There are different kinds of challenges you might do in November. A couple personal ones I take on each year are never saying no to pumpkin anything and downing as much Thanksgiving Blend coffee from Starbucks as possible while it’s around. It’s a month of food and feasting, and that is certainly something I can give thanks for with a full heart (and stomach)! Beyond that, I’ve also found it a month worth focusing on the gospel-posture of giving thanks. Thanksgiving, the act and habit, is meant to retune our hearts towards gratitude to God, worship of God, and joy in God. I need more of this in my life and I need it to become a regular rhythm rather than an occasional add-on. For that reason, I’m hoping to not only eat pumpkin pie and drink my favorite blend of coffee to the glory of God this November but to also build giving thanks into my mind, heart, and habits.
My proposal is to take a 30-day challenge to cultivate a heart of gratitude and the rhythm of giving thanks. The goal is to both meditate on the Bible’s emphasis of giving thanks and intentionally practice thanksgiving. (For a bit more on the theological backdrop of thanksgiving, you can read an older blog I wrote.) Remember, our objective isn’t merely to be thankful for God’s gifts but to grow in loving and knowing God as the giver of every gift. The Challenge consists of a few elements to incorporate into each day. If a four-part challenge seems scary, pick 2-3 things and run with it.
- Read and meditate on a verse (or section) of the Bible on giving thanks. Continue returning to this verse throughout the day, either by reading it again or simply by rehearsing in your own mind what you read at the start of the day. See below for a 30-day list.
- As you read from God’s Word on giving thanks, include a prayer of thanksgiving to God for something you’ve learned about who God is, what he’s done for you, or the gifts He’s given to you.
- During the day, intentionally look for things God is doing for which you can give thanks. Or, think through how you can give thanks in each circumstance (Eph. 5:20). At the end of the day, either as you eat dinner (supper, if you’re in the South) or as you go to bed, include giving thanks not only for God’s provision of your meal but for specifics from the day. This doesn’t always have to be directly “spiritual.” One day you might thank God for the forgiveness given through Christ and the next day you might thank God for good football. Not all gifts are equally valuable but all gifts can be a source of thanksgiving.
- Thank one person each day for something they’ve done for you or something you appreciate about them. An attitude of gratitude rather than grumbling must be cultivated, both in our human relationships and in our relationship with God.
While these four things comprise the thanksgiving challenge, there are additional things you might do to complement your pursuit of gratitude. Consider if any of the following ideas might encourage you to give thanks and learn about thanksgiving over the next 30 days.
- Read a book specifically on thanksgiving or gratitude. Some recommendations would be Thanksgiving by David Pao; The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney; One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp; Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss; or God is the Gospel by John Piper.
- If a book seems like a bit too much of a commitment right now, read one of the following articles.
- Listen to a sermon on thanksgiving.
- Sing Christian hymns or worship songs related to the theme of giving thanks.
- Do something as a family that makes this an enjoyable and memorable experience, such as a gratitude tree.
- As you interact with other Christians—in formal settings such as small group or informal settings like work or a restaurant—ask them what God has done for them that they’re thankful for.
- If things like gratitude trees are a bit too artsy for you, just keep a list of things you can thank God for. Keep a journal, a sheet of paper in your Bible, or use something on your phone like “Notes” to record and revisit these reasons for thanksgiving.
Below is a list of 30 verses that mention giving thanks, thanksgiving, or thankfulness. I’d encourage you to read them at the start of your morning and meditate on (chew on) then throughout the day. There are plenty of related words in the Bible tied to this theme we could have looked at, or even words showing the problem with a lack of thanksgiving (such as ingratitude or murmuring). A quick word search on Logos resulted in 132 occurrences of thank/thanks/thankful and 38 occurrences of thanksgiving. So this is meant to be a starter rather than an exhaustive list. Hopefully it helps cement the importance of and joy in giving thanks in your heart, as well as providing some specific examples of what it looks like in the Bible.
Day 1: 1 Chr. 29:10-13
Day 2: Ps. 30:4
Day 3: Ps. 100:4
Day 4: Col. 1:3, 12
Day 5: Col. 2:7
Day 6: Col. 3:15-17
Day 7: Col. 4:2
Day 8: Ps. 107:1, 21-22
Day 9: Ps. 118:1, 19-21, 28-29
Day 10: Luke 17:16 (see 17:11-19)
Day 11: John 6:11, 23
Day 12: John 11:41
Day 13: Ps. 50:23
Day 14: 1 Cor. 11:23-24
Day 15: 2 Cor. 2:14
Day 16: 2 Cor. 4:15
Day 17: 2 Cor. 9:11-15
Day 18: Eph. 5:4
Day 19: Eph. 5:20
Day 20: Ps. 147:7
Day 21: Ps. 136:1-3 (see all of 136)
Day 22: Phi. 1:3
Day 23: Matt. 15:36
Day 24: Acts 27:35
Day 25: Ps. 138
Day 26: 1 Thess. 3:9
Day 27: 1 Thess. 5:18
Day 28: 1 Tim. 4:3
Day 29: Rev. 4:9
Day 30: Rev. 7:12