Lack of gratitude to God can result in serious consequences—it’s a slippery slope, which escalates into depravity and destruction.
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3: 17)
I heard about an old woman with painful arthritis who struggled to climb a hill. When she got to the top, she looked at the view and said, “God, why did You make the world so beautiful?”
I’m afraid that many of us would have been complaining about the pain and the difficulty in walking, instead of giving thanks for the beauty. I’ve been guilty of doing that kind of thing myself.
When we are suffering, it is so easy to tell God, “It’s not fair! Why did You let this happen to me?” But how often do we turn to God and say, “Why did You save me? I deserved to go to Hell. Why do You love me when I have been so unfaithful to you? Why are You so patient with me when I become stubborn and rebellious?”
It’s so easy to take good things for granted and to focus on our problems. Our default setting seems to be self-pity and a sense of entitlement.
The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of praise and thanksgiving. Here are a few examples:
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice . . . Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. (Psalm 51:15)
God created us and gave us a beautiful world in which to live. After Adam and Eve fell into sin, Jesus died on the Cross to save us. And God has Heaven waiting for us. Compared to those blessings, anything we suffer now is small and temporary. The apostle Paul said:
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Let us consider some of the things Paul calls a “light” affliction. At one point, Paul went through something so severe he “despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8). Here is what Paul says about his sufferings and persecutions:
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)
I would not want to have to go through any of these sufferings, but Christians in countries with severe persecution suffer many similar things.
We need to be prepared to endure such things ourselves, if necessary. We also need to have Paul’s perspective about them. That is biblical, and it is based on reality—on the nature and character of God and the importance of eternity.
Lack of gratitude to God can result in serious consequences. In the first chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, we see a horrible downhill spiral. It’s a slippery slope, which escalates into depravity and destruction. The starting point is a lack of gratitude and respect for God. In the beginning, they knew God, but they refused to give Him glory, and they were not thankful.
It gets to the point where they “did not like to retain God in their knowledge.” In other words, they used to know that God is real. Deep down inside, they still know it. In spite of that, they deny God’s existence. They try to find reasons for not believing in Him.
That would explain why we see militant atheists who hate God. How can you hate somebody who doesn’t exist? At some level, they know better. Otherwise, they would not be able to hate Him. There are even some atheists who say they want to “kill the God of Christianity.”1
Here is the apostle Paul’s description of this deadly downhill slide:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 1:21-25)
With such godlessness and self-worship, people sink into unimaginable depravity, as Paul explains:
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind . . . Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things . . . Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:26-32, emphasis added)
Unfortunately, this is a good description of where much of the Western world is today. We see many people in various stages of this downhill slide. The media and the entertainment industry actively promote it. So do our public schools.
The antidote is to have a grateful heart and to give thanks to God. This does not come naturally. We have to develop the habit of giving thanks.
Have you ever noticed that people who complain keep finding more and more things to complain about? In contrast, people who are thankful keep finding more and more reasons to give thanks.
We have a choice to make. Either we can become more and more grateful to God, or else we can become more and more full of complaining and self-pity. Eventually, that can end in becoming bitter. The Bible warns us that bitterness is both deadly and contagious: “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).
Praising God and giving thanks to Him increases our faith. It also makes us more aware of God’s presence, His love, His power, and His faithfulness. Lack of praise and gratitude hinders our relationship with God. That makes us more vulnerable to doubts and temptations.
To put it in medical terms, you could say that praise and thanksgiving strengthen our spiritual immune system. It protects us both spiritually and emotionally. It helps us grow stronger and have more energy and focus to live biblically and do whatever God has called us to do.
Praising God and showing gratitude to Him can take many forms. One is singing hymns and worship songs. The Bible strongly encourages us to do that:
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:19 20)
This means more than singing in church. It means singing when we are driving, or washing the dishes, or taking a shower. And it means singing “in our hearts” (silently) in addition to singing out loud.
I have a friend who memorizes a lot of Scripture, and he praises the Lord by quoting Scripture or talking to God in biblical terms. He uses Scripture passages appropriate for the situation he is in at the moment.
I knew a mentally handicapped lady named Nancy whose mental age was about two years old. She loved God so much. If she saw a Bible, she would pick it up and stroke it and hold it against her heart. She was unable to read, but she knew the Bible was God’s Word, and she loved it. One day somebody gave her a painting of Jesus. She kissed it and started dancing. Nancy was not able to express herself verbally, so she showed her joy and love and gratitude by dancing.
Eric Liddell, the famous Olypmic runner, said that when he ran, he could feel God’s pleasure. He ran in order to glorify God and to please God. After he won the Olympics, Eric became a missionary in China. His fame as an athlete gave him a platform for telling people about Jesus. They came to see the famous runner, but they wound up learning about God. Liddell knew the importance of having a thankful and praiseful heart. In 1945 during World War II, while on the mission field, he was sent to an internment camp. One fellow internee who survived the war, wrote a book and said: [Eric Liddell] “was the finest Christian gentleman it has been my pleasure to meet. In all the time in the camp, I never heard him say a bad word about anybody.” During his internment, Liddell maintained a heart toward God, often helping and encouraging others. He died in February 1945 while still imprisoned.
There is another way to praise and glorify God. Because persecution is increasing, many of us will be called to do it.
This can take many forms. The most extreme is when Christians in the Middle East are told to renounce their faith or be killed. In North America, right now it is more likely to be the challenge to either acknowledge or else deny biblical truths and biblical morality. For example, as I stated before, a Christian baker in America refused to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual wedding. The judge told the baker that this violates the antidiscrimination law of Colorado, and unless he bakes cakes for homosexual weddings, he will be fined and he may even be sent to prison.
Another way to glorify God is to die for Him. Some people are called to be martyrs. Jesus made it clear it was God’s will for Peter to be martyred:
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (John 21:18-19, emphasis added)
The Bible tells us to protect ourselves and our families from persecution if we can do so without denying Him: “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another” (Matthew 10:23).
However, we need to be willing to die for Him if necessary. We need to love God more than we love our lives:
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15)
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:11)
The article above is an excerpt from Maria Kneas’ book, How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution.
- G. Richard Bozarth, “On Keeping God Alive” (American Atheist, November 1977). In this article, he said: “We must ask how we can kill the God of Christianity.”
- Ken Klukowski, “Baker Faces Prison for Refusing to Bake Same-Sex Wedding Cake” (Breitbart, December 12, 2013, www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/12/12/Christian-Baker-Willing-To-Go-to-Jail-for-Declining-Gay-Wedding-Cake).