A goal of every believer is to have their eyes continually fixed on God. Jesus masterfully kept His eyes fixed on God and discipled His followers to do the same. He challenged them to keep their eyes on God when they found themselves tossed by the waves, pressed by the crowds, and overcome with hunger. But how did Jesus model this skill of remaining tuned into the work of God around them?
Jesus challenged the disciples to continuously give thanks. When the pressure of life mounted around them, Jesus showed up and we see the disciples stop and worship God. Other than the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus did not necessarily give explicit instructions to thank God, but when Jesus showed up, and the disciples felt their limitations, shortcomings, and vulnerabilities, the natural response was worship and thanksgiving. Because the disciples lived so frequently outside their comfort zones, perhaps it prompted a spontaneous response of thanksgiving.
Even in the Old Testament, the prophets and leaders of the time made a point to instill in God’s people a habit of thanksgiving. After the walls of the city of Jerusalem were rebuilt during the time of Nehemiah, the leaders re-established the Levites and the first thing they did was to give thanks, not once but TWICE!
At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, they sent for the Levites wherever they lived and brought them to Jerusalem to celebrate the joyous dedication with thanksgiving and singing accompanied by cymbals, harps, and lyres. Nehemiah 12:27
The second thanksgiving procession went to the left, and I followed it with half the people along the top of the wall, past the Tower of the Ovens to the Broad Wall, above the Ephraim Gate, and by the Old Gate, the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel, and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate. They stopped at the Gate of the Guard. The two thanksgiving processions stood in the house of God. So did I and half of the officials accompanying me,… Nehemiah 12:38-40
The Israelites took a big risk and rebuilt the walls of the city, faced enormous challenges, and then watched as God showed up again and again! As the people regained their sense of an identity the first thing they did as a people was to ‘give thanks’, and boy did they ever! Basically they had a parade! This was how they kept their eyes on God—by remembering and thanking Him for all that He had done!
So what are the habits we can glean from these examples and others found in scripture (see Psalm 107)? This thanksgiving let’s intentionally build into our lives a ‘Habit of Thanksgiving’!
- Purposeful Reflection… Think back on the ways that you have found yourself at your limit, but experienced the faithfulness of God. Capture those moments in a journal, or share them with a loved one…
- Celebration… As you watch the Macy’s Day Parade, imagine God’s people celebrating God’s provision, and celebrate as well, whether it is around the dinner table, or going for pre-Thanksgiving walk/run with loved ones. If you have little ones, I bet they would want to have a mini-parade around your house or neighborhood!!!
- Give thanks!… Give everyone an opportunity to share ways they are thankful, and spend some time praying prayers of thanksgiving together.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalms 107:1