Do you ever struggle to be thankful? If so, you are guilty of being human. For most of us, complaining comes much more naturally than gratitude. But the Scriptures reveal that thankfulness is a key element of worship, and all of us can choose to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, even during difficult circumstances.
In his book In the Eye of the Storm, author Max Lucado shares the story of Eddie Rickenbacker, the famed World War II pilot who crash-landed his plane in the South Pacific. He and his men were set adrift at sea in the plane’s life rafts. When their meager rations ran out, they prayed for a miracle. It arrived in the form of a stray seagull, which the crew killed and transformed into food and fishing bait until they could be rescued.
Seagull meat may not be the answer to any prayers you have prayed, but, according to Lucado, Rickenbacker remained forever grateful for the bird’s unexpected arrival. In his later years, the old pilot visited a pier near his Florida home every evening to feed the seagulls. It was Rickenbacker’s way of saying “thank you” to the creature that had helped save his life many years before.
The Book of Genesis also records the story of a small group of people who endured a long boat ride under extreme circumstances. Noah, his wife, his three sons, and his sons’ wives were stuck aboard an ark for approximately one year.
Most of us are familiar with the tension that can develop during a long car ride with our loved ones. Imagine the frustration Noah’s family must have felt after spending months living in close quarters with everything from monkeys to mice. The noises must have been obnoxious, the smells overpowering, and the trip nearly unbearable.
Sacrifice of Thanksgiving
Yet when Noah and his family finally walked off the boat, his first act was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice in worship and thanksgiving to God (Genesis 8:20).
Noah had plenty of reasons to be upset and angry instead of grateful. While his household had been spared, all his friends and the members of his extended family were dead.
[W]hen Noah and his family finally walked off the boat, his first act was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice in worship and thanksgiving to God.
Everything familiar had been washed away. His life had been disrupted, possibly for decades, by God’s command to build an ark. Furthermore, he probably had spent many nights on board the ark questioning whether they would survive. But when his ordeal had ended, Noah chose to respond with worship and thanksgiving. He recognized that the God who was powerful enough to destroy the whole earth with a flood also was gracious and loving enough to provide a way of salvation!
Have you recently disembarked from a journey through difficulty? If so, what do you do now? Whine about the unfairness of it all? Question God as to why He allowed it to happen? Survey everything that has been lost and throw yourself a pity party? Tempting, isn’t it? And if we are honest, we probably have responded that way in the past. Instead of counting our blessings, we have rehashed our complaints. How do we choose a different response this time? How do we build an altar of worship and thanksgiving, even when we don’t know what the future holds?God made provision for Noah’s sacrifice before he and his family ever entered the ark. (See Genesis 7:2–3.) Click To Tweet
Attitude of Gratitude
Writer Michael Hyatt outlines what he calls “three disciplines of gratitude” that have helped him maintain an attitude of thankfulness in an age of ungratefulness:
- Start and end each day with a prayer of thanksgiving. This bookends our day with a focus on our blessings.
- Practice thankfulness. For Hyatt, this means taking every opportunity to verbally express gratitude for the gifts we do have. He suggests that a prayer of thanksgiving before meals is one important way to accomplish this.
- Journal gratitude. This allows us to later reflect on God’s goodness, especially during those times when we feel things are not going well.
The account of Noah’s altar-building is noteworthy for one additional reason: God made provision for Noah’s sacrifice before he and his family ever entered the ark. (See Genesis 7:2–3.) God made sure there were extra animals aboard for Noah’s offering. Despite his austere surroundings, Noah was given an opportunity to worship and offer thanks.
Like Noah, we also are called to give thanks even when life gets ugly. It is not always easy—that is why it’s called sacrifice. But those who choose to worship in this manner can enjoy an outcome like Noah’s. After his worship was finished, Genesis 9:1 records, “And God blessed Noah and his sons.” Blessing awaits those who are willing to build an altar of worship and thanksgiving. I will praise the name of God with a song and will magnify him with thanksgiving. (Psalm 69:30)
(A version of this article was published in Pentecostal Life.)
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