Gather: Gratitude – Week 3

We’re back! And so glad you are too!

Are you ready for the next step? We’re going deeper into the heart and practice of gratitude.

Hope you have a friend or two with you to share a meal and your hearts as we focus on His Word.

Father, how gracious You are. Open our hearts to Your steadfast love, fill us to overflowing. May Your grace flow through us and into our worlds.

Gratitude Review: God’s Grace in Action

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

Last week we continued to meditate on Psalm 136:1 and kept a record of thanks in our Gratitude Journals.

The focus for Week 2 was God’s Grace in Action: Remembering and being thankful for the places we’ve seen God at work, intervening in the lives of His people.

How has remembering and giving thanks for God’s grace in action affected your heart this week?

Did you receive any new revelations on Psalm 136:1? 

Has meditating on this verse re-shaped your heart? How?

Carol says:

In difficult seasons or during long waits for His promises to be fulfilled, our hearts grow weary. Discouragement has a way of taking root. 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick…

Proverbs 13:12

Lately, I’ve experienced a challenge that feels like a betrayal, someone saying one thing but doing another. And I look at those I love and have prayed for desperately over the years, and from my perspective, nothing seems to change. Both circumstances potentially disheartening… a double-whammy.

But this week, as I remembered His past faithfulness with thanksgiving, my faith was strengthened and my hope in Him fortified. I saw His grace in current circumstances and gave thanks, remembering His promises are an absolute Yes because He cannot lie.

Thanks-giving formed a grateful heart within me and enabled me to receive visions for the future with hope. Dare I say expectancy? I feel prepared to move forward, wherever He leads, based on the trust built on remembering and giving thanks. Even though in many ways, nothing has changed. 

Through giving thanks for His past grace, I’m reminded He is the Great Changer. Nothing is impossible with Him.

Stacy says:

By midweek I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with all I had to do. In addition to working at the shop and teaching I am currently finishing my third year in a program for spiritual direction training. One of the assignments was due on Saturday, and it was difficult. Not because of the writing, but because of the inner work this program requires. The assignment was a battle and I was feeling worn out. Many times I had to resist the desire to throw my hands up in surrender and just be done. In the midst of a full week I began to give thanks:

Thank You, Lord, for Your unfailing energy. Thank You, for You have accomplished many writings in the past I did not believe would get done. Thank You, Lord, for every single inspiration You’ve given….

By the time Sunday rolled around most of the work was complete. We headed to church for our Praise and Prayer service where I am blessed to help lead. One of the members or our group created the service for the morning, and I almost came out of my skin when I saw his writing. The entire service was based on Psalm 136. Are you kidding me! We read the Scripture, sang praise songs and prayed a beautiful prayer of praise all centered around Psalm 136. No, he wasn’t aware of my struggle. No, he didn’t know we were studying and practicing gratitude with this exact Psalm.

He didn’t know. But God did. Sometimes I laugh out loud at God’s antics. I chose to praise God in the difficult. Remembering and recounting all He has done. And God chose to bless my socks off Sunday morning with the gift of a worship service. It was like a note of God’s unfailing love for me, and I was blown away.

Psalm 136:1 tells us to give thanks to the Lord based on His goodness and unfailing, steadfast love.

The Hebrew translated as steadfast love is hesed. It is described as a “loyal love, unfailing kindness, devotion, i.e., a love or affection that is steadfast based on a prior relationship” and “favor… the giving of benefits” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages). Our prior relationship with God is Creator to created. He is our Good Shepherd who will not forsake or leave those He made. Even in our unfaithfulness and rebellion, He remains faithful.

God desires the best for His people and everything He does flows out of His love. This is the basis of His great glory and power over darkness: His steadfast love. He will not abandon what He’s made to the enemy. He will do all in His power to restore what has been stolen. Because of His love, He is good, therefore we give Him thanks!

God’s Grace in Affliction

Based on His goodness and love, in this third week of Gratitude we move into an aspect of thanksgiving which may seem unreasonable. Seeing God’s grace in affliction and giving thanks in the midst of what is hard… difficult… challenging…

Read Psalm 116:17

What is being offered to God in this verse?

In what kind of circumstance would thanksgiving seem like a sacrifice?

When you read Psalm 116 in its entirety you discover it is a psalm written by one remembering hardships and near death experiences and God’s intervention based on the prayers cried out. There is a rhythm of difficulty followed by thanks. In a life filled with affliction the writer of Psalm 116 found great ground for gratitude and a heart prepared to give a sacrifice of thanks.

Noah is one who lived in a time of affliction and experienced tremendous challenges, yet he offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

In an age where no one did anything good, everyone’s thoughts were evil, Noah was the only one who walked with God. Things were so bad, God decided to destroy everything with a great flood, except for Noah and his small family of eight.

For five months (150 days), Noah faced the challenge of floating in the ark without any way to steer or control where they went. Totally trusting God, they floated, rocked and rolled, and tended to all the animals in the world. When the flood receded, the ark finally resting on dry ground, Noah faced a new challenge. Reestablishing civilization and life on earth. (Genesis 6-8)

If you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a flood, you know it’s a mess. A big stinky mess! And this was a flood of massive proportions. In this place, Noah emerged from the ark and set all the animals free at God’s command. Let’s see what he did next.

Read Genesis 8:20-9:1

What did Noah do?

On exiting the ark, Noah offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving as he stepped from one difficult place into another.

Let’s look at just what a sacrifice this was.

Read Genesis 7:1-3

How many clean animals were there in the whole world?

How many did Noah sacrifice?

There were only seven pairs of every clean animal in existence on the whole earth. And Noah sacrificed “some” as an offering to God for seeing them safely through the flood. For their remarkable salvation.

Think about the magnitude of the sacrifice for a moment. Without fear of scarcity, when scarcity was a very real concern, Noah expressed his gratitude to God by offering some of the very few in existence.

What do you think made it possible for Noah to make such a sacrifice of thanks?

In one sense, Noah recognized God’s amazing grace toward him in the midst of affliction. God saw Noah. Only one person in all the world acknowledged God, and this was enough for Him to make a way for salvation. Noah knew God could have just as easily left him on earth to be consumed by the floodwaters. 

Noah, at this point, clearly saw God’s sovereignty. Everything in the world was His to do with what He will, so how in the world could Noah hold anything back from God because of fear of God not caring for Him?

How did God respond?

God responded to Noah’s sacrifice of thanks by making a promise with all mankind. He promised to never again curse the ground because of mankind’s evil intent nor strike down every living creature. He also promised that as long as the earth was, there would be seasons for growing and days for living. 

God responds to a sacrifice of thanksgiving with blessings!

Considering Noah’s story and God’s response, can you see yourself offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God in the midst of affliction? Why or why not?

Read 1Thessalonians 5:18

Under what circumstances are we to give thanks to God? Why?

Jesus is our Ark — our way of salvation — the ultimate expression of God’s goodness and love. In Him, we can boldly and confidently give sacrifices of gratitude no matter what afflictions may be flooding our lives. He is a promise which will not fail!

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His steadfast love endures forever!

Difficulties are often what drive us to God in the first place. Those places where we find we have no power to bring about change or relief or peace. In our pain, when we remember God’s goodness and love we cry out to Him — the One who can intervene with acts of grace.

Our cries to the Lord are what give us communion with the Lord. It’s the dire distress that drives us into the deeper devotion. It’s when all fails, His love never fails — and this is why we are a people who can always give thanks.

–Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Homework: Gratitude Journal

Continue to meditate on Psalm 136:1 and take note of what God reveals to you through this verse.

This third week of Gratitude:

Every day, record three hard things, either where God brought some good out of it or for a current hard circumstance or affliction and be grateful. By faith, offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Lord Jesus, remind us of Your presence in the hard circumstances we face. Fill us with gratitude for the hard way You walked for us.

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