“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Ps. 100:4 ESV)
What does God value as we enter His presence? Gratefulness. Our culture puts a high value on being “real” as we come before God. Genuine. Vulnerable. Authentic. The Psalmists don’t hesitate to tell God when life is a mess and they’re struggling. (Check out Psalm 13, 42, and 88). But in a society where self-expression is often hailed as the ultimate virtue, I’m not sure that “being real” before God is my problem. Being thankful is. Why is God so concerned that we be grateful? There are a number of reasons. Here are two.
First, thankfulness makes God bigger in my eyes. “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” (Psa. 69:30, ESV) Gratefulness maximizes what God does and minimizes what I do. My friend, C.J. Mahaney, writes that “God is placing sticky-notes in our lives as daily reminders of His presence and provision.” (Humility: True Greatness, p. 71) Am I aware of them? Did I notice how God provided for me yesterday? Am I rushing into my time with God with a laundry list of requests without noticing that He has already revealed his loving care and wise sovereignty in countless ways? Most importantly, am I overflowing with thankfulness that God has solved my greatest problem and met my greatest need through giving His own Son as a sacrifice for my sins? My present problems become smaller and God becomes bigger as I rejoice in what He’s already done.
Second, thankfulness makes me aware of my need. One of my greatest challenges is overcoming the lie that I’m in control and can do things on my own. Expressing thanks to God reminds me that I need His grace in every aspect of my life – loving my wife, leading my children, ministering to others, providing financially, solving problems, experiencing fruitfulness, and a million other details. What do I have that I didn’t receive? (1 Cor. 4:7) Nothing. So why am I not more grateful than I am? My self-sufficient pride blinds me to the reality of God’s power and goodness at work in my life. A thankful heart opens my eyes. Of course, thinking about how I need to be thankful doesn’t make me a thankful person. I need both to cultivate and express it. That’s why I want my first waking thoughts to be gratefulness to God for specific evidences of His grace, especially revealed in the Gospel. Gratitude sets the course for my day and helps me see the “big picture.” And it’s the way God wants me to come into his presence. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1Th. 5:18, ESV)