Word of the Month

Put gratitude first

October 2005

At the beginning of this year I firmly resolved to make gratitude the focal point of my life of faith. Does it not happen that our thankfulness sometimes falls short? We live in a time that places great demands on us, a time that is filled to the brim with all sorts of things. Thus it can easily happen that our thankfulness falls by the wayside somewhat. Nevertheless, let us be thankful children of God.

On a number of occasions our Chief Apostle Fehr posed the question: "Do we still have some outstanding debts of gratitude to God?" Should that be the case, then let us renew our efforts to express our thanks to the eternal God. Our thanks should not lag behind but must take first place! May this define our thoughts and actions: let us put thankfulness first!

I read of a beautiful event in the Old Testament. It is not very well known, but it has a lot to tell us. Yet again the people of God found themselves under attack. The Ammonites, Moabites, and their allies came to battle against Judah. At that time King Jehoshaphat ruled in Jerusalem. He made it his endeavour to follow the will of God. He devised a unique plan of war: he "appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.'" Thus the singers were to sing songs of praise and thanks before the battle. The Lord responded by confusing the enemy so that they ultimately ended up fighting against each other. The determining factor was not Judah's war strategy but the choir who marched at the head of the army with songs of praise and thanks (cf. 2 Chronicles 20: 21-30).

These events contain a special insight: let us put our thanks first, not at the end. Let our thanks go before all our plans - everything that we do. This means, first and foremost, that we must be thankful. Let us not simply wait around to see how things develop and - if everything turns out well - give thanks after the fact. That is what could be expected from a human perspective. But the attitude of God's children - who, after all, are quite familiar with God's blessing and who place their trust in the Lord - is to express their thanks from the outset. And can the dear God not also help us today just as He helped King Jehoshaphat in his days?

If we begin with praise and thanks, the Lord will grant us the necessary help. Whatever form this help might take, the Lord will find a way to help us so that everything that opposes us must retreat.

Praise and thanksgiving also has other effects beyond the help of God: it creates a special relationship with the Lord, opens the door to blessing, and also generates a prevailingly joyful mood in our souls. Let us also express praise and thanksgiving a little more openly. Can we imagine only praising God in secret, in our room, or behind drawn blinds?

One passage of Holy Scripture reports that Jesus' disciples praised God joyfully with a loud voice for all the mighty works of the Lord (cf. Acts 4:24). This does not mean that we must stand in the marketplace and speak of our faith in public. But we do have opportunities to voice the praise of God from time to time in our circle of acquaintances. If we very consciously move such thoughts within our souls, opportunities to do this will continually present themselves. Let us do this with all our hearts and, above all, let us put our gratitude first.

(From a service by Chief Apostle Leber)