Focal Passage: Psalm 100:1-5
Thanksgiving is a great holiday on the American calendar! We enjoy the family time, the food, and the football. However, thanksgiving as a spiritual discipline is not a holiday, but a commitment of the heart. When things are going well, we tend to forget to take time to thank God. When adversity strikes, we also can neglect spiritual gratitude. We may feel God has judged us or that God has forgotten us when we face difficulty. In Scripture we see great models of thanksgiving that show us praise for God’s character and thanksgiving for all that God has done for us. When we look at Psalm 100, we are challenged to give thanks in all circumstances. That calls for discipline, the spiritual discipline of giving thanks.
Thank God through joyful service — Psalm 100:1-2. The book of Psalms includes 150 chapters that fall into a variety of themes and topics. Psalm 100 is commonly attributed to David and contains seven specific orders for the hearer. First, as the NIV states, they are to “Shout for joy.” We are to acknowledge God with a joyful heart. Despite other voices around our world, we need to actively praise God and proclaim His Lordship in our lives. This verse is a call for people everywhere to give love and devotion to God. Verse 2 calls on readers to do two more things. We are to serve and to “come before Him with joyful songs.” Service with a glad heart is a discipline. Service is the effort to give back. Time is valuable and our talents and energy are a part of our stewardship. The Psalmist calls us to give of ourselves. We are to give back in worship as well. When we participate in singing praise to God, we are giving a testimony to the Lord and about the Lord. Worship is an act of believers to give energy to the practice of recognizing God’s “worth-ship.”
Thank God for His role in your life — Psalm 100:3-4. The fourth directive of the Psalm is to “acknowledge that Yahweh is God.” In other words, they are to “know” that the Lord is God. We neglect to recognize God in the busy patterns of life. It requires discipline to renew our vision of God as Lord. He is the maker and caretaker of all of His people. We are dependent on Him because He is the God of creation. We are also portrayed as members of the flock of God. The image of shepherd must have been precious to a psalmist such as David. Sheep are dependent and vulnerable. People may be filled with confidence and pride, but God knows that deep down we all have a need to be connected to the Good Shepherd. We need to know that despite our pride, we must admit His ownership over us. The next command is found in verse 5. We are to “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” This is an invitation to get close to God. It is a call to worship and praise. We enter with a thankful heart, despite the other circumstances of life. Regular participation in worship is a discipline. We discipline our bodies to go and our hearts to thankfully participate. The last of the instructions closes verse 4. We are to “give thanks” and to “praise.” These are the elements of active worship.
Thank God for His work in your life — Psalm 100:5. Despite the opinions of vocal skeptics, God is good. He loves and He is faithful. The recitation of God’s character traits serves as a reminder of the fact that God is worthy. Sometimes we need to be disciplined enough to be reminded of His value. He is also faithful beyond time. All generations can see His character, if they will. When we thank Him, we are actively stating His nature.
This Thanksgiving, where is your heart? Are you reminding yourself and others of God’s love and truth? Thankfulness is a discipline. Beyond comfort, busy schedules, and the voices of the world, we need to renew our vision of a God worthy of our gratitude.
— Stevens is director of missions, Cumberland Baptist Association, based in Clarksville.