior, enshrined in the individuals’ status and relationship to one another, dating back through centuries of tradition and high culture. With all of that to bear in mind, and the potential social consequences of failing to adhere to the intricacies of the code, where is the genuine expression of gratitude? Where is the ‘giving thanks’ part of the thanksgiving experience?
In 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 18, Paul tells the church that it’s God’s will in Christ that they give thanks in everything. When someone gives us a gift, we say thank you: what then do we do with the person who has given us everything, and who then gives us more besides? A simple thank you isn’t really enough in these circumstances. A lifestyle of thanksgiving—that’s far more appropriate.
After all, God is never shy about telling us how thankful He is for us—one of His favorite ways to share his presence with us is to tell us something He loves about us. This is the kind of deep, empathetic connection that fosters true intimacy, and that true intimacy is impossible to hide. It’s transformative. It changes our lives forever. We cannot be the same people again. Fortunately, God has that covered too: the old person we were before is discarded, and the reborn person we are now is a person in a close, intimate relationship with true majesty.
Communion with the Father through worship and rejoicing is a keystone of achieving that intimacy, and the spirit of that worship and rejoicing is one of thanksgiving. It can’t be any other way—we have so much to be grateful to Him for! We press into our new lives with hearts captured by the Kingdom and set aflame by the Spirit. Living like that displays our intimate connection with God, and proclaiming His heart for us loud and clear is the voice we give to that intimacy.
Worship isn’t a song we sing, or a place we visit on weekends—it’s a tangible, vibrant part of our lives in Christ. In fact, it’s possible to say that thanksgiving through worship is our lives in Christ: it’s a lifestyle and a way of being, not just something we can step into and out of at will, and it’s certainly not just for Thanksgiving!
The threshold to God’s presence is, brick and mortar, lintel and door, a thing of thanksgiving. When we enumerate everything He has done for us, around us and through us, our excitement over that should be the automatic basis for that thanksgiving, manifesting itself in rejoicing and grateful worship. It’s not prayer that creates that gateway to God’s presence—it’s simple, heartfelt, ecstatic thankfulness, voiced as praise.
By entering his presence with praise we learn how to love Him all over again, and all over again, and all over again. Rebirth is a cycle. We rise every day a new person in Christ, and the rejoicing in our hearts is the reinvesting of joy in our lives and the lives of those around us, the creation of joy and thanksgiving as a lifestyle, the manifestation of a gratitude of the Spirit that borders on grace. This is the fundamental spiritual truth of our lives. We live as celebrants, and celebration is our lives. The party is here. Let’s get it started.
For more resources on thanksgiving and worship, visit the Soaking & Worship section of Brilliant Book House.