by Reid Smith
I love Thanksgiving! Most people love the holiday because it’s a time to enjoy family, friends, and lots of great food! Most of my favorite memories in life revolve around the combination of these three things, which is why this time of year brings the hope of passing it on by making similar heart-warming memories with my own kids.
Thanksgiving, however, is more than a holiday for groups: it’s a transformational practice that we can’t do without in our small groups. God uses thanksgiving that honors Him to build community, boost faith, and bless the people circled up with us. There are biblical truths about what the Lord does in our lives as a result of showing God-honoring gratitude in our relationship with Him and one another. Thanksgiving:
- Deepens our communion with God and one another, which advances the Church’s mission (John 17:20-21; 1 Cor 11:23-26, 33; 2 Thes 1:2-3)
- Strengthens our worship and prayer life because we’re being obedient to give thanks as a part of each (Ps 69:30, 95:2, 100:4; 1 Cor 1:4; Col 1:3)
- Ushers in the peace of God, which protects one’s whole being against the enemy (Php 4:6-7; 1 Thes 5:11; Heb 3:13)
Experientially, I’ve found that giving thanks reminds me of God’s nature and what He has done for us all. I believe this is one of the reasons why we see so many laments turn to praise in the Psalms and why the Apostle Paul usually opens and closes his letters with giving thanks. Thanksgiving helps me to set my mind on things above and fix my thoughts on Jesus (Col 3:2; Heb 3:1). It helps me to be more forgiving and full of faith, and it even has a way of enhancing my love for my brothers and sisters and Christ.
There’s power in giving thanks. It goes hand-in-hand with encouragement. For example, when I’m encouraging people, I’m usually showing gratitude for something I admire or appreciate about them. Furthermore, when people thank others out of their love for them, how can they not be encouraged? God uses encouragement and thanksgiving together to build community and further His purposes in the world (2 Cor 13:11).
The more I express thanks to God and encourage others, the better I’m able to walk in God’s will, which 1 Thessalonians 5:18 plainly spells out: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Regardless of what we’re facing or up against, God’s will for us is that we are to give thanks. Let’s be honest…that’s a tall order! However, when thanksgiving is a regular practice, it becomes more a part of my natural disposition and response.
Giving thanks invites God’s blessings into our lives because we’re being obedient to live according to His will in Christ Jesus. Consequently, we get to walk in the favor and power of the Lord, which overflows to the people He has put in our lives. As you circle up with the people in your group, give thanks in everything that you do together – fellowship, eating together, worship, prayer, Bible Study – so that you can experience more of God’s life-changing power in your life together.