The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me! (Psalm 50:23) For obvious reasons, I have been thinking about thanksgiving … and what it means to give thanks to […]

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me! (Psalm 50:23)
For obvious reasons, I have been thinking about thanksgiving … and what it means to give thanks to God, or to express our gratitude to Him.
There are TWO levels of gratitude that we need to display toward God throughout our lives (not just on Thanksgiving Day), and we tend to be pretty good at the first one. BUT NOT AS MANY PEOPLE are very good at the second one.
The first and most obvious level is to thank Him for what He has done for you.
This “entry level” of gratitude is the one that we usually think of when we think of Thanksgiving Day.
We sing, “Come ye, thankful people, come!” And what are we thankful for in that hymn? The farmers supply the answer, and it is regarding the harvesting of the crops: “All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.”
When we are expressing our thanks to God for what He has DONE (like enabling us to get the crops harvested before the winter hits), we are said to be praising Him.
Jesus Himself did this kind of praising God as a “thank you” for what God had DONE when He said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children” (Matt. 11:25).
Jesus is saying, “I am grateful for what You have done (revealing truth to little children), and so I praise You for doing it.”
Proverbs 31:31 reinforces this idea of praising someone for their actions, when it says about the ideal wife, “Let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
This beginning level of thanksgiving is praising God for His actions.
We praise Him for what He has done, and we should!! So we will sit around the Thanksgiving table, surrounded by family and friends, and thank God before we eat for giving us the food that we enjoy, for providing the life we live, the love we enjoy as family members and friends, etc.
But the second level of thankfulness is a higher level, and we are not nearly as good at that kind!
The higher level of thankfulness is seen when we thank God not for what He does, but for who He IS!
This is a profoundly important distinction for anyone who really loves God and wants to tell Him so!
We praise God out of gratitude for what He has done, but we worship God out of gratitude for who He is!
© 2021, Rev. Steven R. Jones
Think about it: If you are praising God for providing the food you eat, that is Level One of thankfulness. But when you pause to thank God for the fact that He is BY HIS NATURE a generous, gift-giving God, then you have taken your thankfulness to the next level!
That makes sense when you think about how you yourself react. It’s encouraging if someone says to you, “That was a nice thing you did, helping that needy person.” But if they go on to the next level and say to you, “You are really a generous person, and I can see that you show kindness whenever you get a chance,” that is a much DEEPER compliment!
If you praise God for helping you to recover from COVID-19 or cancer when everyone prayed, that is expressing thankfulness for what God has DONE. But when you move to the next level, you worship God for BEING a healing God, a compassionate God who cares about our troubles, and a God who is willing to listen and respond to the desperate prayers of His people.
God told Moses that His name is “I AM” — not “I can,” or “I have” or “I do.” It is who He IS in His character and personality that causes Him to do what He does or provide what He gives.
Next-level thankfulness doesn’t skip praising God for what He has done. It is polite and right to thank Him for those things. But next-level thankfulness worships God for who He is: those amazing character traits that are revealed by His actions.
The worshipping heart says, “I thank You for Your goodness, Father. I thank You for Your patience. I thank You that You are merciful in all Your ways and that justice flows from You. Thank You that because of Your consistent character we never have to fear coming to You and finding You in a bad mood. Thank You that Your character is so perfectly expressed in Jesus that we can watch Him to learn how to love our enemies. Thank You that Jesus can teach us what humility looks like. Thank You that He was meek, but not weak, so we can learn the difference by meditating on His character. Thank You for the holiness of the Holy Spirit, who in His nature is always righteous.”
We could literally go on forever worshipping God for who He is, and we actually will.
We already know the lyrics to some of the songs that are sung in heaven; and while they don’t ignore what He has done, they focus on His wonderful character traits.
 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.”
 “Salvation belongs to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
 “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are Your judgments.”
God’s nature is celebrated in heaven! And perhaps the most profound word that is used over and over in thanking God is the word “WORTHY.” For example …
 “Worthy is the Lamb who sits on the throne, to receive glory and honor and power and praise.”
When we thank God for being WORTHY, we have moved to the level of WORSHIP because, guess what? WORSHIP is an old English word that used to be spelled “WORTHSHIP.”