It was a dream, and I met Jesus. As with most dreams, some details remain vague. But the main part of the dream is still very clear in my memory many days later. I was entering heaven and Jesus was there to meet me. What I recall clearly about the dream was my embracing the Lord, and the words that poured out of my heart and mouth were “Thank you!”
In the weeks following that dream I pondered it over and over. I realized that thankfulness to the Lord had not been a central part of my relationship with Him. And as I considered the Scriptures I realized that was a significant lack on my part. One verse that immediately stood out to me was Philippians 4:6 — “…in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I realized that in my times of prayer with the Lord, I had sometimes neglected to thank Him from the bottom of my heart for hearing those prayers, even before the answers came.
Thankfulness to God the Father and to His Son Jesus Christ is a theme appearing often in the Scriptures. Let’s take a look at a number of contexts in which our proper response to the Lord is a a heartfelt “Thank you!”
Are you given to anxiety? to worrying and fretting about things? God has a solution. In all such situations come to Him in “prayer and petition.” As the apostle Peter wrote (1 Peter 5:7): “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” But here’s where I (and perhaps you) have often fallen short. I have prayed. I have cast my cares and anxieties upon the Lord. But I have at times forgotten to thank Him for the certainty that He will hear and answer those prayers. As we learn to include genuine gratitude to God in our prayers, we will increasingly experience the “peace of God” that has such a comforting effect upon our hearts and minds.
Before He miraculously multiplied those few loaves and fish to feed thousands, Jesus looked up to heaven and gave thanks. This was a recurring practice by Jesus and His followers. Here are just a few of many other instances:
Nearly 50 years ago, when I was a newly born-again Christian, I was greatly impressed by something a Christian friend of mine did. We would be eating out somewhere, and he would always quietly bow his head briefly before eating to thank God for his food. He never made a big deal about it, but his sincerity and his obvious gratitude to God affected me deeply. To this day my wife and I bow our heads before any meal — in public or private — and say a brief prayer of blessing and thanks to God for the meal.
Jesus had met ten lepers on the road. They asked Him for mercy (in context, almost certainly meaning by healing them). He told them to go show themselves to the priest, and as they went they were healed (14). But only one of the ten returned to thank Jesus for healing him (15). The interesting thing to me (vs. 17) was that Jesus expected all ten to come back and offer thanks and praise to Him for this great blessing: “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t thank God for my four adult children. Early in our marriage my late wife was diagnosed with a medical infertility condition. She was childless for more than six years when a godly lady in our church told her that God had spoken to tell her, “Your barren days are over!” And indeed God healed her! Just over a year later, after seven childless years of our marriage, she bore our firstborn son. She subsequently bore us three more children, all now adults, all serving the Lord. And those four in turn have given me 10 (soon 11) grandchildren! It is with great gratitude to the Lord that I think about and pray for my children and grandchildren, because it was He with His healing touch that has given me this large family that I love so much.
Lazarus had been in the grave four days (vs. 39). Undaunted, Jesus lifted up His voice to God the Father in heaven and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” Then, after thanking God for hearing His prayer for Lazarus, He commanded Lazarus to come forth from the grave.
This is a wonderful illustration of the verse we looked at earlier in Philippians 4:6 — “prayer and petition with thanksgiving.” Before He commanded Lazarus to come from the grave, Jesus had prayed to His Father in heaven, and He thanked God for hearing His prayer. The takeaway here for us? If we believe that God is a God who hears and answers prayer, then we should be thanking Him (as Jesus did) for hearing us when we pray, even in advance of the answer.
And why should we have this confidence in God to answer prayer, and thus to thank Him in advance? Well, the apostle John said it well: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). That kind of faith in our faithful God should inspire us to thank God always for hearing our prayers when we pray them.
The apostle Paul had been arrested for standing strong for His faith in Jesus. He was being taken to Rome for trial under Caesar. As he and his captors neared Rome, some fellow Christians met him on the road. How did Paul react? He “thanked God and was encouraged.”
Ask yourself this question: “Do I regularly thank God for my Christian brothers and sisters?” Or do you simply take them for granted as the people you see in church and occasionally elsewhere? Picture the prisoner Paul nearing Rome under guard. He had endured a long, arduous trip from Israel, both by sea and land. He had survived a horrible storm and a dangerous shipwreck. And he had no idea what lay ahead of him in Rome. Would he be declared innocent and be freed? Or would he be convicted and perhaps executed? Surely these things were in his mind as they neared Rome. Then he looked up and saw Christian brothers and sisters heading his way to encourage him and walk back into Rome with him. What was Paul’s reaction? A sincere “thank you” to the Lord!
Ask the Lord to enlarge your heart to include genuine, ongoing gratitude to Him for your Christian brothers and sisters, for your pastors and elders, for the missionaries representing the Lord (and perhaps your church) overseas, and more.
The apostle Paul was thankful to the Lord for the spiritual gifts and ministries He bestows upon the Church and upon His people individually. In chapter 12 Paul had written of supernatural gifts given by the Holy Spirit, such things as prophecy, healings, and miracles. In Ephesians 4:11 Paul wrote about five ministry gifts Jesus gives: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. In the verse just above, Paul was thanking God for the supernatural ability to speak in tongues, which was the biblical evidence of Paul’s (and our) baptism with the Holy Spirit.
These are things a Christian should be excited about … and deeply thankful to God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has not left His people powerless. He has given His Church Spirit-anointed pastors, elders, and other spiritual leaders. He has endowed His people with the power of the baptism with the Spirit and with the manifestation of the various supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Our responses should daily be: “Thank you, Lord!”
We could go on listing many more things for which to thank God. But let’s let Paul’s exhortation suffice as a summary. The blessings and goodness of God to us are so many and so varied that we can sum them up in Paul’s words: “…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything…”
Try to take some time during each day just to meditate on God’s goodness to you. And thank Him for it!
In closing, I refer again to my dream. At the entry to heaven Jesus met me. I knew absolutely that it was Jesus. And all I could do was just throw my arms around Him and embrace my Savior and say, “Thank you!”
Jesus loves us enough that He came from heaven to earth, was born into this world through a virgin mother, then lived on earth for about 33 years and as an adult preached and taught and healed the people. At the end of those years, as a perfect and sinless sacrifice for us He was taken and cruelly tortured and crucified by the Romans, thereby willingly taking upon Himself the penalty due for our sins. He was buried, and on the third day He rose again and soon after ascended back to heaven. From there He sent the Holy Spirit to be with and to dwell in all those who through repentance and faith in Him are born again and become children of God. And to all His faithful followers He gives the certain promise of spending eternity with Him in resurrected bodies that will be “like his glorious [resurrected] body” (Philippians 3:21).
I fear that is a woefully short and inadequate summary of the abundant blessings made available to us through Jesus Christ. Read the Gospels, read the rest of the New Testament, read the great and eternal promises the Lord Jesus Christ has made to you. And as in my dream, you will surely feel that prompting from the depths of your heart to cry out to Jesus, “Thank you!”
©2017, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.