Devo: Give thanks . . . because He said so?
Thanking God isn't just something we do when we feel like it, it's a command. Let's look at why and learn how praise deepens our relationship with Him.
BY Hannah Buchholz
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. - Psalm 136:1
Give thanks . . . a command?
Scripture gives us all kinds of reasons to thank our God (He is good (Psalm 100:5), He has done wonderful things (Psalm 86:10), He is the Creator (Colossians 1:16), He is the Redeemer (Isaiah 44:22)). Our thankfulness or praise of God is one way we worship Him. Consider Psalm 136:1: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.
Have you ever thought of this familiar verse as a command?
Does knowing it is a command, not a suggestion, change how you view the verse? CS Lewis struggled with the command all Christians have to praise God. He wondered, what kind of god demands praise? Does He have a self-esteem problem and need us to make Him feel better by telling Him how great He is?
In his book, Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis shares that he wrestled with this idea before it dawned on him that, “all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.” He shares that the world is full of praise. Think about this in your own life. What was your reaction when you heard that new song - the one you now have on repeat? Are you making all your friends listen to it, so they love it as much as you do? What about that amazing pumpkin spice cookie you got from Crumbl last week? Did you immediately want to post about it?
When we come across something we love, we want to share it, we want to praise it.
This is the point that Lewis is driving home: When we enjoy God - not just His good gifts to us, but who He is - our natural human response is to offer up praise and thanksgiving. We can’t help it.
Here’s a fuller excerpt from Lewis’ essay:
“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with.”
God doesn’t need our praise
If all that is true - we can't help but praise what we enjoy - what is the underlying fear that holds us back from praising Him?
A helpful post from Desiring God puts it this way, “We can’t fathom how God could possibly love us the way we think he should if he is so unapologetically obsessed with the praise and glory of his own name. How can God love me if all his infinite energy is expended in the love of himself?”
We are commanded to praise Him, but not because He needs us to boost his ego. Our God: Father, Son, and Spirit, the Three in One, already has everything He needs. He is wholly self-sufficient. Tim Keller puts it this way,
“The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been glorifying each other for all eternity, so they could not have invented us and commanded us to praise Him because he was trying to get [praise]. He already had it. So why would he command us to praise Him? Because he wants us to have the joy He has.”
Praising Him gives us an insight into the way the Trinity works. We Christians - who know the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross as a means to our salvation, know God to be the giver of all good gifts, and know that the Spirit lives in us to sanctify us - know that He is worthy of praise. In our prayers, asking and petitioning God for things is easy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But when we experience His grace and who He is, we are moved to praise.
“Lewis is telling us that God’s pursuit of our praise of him is not weak self-seeking but the epitome of self-giving love! If our satisfaction in God is incomplete until expressed in praise of him for satisfying us with himself (note well, with himself, not his gifts), then God’s effort to elicit my worship (what Lewis before thought was inexcusable selfishness) is both the most loving thing he could possibly do for me and the most glorifying thing he could possibly do for himself.”
As you consider all you have to be thankful for, remember that simply who God is gives you more than enough reason to shout His praises from the roof.
Heavenly Father, when you command us to praise You, we know you are inviting us to enjoy You. We know you are inviting us to sit in your presence and marvel at who You are. You are Creator. You are the Giver of all good gifts. You are the God who doesn’t change. You sent your son to rescue us from our own sin, flesh, and the power of death and the devil. Thank you. Thank you for sending your Spirit into our hearts. May He grow an ever-thankful heart in each of us. And, may your praises be ever on our lips. Amen.
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