Friday, January 24, 2014

The Role of Gratitude: The Thankful Project Book Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book The Thankful Project, which speaks about living a victorious life through gratitude. This particular excerpt talks about the role of the priest and poses the question of whether we are taking our job seriously in the royal priesthood of Christ. 

“They are to stand every morning to thank and to praise the LORD, and likewise at evening.” 1 Chronicles 23:30

The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of thanksgiving in regards to our spiritual journey. More than a suggestion, it is commanded of us and part of our role as Christians. An intricate part of worship, thanksgiving is crucial to our spiritual growth. The existence or non-existence of Thanksgiving can be used as a good indicator of where we are in our walk with God. 

In 1 Chronicles chapter 16, we see a very important, and beautiful, picture of the role that thanksgiving plays in Christianity, as David appoints the levites with their different roles in offering praise to God. King David has just had the ark brought back to Jerusalem after it had been out of Zion’s possession for quite a while. After celebrating its return, David wastes no time in giving the Ark a home and setting up the duties of the priests. He immediately appoints the Levites with different jobs concerning the ark.

“David appointed the following Levites to lead the people in worship before the Ark of the Lord—to invoke his blessings, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel.” 1 Chronicles 16:4 (NLT)

 The roles consisted of praising and petitioning God, as well as giving thanks. There was actually a specific job designated solely to being thankful. Having a heart of gratitude may sometimes start to seem cliche or trite, but this passage of scripture shows us the true importance it holds. At the point of history in this verse, God’s spirit did not live within humans as he does today, but in one place - The Ark of the Covenant - and the Levites, or priests, were the liaisons between believers and God. God’s people counted on the priests to help them remain in good standing before the Lord by offering sacrifices, praise, and offering thanksgiving! The people of God expected and relied on the Levites to carry out these duties on their behalf. Once Christ ascended to heaven, He sent Holy Spirit - the spirit of God to live within those who believe. Now we are our own priests - our lives and praise our sacrifice. How often are we offering our thanksgiving to God? I can’t help but wonder if we maintain our priestly duties to the degree that we would have expected the Levites to do for us. Do we take advantage of this incredible gift or do we take it for granted? This question can only be answered individually, and I have a feeling I know my answer. Can you say “ouch”? 
Notice also that the priests were not merely stating their thanks for “counting their blessings”, they were offering up their thanksgiving to God. You may consider yourself a grateful person, but are you giving the thanks where thanks is ultimately due? 
Paul confronts the consequences of due thanks being withheld in the book of Romans as he writes about the wrath of God being poured out on the godless and wicked. In chapter one, He points out the root of their detestable sins:

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21 (NIV emphasis mine)

Withholding gratitude from God had a pretty hefty price tag for these “godless and wicked” people, as the next few verses explain that He gave them over to their sin. They refused to acknowledge Him and His goodness, made life about themselves and distorted the truth, thus beginning the downward spiral. They worshiped themselves and the things of this world rather than the maker of all things, hoping for power from powerless things. We do the same thing when we refuse to worship God by giving an offering of thanksgiving - acknowledging Him as the true God “from whom all blessings flow”. 


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