[Column] Make a Habit of Speaking the Words of Thanksgiving

God sent down three of His angels to earth and ordered them to gather the words uttered by the believers in one day. The angels were given three baskets for Carrying a huge basket, each angel followed them to church, work, home, and everywhere. At the end of the day, the angels took their baskets to God and found that the largest content in the baskets were such negative emotions as anger, complaint, resentment, and slander. The second largest content were petitionary prayers. Finally, the lightest content in the baskets was thanksgiving. As this story tells us, we Christians are more consumed with complaints and resentment than with prayers or thanksgiving. In other words, we are a very ungrateful people.

Anyone who desires to be a worthy saint of God must speak the words of thanksgiving to God. (Ephesians 5:4). The Lord reminds us that it is not what goes into our mouths but rather what comes out of our mouth that defiles us (Matthew 15:11). We must avoid the words of belittlement, slander, and complaint. There is a Latin proverb, “We find much ingratitude, and create more.” Those with ungrateful hearts will always look for reasons to be ungrateful. The Bible condemns as false believers those who display the pretense of religiosity and speak idle words (James 1:26). God wants to set a guard against our mouths and make a habit of saying the words of thanksgiving. Immanuel Kant said, “Ingratitude is the essence of vileness.” How true this is. The reason why we cannot render gratitude is not that we have nothing to be grateful for but that we do not have the heart of gratitude.

In terms of making a habit of saying the words of gratitude, Jesus Christ serves as a role model. At the tomb of Lazarus, our Lord offered a prayer of thanksgiving even before His prayer was answered (John 11:41); before distributing bread and fish He offered a prayer of thanksgiving (Mark 8:6-9). In the four gospels, it is clearly recorded that at the Last Supper Jesus gave thanks before distributing the bread and wine to the Apostles. It was in Christ’s nature to render gratitude unto God. Some of you may ask, “How can I give thanks when the current circumstance does not permit me?” Let us reflect upon Daniel. In spite of knowing the dreadful consequences of his religious piety, he offered unto God prayers of thanksgiving three times a day (Daniel 6:10). God in His mercy and goodness turned things around by saving Daniel from the lion’s den and revealing His great name. God protects and saves those who give thanks. Rendering gratitude to God in everything is the will of God in Christ for us (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Speaking the words of thanksgiving can strengthen our body and soul and maintain inner peace and happiness (Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 3:15; Psalm 100:4). Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology from U.C. Davis, conducted a study on the correlation between gratitude and health. The subjects were divided into three groups A,B, and C in which group A was encouraged to display negative words and deeds, group B was encouraged to display grateful words and deeds, and group C was just instructed to go about their daily routines. Some time later, it was revealed from the physical and psychological observations of the subjects collected that the subjects in group B were the healthiest and happiest. Dr. Emmons concluded that gratitude optimizes immunity thus resisting various ailments and promoting longevity. Stress is the main source of human diseases. What are the causes of stress then? They are hurts, negative thoughts, and discouragement. Certainly, these things do not come from God. Knowing this, Greek-American Biblical scholar and evangelist Spiros Zodhiates said, “I will not gratify the devil by being discouraged.” We must make a habit of giving thanks to God. The entire Psalm 136 commends us to give thanks. In addition, “For His mercy endureth forever” is repeated in every verse. Why? Because we cannot help but give thanks to God if we think of God’s mercy and love.

It is said that the words thank and think have the common etymological origin. If we think carefully enough under any circumstances, we can make a habit of giving thanks. There was bald pastor who found six reasons to thank God for baldness: (1) Baldness is not found in women. How fortunate it is that women need not go through this. (2) He whom God loves goes bald because God affectionately anoints his head. (3) Baldness represents independence. I haven’t seen a bald beggar to this day. (4) Elisha was also bald. Many bald clergy are the spiritual descendants of Elisha. (5) Baldness helps with conservation. I use less shampoo, soap, and water. (6) Baldness makes God’s life easier. God who counts all our hairs (Matthew 10:30) can count all my hairs within minutes.” It is important to make a habit of rendering gratitude to God. Fine tune your thoughts to the vibration of gratitude and give “thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” as in Ephesians 5: 20.

This is a true story that happened at a cancer treatment center in Germany. A middle-aged patient had to undergo glossectomy, the surgical removal of the tongue, due to cancer. Before the surgery, the doctor asked him while holding an anesthesia syringe in his hand, “Is there anything you want to say for the last time?” There was a long pause of silence and surgeons, nurses, and interns in the operating room stood still. Tears flowed from the patient’s eyes and he said, “Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you, Lord Jesus.” He who does not understand the love of God cannot thank Him. However, he who does can give thanks to God in all circumstances. What would you have said if you were in his situation? We must speak the words of thanksgiving in any circumstances. Izaak Walton once said, “God has two dwellings; one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart.” May all of you experience the presence of God and heavenly delight by making a habit of speaking the words of thanksgiving.

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