The Discipline of Thankfulness
After God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, rescuing them from the oppression of Pharaoh and leading them on dry ground through the midst of the Red Sea, Moses made this statement to the nation: “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the Lord brought you out from this place.” (Exodus 13:3)
Moses proceeded to both encourage and warn the people of Israel that they must remember the works of God, be thankful for His works, and honor Him as the only Lord. If they forgot what He did, grumbled about their situation, and turned to other gods, they would once again suffer.
As we read the story of Israel, we find that both the encouragement Moses gives and the warning were true. When the Kings of Israel led their nation in obedience to God and thankfulness for His works, God blessed them in all that they ventured to do. But – when they disobeyed, grumbled, and turned from Him chaos usually followed, along with misery and misfortune.
What Moses was asking the Israelites to do does not seem that difficult. He wanted them to remember in a holistic manner. “Remember this day” that this event took place. “Remember the slavery” under Egypt. “Remember the Lord’s hand” in rescuing you from slavery. In the overall scheme of things, Moses was asking them to remember the redemption of God as He “set the captives free.”
This process of remembering had to become a discipline in the life of Israel. In fact, we could think of it as forming a habit. Moses was seeking to establish a pattern of remembrance – followed by thanksgiving – that would guide the thinking of each and every Israelite. This would guard their thoughts and their minds from wandering toward other gods.
What can we learn from this? Well, we must also learn to remember and be thankful. Our memories are often too short, and we forget what God has done in our lives and the lives of those around us. “Remembering” is a discipline of the Christian life. We must practice it daily in order to keep God’s works before us, reminding us of His personal involvement in our lives. Are you in the habit of reflecting at the end of the day, reviewing God’s activity and intervention? Do you pause at the end of the month or year to remember God’s faithfulness to you and your family and friends?
In our corporate settings, we must develop the art of remembering as well. Although many churches have a “prayer and praise” time, or a list in the bulletin that might include answers to prayer, I wonder if this really resonates at the level needed by our spirits during our busy life. Does this really register with us, or is it just another aspect of the worship service that comes and goes? Do we remember where we were (place of captivity), how the Lord moved (His powerful hand), and the day that we were set free?
Once we remember, we must turn to that into thanksgiving. As another discipline of the Christian walk, thanksgiving should be more than a once-a-year holiday. Daily expression of thanksgiving, based on remembering God’s works in our lives, will help us to keep the reality of God’s presence in our mind – even as our culture tries to convince us that God is distant and unconcerned with everyday life. It has been our personal family habit for many years to express what we are thankful for each day when we sit down for dinner together as a family. This has helped us to both remember those daily blessings, and to be sure, we let God know that we noticed His work in our lives.
Corporately, thanksgiving can be an effective way to notice God’s presence and work in the midst of the assembly. We often publicly thank those individuals who work hard to make things happen in the church, and we should do so to recognize their service and devotion. In the same way, we must be deliberate in reflecting upon, noticing, and being grateful for what God has accomplished in our lives – both individually and corporately.
Remembering in this fashion takes effort and practice. It must be planned for and given some prominence in our corporate worship. What I’m suggesting is that it must become a habit – to remember and be thankful has to become part of our daily and weekly experience as a congregation. When this happens, we will be amazed at how often and how thoroughly God is intervening in our lives.
Our national holiday of Thanksgiving can be a launching point for your practice of “remembering and thanksgiving.” On a personal level, take time before Thanksgiving Day to practice remembering and being thankful. Notice at least one thing to be thankful for each day. Share those thanksgivings around the dinner table, or when meeting with friends. Take a moment to jot a note to those you will be seeing on Thanksgiving Day and ask them to be prepared to share at least one thing they are thankful for too. This could be the start of a great tradition!
As a congregation, this holiday season can also provide an opportunity for developing a corporate sense of thankfulness. I’m reminded of the Veggie Tales episode featuring Madame Blueberry. In the words of the song, our favorite vegetables remind us:
Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
I’m glad for what I have
That’s an easy way to start.
Be a catalyst for thanksgiving in the lives of those around you. Remember and be thankful.
(Original Post on November 14, 2012 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/18780-the-discipline-of-thankfulness)
Posted on November 11, 2013, in Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology and tagged creation, Mark Sooy, theology, worship, worship leader, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.