In I Corinthians 14 Paul talks about matters arising when we come together for fellowship, worship, teaching, or what we call “church” by way of shorthand. (verse 26). Because the first part of the chapter focuses on the proper and helpful place of the gifts of tongues and prophecy and the second half can get controversial on the ministry of women in the church, we can get distracted by the more obvious matters and overlook some very significant underlying themes which will greatly benefit us in our walk with the Lord and each other.
In particular it brings to light another important aspect of the role of thanksgiving. Verse 17 is the pivot point here. “For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified” (NASB) or as in the amplified ‘it does him no good’. Paul is talking about someone exercising the gift of tongues in a meeting without interpretation, so no one else understands what he is saying. But the point for us to grasp is that the person is giving thanks well, and if the others could understand it, they would be built up, strengthened, encouraged, helped on their journey with Jesus by his/her thanksgiving.
So the take home message is, don’t underestimate the power of your thanksgiving when you speak it out, in a meeting yes, but also to your partner, your children, your friend, your workmate, your neighbour, the postman, the shop assistant, whoever. Thanksgiving spoken out has power to change lives, as well as bless the heart of God. And don’t despise the day of small things, start small, don’t wait for a miracle with which to bless your fellow Christian or the postman, but express your thanks to God for a sunny day, for His goodness in the ‘mundane’ of the day.
Spoken thanksgiving, as well as a thankful heart, changes the atmosphere. We all know how we feel when a grumbling, complaining, moaning or angry person comes into the room. Our mood changes, probably sinks. So the reverse is true. Have you thought what the effect of you giving thanks for God’s goodness, His love, an answered prayer, your health, a sunny day can have on people? From the big miracle (eg healing) to the mundane (a sunny day), its powerful, it changes the atmosphere. Lord, help us to see we are atmosphere changers. I heard about an American minister who I think was in a lift with men who were swearing or cussing, he started singing/shouting praise/glory/hallelujah and then, I expect in response to their surprise or questioning, said “All I ask is equal time”. I love it, I think he knew praise and thanksgiving changes atmospheres and situations as well as glorifying God; and we don’t have to be extroverts like him to see that happen in our way or our context.
Your spoken thanksgiving can encourage others to think of things to be thankful to God for. ‘Yes God did that for me too.’ Then they give thanks, and what happens? Surprise, surprise they are strengthened and encouraged for themselves in the Lord. Thanksgiving is infectious. Now that’s a great epidemic to have!
Thanksgiving also releases faith in other people. You give thanks for God providing for you this week (money, time, healing, answered prayer, whatever, small or great) and someone hearing says ‘wow God could do that for me’. Remember “Faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10 v 17), and they are hearing your testimony as you give thanks, and then they can say ‘God could do that for me too’. Their faith is built up as 1 Corinthians 14 taught us.
Think about how much you have been strengthened by the hymns of Charles Wesley, or the songs of Graham Kendrick, Matt Redman and many others. As they poured out their heartfelt thanksgiving in song you were encouraged, your faith built up and you were drawn closer to the Lord. Don’t wait for the song writer to call by, you have a simple word (if not a song) of thanksgiving in your heart waiting to come out to bless God and build up those around you.
David in the Psalms was very clear that his praise and thanksgiving affected and changed the lives of people around him. Psalm 34 v1-3: “I will extol the Lord at all times, His praise will always be on my lips, My soul will boast in the Lord, let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify (Magnify) the Lord with me, let us exult His name together.” Or Psalm 40 v3 “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God: many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord”. He knew hearing his words of thanksgiving and praise would change people’s lives and bring them into a new, fresh, deeper relationship with the Lord. Seems he did it a lot – whether sung, spoken or told – see Psalm 35 v18, and Psalm 22 v 22. Let’s follow his example.