I remember hearing a story of a missionary woman who was preaching in a third world country. While she was there, she contracted a contageous disease that could easily be treated by coming back to the States. However, being in the country she was in, they hadn't the cure. In order to keep her sickness from spreading, she was locked in a room and placed under quarantine until she would eventually die. Recognizing the gravity of her situation, she began to pray and plead and cry out asking God to heal her. She had no other hope. After a few days of crying out and pleading for mercy, she saw Jesus, himself, walk into the room. In his hands were the scales of justice. On one end of the scales was prayer, on the other end was praise. Prayer was weighed to the bottom. Then Jesus spoke to her and said, "when your praise matches your prayer, then I will heal you," and he left the room. She immediately got up and began to dance and shout, giving thanks to God for the victory. She began to thank Him that His Word is true and that she was healed in Jesus' name. After several days of praising God, the door opened and the doctors came in, expecting to carry out a corpse. To their suprise, all symptoms were gone and the woman was completely healed and restored.
Thanksgiving Activates the Hand of God
God is not moved by consistent prayers that are weighty, wordy, and full of complaint-filled requests. He is moved by prayers that are overflowing with praise and thanksgiving. That's why Paul tells us, in Philippians 4:6-7, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." The prayer that brings peace is the prayer that is given with thanksgiving. If we close a time of prayer feeling more depressed and discouraged than when we were when we entered in, we did it wrong. Prayer should build up our faith, not break it down. Prayer and supplication without thanksgiving can be dangerously close to complaining, and complaining doesn't move God, it repels him. Sometime, it removes you from the blessing in which you are seeking.
We see that happen to the Israelites in Numbers 14:2 “All the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron, and the whole community told them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness!” God's response? “The Lord said to Moses, 'How long will these people despise me? How long will they not trust in me despite all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them with a plague and destroy them. Then I will make you into a greater and mightier nation than they are.'” Luckily for the people of Israel, Moses pled on their behalf and God didn't wipe them out. But, you get the picture. Thanksgiving and praise moves God to fight for you, complaining pushes God away. That's why James 4:8 tells us, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." If you've lived on this planet longer than thirty seconds, you've come across people who seem to always have something to complain about. Ask yourself, are you drawn to those people, or do they repel you? Determine in your heart today to never complain, but focus your words and attention on good things.
God doesn't inhabit the prayerful complaints of His people, he "inhabit[s] the praises of Israel." (Psalm 22:3). Let's stop praying for revival and start praising down revival. Your praise invites God to move powerfully in your life. Let praise and thanksgiving be your eternal posture. When you position yourself in a posture of praise and thanksgiving, God WILL move on your behalf in the mighty name of Jesus.
Thanksgiving is the Evidence of Your Faith
Pastor Chris is dedicating a whole series to this topic called "Gratitude is the Evidence". The Bible clearly tells us in Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Giving thanks to God is the easiest (and funnest) way to show Him that you have faith in His Word. Take note of this: faith isn't believing that God can do what He said; faith is knowing that God will do what He said. When we know that God fully intends to carry out His promises, thanksgiving naturally overflows out of our mouths and we see God move.
Because of this truth, Jesus tells us in Mark 11:24, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." He didn't say "believe you will recieve it", he said, "believe you have recieved it, and it will be yours." Whenever I recieve a gift, I am trained to say "thank you" to whomever gave the gift. I say thanks because I believe the gift is now mine to possess. When you pray, according to God's Word and will, it is yours, so give thanks! Thanksgiving doesn't proceed the blessing, it preceeds the blessing. That's why James said in James 2:7, "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." Faith that is partnered with thanksgiving is alive and active! It will bear fruit. There is nothing dead about it. Giving thanks to God is active proof of your faith in His Word. When you believe His Word and you act on it, His promises will become active in your life.
Thanksgiving Destroys the Enemy's Hold on You
There are only two types of people in this world: those who operate in the realm of faith and those who operate in the realm of feeling. The devil will always lose when you choose to live in the realm of faith. On the other hand, you will always lose if you choose to live based on how you feel or what you see.
Giving thanks to God is the primary way for you to ensure victory over the enemy. That's why Paul declared in 1 Cor. 15:57, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." That's why King Jehosephat declared, when sending an army out to fight against two other much larger armies, in 2 Chron. 20:20-21, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” The next verse shows us the outcome, "As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated." Praise causes the hand of God to rise up against your enemies. You see it true in Joshua 6 as the Israelites are standing outside of the walls of Jericho and Joshua declares, "Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!" And in verse 20 we read, "When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city."
I could keep sharing you story after story, but I think you get the idea. The enemy cannot stand up under your praise and thanksgiving. That's why he works tirelessly to bombard you with bad news, heaviness, sorrow, anxiety, and depression. He will do whatever it takes to steal praise and thanksgiving from your lips. Praise God, you and I don't operate in the realm of our feelings, we operate in the realm of faith. We aren't moved by our circumstances, we are moved by our faith in the Word of God. When the world around us doesn't seem to match up with the Word of God, we act on the Word of God every time. When our life gets harder, our praise will grow louder in Jesus' name.
Thanksgiving is What We Were Made For
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." If your ever wondering what God has called you to do, start here. Notice that Paul said, "give thanks in all circumstances." Our thanksgiving is not dictated by our circumstances. It's often said that, "God doesn't always change your circumstances, but He changes you in your circumstances." I honestly don't see that in the Bible. I would say that when you praise and give thanks to God, especially within your toughest circumstances, He can change both you AND your circumstances. God shows that in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, David, Solomon, Esther, Paul, Silas, Peter, Mary, Martha, etc. etc. etc. As you position your life within the calling of thanksgiving, your circumstances will begin to change.
Heaviness crumbles when we rejoice. (Psalm 43:5)
Anxiety ceases when we pray. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Depression melts in thanksgiving. (Psalm 30:5)
Sickness flees with shouts of joy. (Psalm 103:2-3)
Poverty is removed with gifts offered in thanksgiving. (Proverbs 3:9-10)
Enemies are scattered by songs of victory. (Deuteronomy 28:7)
Walls fall with shouts of praise. (Joshua 6)
Closed doors open with prayers of faith. (Isaiah 43:16-19)
Know that God doesn't need your praise and thanksgiving, YOU need your praise and thanksgiving. If we stop praising, there's an army of angels doing it and the rocks will cry out (Luke 19:40). God isn't lacking praise. We praise God because He is good and his mercy endures forever. We praise God because He loved us so much that He gave His only son to free us from sin. We praise God because he created us to praise. So, why not join with the songs of heaven and earth and give God glory and honor, thanksgiving and praise to the Lord Almighty? Our thanksgiving invites His promise. We cannot afford to allow the enemy to steal our praise. If he can steal our praise, he can steal our victory. Praise God, the devil cannot touch your praising lips. Your thanksgiving, partnered with your holiness, will move the hand of God and conquer every attack of the enemy. As your faith amounts to overflowing thanks and praise, God will be incredibly pleased by you and will move in your life and in your circumstances, in Jesus' name. And God will rise up and declare:
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”