Give Thanks Together

(This devotion is day twenty of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read Psalm 95

We often think of spiritual disciplines only in personal, individual terms. I should read my Bible. I should pray. I should give thanks. This is certainly important. Some people neglect personal habits and only study Scripture or pray when they’re gathering with other believers. Neither gutter is healthy. We need to prioritize seeking to know God on our own and with others. As we learn about and practice thanksgiving, we do it together. Doing so not only exalts God and emboldens our faith, but it encourages other believers.

In his book, Practices of Love, Kyle David Bennett brings out the corporate side of these rhythms of grace.

“Spiritual disciplines are practices for a community to reform its way of life together—the thoughts, attitudes, practices, and behavior of individuals, and the general lifestyle or way of living in the community.”[1]

Scan through Psalm 95 again, looking for collective terms such as “us,” “we,” and “our.” In verses 1-7 of the ESV, you’ll spot these words nine times.

Let us sing to the Lord.” (95:1)
Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” (95:1)
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving.” (95:2)
Let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” (95:2)
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;” (95:6)
Let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (95:6)
“For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” (95:7)

The Christian life is lived out in community. It’s much easier to be godly when you’re reading your Bible safely hidden away somewhere in your home. But how can you show patience, grace, kindness, mercy, and love apart from relationships. The Bible is full of “one another” commands central to the Christian walk, and you can’t do any of them in isolation. We not only need one another for our own growth, accountability, and encouragement, but we need one another as the community to pray together, share burdens together, confess sin together, rehearse and apply Scripture together, and give thanks together.

In Psalm 95, the psalmist calls us to give thanks not only around or with one another but to one another.

Paul gives a similar command: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). We not only meditate on the Bible for personal growth, but we do so to admonish one another with Scripture, to sing it together, and to give thanks together.

Continue to give thanks to God when alone. It’s good to record reasons for thanksgiving that might be on your phone or in your own notebook. But it’s also good to build up believers by sharing your reasons to give thanks.

Hopefully your church does this when you gather on Sundays as you sing in thanksgiving, give thanks in prayer, and even share stories of God’s faithfulness.[2] If you’re in a Bible study, small group, discipleship group, or any other group of believers that regularly meet for encouragement, give thanks together. Cultivate this as a normal practice so you share and hear examples of God’s faithfulness, blessing, provision, and power in one another’s life. Do this as a family by starting a daily practice of sharing at least one thing you’re grateful for, maybe as you eat together or before bed. Include reasons you’re thankful and a spirit of gratitude in your everyday conversations with friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, classmates, and others you’re around.

Will You Spread Gratitude or Grumbling?

This focus on how our spiritual lives are shaped with others continues in verses 7-11 as it draws on two episodes from Israel’s life (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 14:21-35). A generation of Israel displayed their rebellion and unbelief against God through their consistent grumbling. It wasn’t that one Israelite hardened their heart and murmured against God; the people as a whole did so. Notice the repeated use of “they” in 7-11. It was a whole “generation.” God refers to them as “a peoplewho go astray in their hearts” (Psalm 95:10).

As we compare the first and second halves of Psalm 95, it teaches us that gratitude and grumbling spread. They’re interpersonal practices. We will either spread life-giving gratitude that honors God or soul-sucking griping that dishonors Him.

We underestimate how much we can influence others for good through our simple words and actions. By giving thanks, sharing about God’s goodness, speaking about the Word or God’s promises, affirm others, or thanking others, we can be a source of good helping others grow. Or we can discourage the faith of others and dishonor God as we gossip, complain, murmur, vent in discontentment or jealousy, tear people down, choose to see and talk about the worst in others, and grumble about what we think is unfair in life.

Do others think of you as a source of gratitude or a grumbler? Spread the gift of gratitude and be on guard against the infectious gangrene of grumbling. When Israel began to stop thanking God for His deliverance from slavery and provision in the wilderness, and instead they complained, this must have started with an individual or two. But as they chose to gripe rather than give thanks, ingratitude spread. Rather than having hearts warm to God’s grace and receptive to His gifts, their hearts became cold and hardened so even blessings were rejected. Like a devastating wildfire, grumbling spreads from one person to another through one disgruntled conversation at a time.

But gratitude does the opposite. As our words speak to God’s goodness, His attributes, His work in our life, His blessings, what He’s teaching us or doing in us, and where we see His hand around us, we stir up more faith and gratitude in one another. Joy and worship reverberate out from small expression of gratitude, much like water ripples out from a small drop in a bucket.

Give voice to God’s goodness. Practice thanksgiving together. Invite others to do the same by asking questions like, “What’s one thing you’re thankful to God for today?”

 

Footnotes

[1] Kyle David Bennett, Practices of Love (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2017), 21

[2] See my article “Your Church Needs More Time for Testimony” at 9marks.org https://www.9marks.org/article/your-church-needs-more-time-for-personal-testimonies/

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indycrowe

You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram @IndyCrowe for the short & sweet stuff.

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