In Everything, Give Thanks
Human beings are inclined to the spectacular. They love, ‘Boom! Bam!’ That’s why Hollywood is the way it is. Make it bigger, louder. More explosions!
I was reading some analysis. They wrote that if you want a movie to really ‘blow’, put in action sequences. So, they’ll bring out a movie with some action every thirty minutes. In the next one, there’s action every fifteen minutes. Then in the next one, action every nine minutes. And, people are drawn to it. Why? Human nature. So, they purposely plan those things. It’s deliberate – till you become like a junkie, hooked on the fantastic.
And in the same way, many people are only tuned in to fantastic testimonies – so much that we don’t give God thanks (for ‘ordinary’ things). We’re not grateful for simple things, and we ought to be. We ought to be way more grateful, for the small things that sustain us. When we make the exceptions the norm, we become addicted to the exceptions. Let’s calm down, everyone. Let’s give God thanks for all the things He does, small things included.
Yes, I agree that in a gathering of people, we should prioritize the more spectacular (or supernatural) testimonies. You could hear a testimony like this, “I want to bless God. Since I was born, my lungs have been working, but yesterday, I couldn’t breathe, and I suddenly had an appreciation for my functional lungs.” But it doesn’t have to be: “I was walking on the road, and something – I don’t even know where it came from – came and cut out my lungs. My lungs were sticking out, and I now pushed them back in…” It doesn’t have to be so extraordinary before you appreciate God for it. Are you understanding me?
My whole point is that we have to learn to appreciate God for everything, even things that seem normal. And on top of that, we must not get hooked to only the super fantastic. Some people are not grateful.
How many of you noticed anything interesting, in the last couple of days while we have been giving thanks? We’ve been giving thanks, if you’ve been praying along. In my household, we found ourselves just praising and really thanking God, not for anything in particular. I mean, at a time, we were just singing in the spirit. Just singing new songs. And we’ll end one, and another one would come, and another one, and another. It was at night; I had thought we’d just pray briefly and go to bed. But we just gave thanks for maybe thirty to forty minutes. We just blessed the name of God.
And the next night, yesterday night, for the first time in about five or six months, we were reconnected to the electric power grid. We had electricity restored to our building. We had been running the generator since January, and not had any power at all. And as we were praying yesterday night, the electricity came on; we had been reconnected to another transformer. I was very shocked. Since January, and this is June! And I realized, we were giving praise the night before. Obeying God is so beautiful. It’s just good to obey God.
I know, in-between I would feel, “Well, okay – we’ve thanked God; let’s stop…” But let me encourage you. I know it’s not every time, because there’s a time for everything. When you feel stirred up, like you want to bless the name of God, and you feel, “Okay, I’ve done it. I have to get round to praying,” but you feel you should go on, then do so. I’m not saying, you should go on. I’m saying, if you feel like.
How do you usually feel that? You hear another song playing in your head, instead of ending. Go on! Don’t stop because you think you have to stop – you want to be a good steward of your time. You can go through the prayer list in ten to fifteen minutes. But when the Spirit is pushing you to do something, go with whatever He’s pushing you to do. If He’s pushing you to pray on a particular prayer point longer than normal as opposed to, “Let’s pray for this… Amen. Next prayer point: Let’s pray about this… Amen.” It can be like that sometimes. But, if you feel something rest on a particular point, dwell on it.
- As the Spirit Leads…
Whatever the prompting of the Spirit is, always go with it. It’s very important that you know this. I once shared how about something that happened four years ago, when my little daughter was quite young, and would sleep in the mornings on our bed. The night before, I found myself saying, “Praise God, praise God!” It was strong. I told my household because, they were just acting normally.
The next morning, that child, for the first time in several months, did not sleep on the bed. She fell asleep in another room, and no one bothered her or brought her to the room where I was. During that time, I was out in the parlor, somewhere else. It was windy, and the avocado tree behind my room window snapped, and a branch swung on the roof, swiveled, and shattered the louvers directly over my bed. Large shards of glass were all over the bed where my daughter slept every day. And I realized immediately that God was saying, ‘Thank Me.’ I find it very interesting how many times God leads me to thank him, before the thing happens. And if there were more people, that gave thanks to God by faith…
We are people of faith – we walk by faith, and not by sight. It’s why sometimes after something has happened, I don’t seem over-excited because usually God leads me to give thanks before it happens. With God, it’s the same. That’s what it means to walk by faith. But when you’re like many people that only like things to happen before appreciating Him, to be honest, you don’t realize that thanksgiving is a weapon of war, in and of itself.
- Proper Thanksgiving
Some people are very good at saying to God, “Oh God, I want this from you, but I heard that if I give you thanks, you will respond. So, I give you thanks. I give you thanks!” Like the popular saying, “When the praises go up, the blessings come down.” But I don’t agree with that saying, because it’s corrupt. It’s like a corrupt sacrifice – insincere. You have something in mind.
I’m making a distinction. You want admission, and they said you should praise God, so you start: “Father, I thank you for my admission, in advance.” You do it because you heard that it’s a method of getting things from God, as opposed to thanking God for your life, that you have food to eat and clothes to wear, or just being grateful for what exists already, or as in these instances I gave, giving thanks for what you do not know.
You’re not giving the thanks with intention, “God, as I’m praising you, I hope you’re counting. Have you seen how many minutes I’ve spent? Whichever angel is in charge of records there, I hope you’re noting? Let my praise not be in vain!” It’s a corrupted sacrifice. It’s selfish. You do it with the intention of acquiring something. It’s like a bribe. It’s like a Yoruba or Igbo praise singer, like Oliver De Coque used to do. I’m not bashing him – he was doing his job, to compose songs about people.
The praise singers, I think the Yoruba’s, will probably be very good at it. They call God in different ways, and say it countless times. And that’s how many of us praise God. When you’re worshipping, that often happens. But when you do it with the intention that this big man (God) is going to give you money or settle you for your praises, it is wrong. You think, “The better I do it, the happier He will be. The more He will drop.”
- Gratitude: A Grenade-Launcher
When we say, “Praise is a weapon,” don’t use it like that. Every weapon has its springboard. An arrow has a bow. A bullet comes out of a tank. A grenade has a launcher. That’s the base. Praise is to be fired. It’s to spring out of gratitude, not just intentional desire for something. That arrow called, praise, needs a bow. The bow that shoots it effectively, is a thankful heart, not a heart that wants something. This is why people say, “I was told to praise God now. I praised. Nothing happened!” That’s because it was not fired out from its proper device. You are supposed to fire out your praise and thanksgiving from a grateful heart, for something you know, or in faith.
Your heart may be inditing a good theme like Psalm 45:1 says, My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Your heart can stir you up to bless God, like the instances I gave earlier. I didn’t know why. I often don’t know why – I just go with it. Why is this important? It’s because many people won’t. They only go with it, when there’s an intention. “Oh, people, let’s praise God for safe delivery!” What if the night before, when nothing was certain, God was pushing you to praise Him, but you didn’t, thinking: ‘How are you going to praise God, when you’ve not seen it yet?’ You have the mindset that, you must see it first, before you give praise. This is why many people do not experience, more amazing things in their lives.
- Walk by Faith, Not Feelings!
You praise from a place of appreciation, but often, it must come from a place of faith. Like David would be lamenting, then he would switch and begin to say, “My soul, why are you cast down? I will bless the Lord…” His spirit comes alive and he goes with the flow. You’d notice that he started out walking by sight, “Oh, why are my enemies so this, and why is this, and why is that?” And then his spirit begins to indite a good matter. He doesn’t go like, “No, wait – there’s a time for everything. Keep it; today is for lamenting.” He would swoop round and go with what the Spirit is saying.
Go with what the Spirit is prompting, whether you are alone, and this is happening in your heart, or you’re with people. You’re in a place and you say, “This is the way I am feeling, whatever they are doing here – that’s not what I’m feeling. Let me be real to myself.” That your real-ness is costing you because, the Spirit is saying, “Give Me praise now; you would build an ark by being thankful at this time.” But you disobey the leading of the Spirit, and go with how you feel. May your feelings save you! I’ve never known a person’s feelings to save them. It’s so much better to praise God, at that time He’s leading you to. I always feel very good when I gave thanks to God for something before I saw it. And the next moment, I see it occurring. I’m like, “Oh, no wonder!” I feel so happy that I went on to give the praise. I would have felt very bad if I didn’t give the praise and the blessings still came. It’s better to go with what the Spirit is doing. That’s the instruction I’m giving.
- Proper Praise Procedure
Don’t praise God as a bribe. Praise God because He deserves praise. When He prompts you to praise Him, stop being reactive! Be led by the Spirit. Don’t be led by the news you have received before you joyful. If you find your mouth start humming, go with the hum. Flow with it. Whether you’re in a place of prayer, or not, go with praise. Every time something crosses your mind that is good, praise Him. But even when nothing crosses your mind, and you just feel that you ought to give God praise, stir up the gift that is within you. Open your mouth. The Spirit is within you. Give praise! It doesn’t have to be for something. Remember, God sees the heart. Too many people are so ungrateful. They don’t give thanks for what they’ve already enjoyed. If you can’t think, or you may say, “No, I can’t just give thanks like that…” or “I don’t know how to sing in the Spirit. I can’t just go, “Oh, I bless you Lord…” Then just say it in English!
List out things. Count your blessings, and name them. Go through a list. That’s a good way to practice. But I pray you come to the place where there’s no list. You don’t even know what you’re thanking for, but you’re just thanking. You just know He’s worthy. You’re lifting hands. He’s worthy to be thanked now. What for? I don’t know. That’s a massive weapon. It begins to reorder things. Reconstruct things in someone’s mind, somewhere. Something begins to happen. And I think praise is nicer than fasting. Each has its time, and place. But remember that in warfare, it’s not about what you did – it’s about obedience. That’s the strategy for winning battles.
- Thanksgiving: Seed Sown
As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything. In the morning, sow your seed, and in the evening, do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper… (Ecclesiastes 11:5-6). What matters is that, God pushed you, and you allowed yourself to be pushed. Every step you took contributed. The same way you want to enter a vehicle, or you’re in a vehicle, and something tells you to come down, and you come down, and you hear later that something happened – it doesn’t have to be physical. You don’t have to know how it happened. All sorts of things are happening, whenever we yield to the Spirit. Sometimes, they are immediate and easy to see. Then there are others that are longer-term – in a week, in a month, or in years. I think the one that scares me is the one that happens years later, and you may have no clue.
I’m sure many of God’s children will say, “No, God can never do that. You’re telling me that, if I didn’t do this thing now, that blessing God had for me in two years wouldn’t have come?” Yes! “No – I can never agree.” That means, you don’t agree with, Galatians 6:7; “Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap.”
You don’t agree with scripture? This is reality. So, when God pushes you to plant, you should not say, “No planting please; I don’t feel like leaving my bed.”
You know, when I drove out of the gate of my residence today, there were all these corn plants in front of it. I’ve been away from my residence for weeks, so as I was driving out, it really stood out to me. I could see all the corn plants. They are getting ready to be harvested. The price that was paid three months ago, it’s about to be reaped. The price that was paid in the sun, the sweat, and the dirt – that price, is about to be reaped.
Spiritually, exactly the same thing happens. “God cannot be wicked like that – He will give everybody corn equally. It will be equal. God is not like us. When that time comes, we can just walk into any farm, and take corn. He’s the owner of the whole earth.” Please, because we love you, do not die before your time – don’t go near someone’s farm! See it. Admire it. Ask God to bless the land, and pass. Don’t say, “He’s the God of the whole earth. The Earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. I’m a child of God.” Just walk past it. You didn’t plant it. The person that planted it, when he passes, he looks at that corn with a different set of emotions than yours. When you pass, you think, “So sad, I wish I planted my own.” That’s where it can stop, in the realm of wishes. There is a price to pay. So, God doesn’t show up and say, “No, no, I’m not like that. Every blessing you were supposed to have, you will have it. Every enjoyment, you will enjoy the same. Yes, you didn’t give thanks, you weren’t appreciative. Don’t worry.”
No. I think it works like this: there’s God’s goodness that is available to everybody. Do you understand? Because of God’s magnanimity, his generosity, he will give everybody a certain amount, for instance, fifty thousand, each. Spiritually, everybody gets oxygen, basic supplies like, food, and clothes. God’s like, “I’m providing this for all of My children. Stupid children. Bad children. Good children. Different kinds of children. I will protect you. I will do this and that.” All of that is available, because God is good. Everybody is entitled to fifty thousand naira, but some people will collect a hundred and fifty thousand naira. Then some children will not get only the basic fifty thousand. He’ll tell them, “Come, that money you gave me to invest for you – it has gotten you back, fifty thousand.” So, you take a hundred thousand. Why? Because you did more than just exist. You paid a higher price and exerted yourself. He gave you time, you took it, and gave it back in praise. And the other person, during that time you were praising, was grumbling.
- Reaping Rewards
So, I’m not saying your grumbling will stop God from giving you your basic needs – your manna and water. He will, but I’m saying that the extra that you would have used to acquire some more things in the Spirit, and in the physical, will be unavailable. When you look at the other person, and wonder, “How come you have so much? How come you’re able to enjoy and experience some more things? How come you have acquired more fruits? Why is your own basket, so full?” The reason may be that the person did more than the basic. He didn’t just stay at home and say, “Don’t worry, my father has planted corn.” No – he went further to ask, “Daddy, can I use this little land?” In addition to going to the family farm, he set up his own garden, planted and sold his own corn, and generated fifteen thousand naira.
Those extra hours must pay off. You cannot expect your father to say, “All of you are my children. I know you worked extra three hours, every day. But well, you know I’m not like that.” Many people think of God, like this? They think, after one person has gone to great lengths, to do more above what’s even expected, or striven harder to obey God, that when the time comes for the reward, God will say, “Don’t worry. Everybody, come and take.” No, it doesn’t happen that way.
One of the advantages of being part of a group of people who love God is that you partake in the general blessings for the house. Some of us just follow the general leading and collect general blessings. But it’s not good, because there will be individual blessings you will want. There’s the general reward, and there are the people they tell to ‘wait behind’ (and collect something extra) – whether you see it or not.
- The Power of Obedience
In the spirit realm, you can’t see many of these things. I’ve told you a story Kenneth Hagin shared. He helped a preacher. He didn’t even have money for himself. But he helped the preacher, because the Spirit led him. He didn’t know. The man didn’t beg him for money. The man just said, “Oh, can I sleep over in the parsonage (where the pastors stay) this night?” He didn’t realise that this was as far as the man’s bus (fare) carried him. But he knows he felt prompted by the Spirit to give the man. He had thirty dollars, or so, and gave it to the man. Two years later, his niece or someone, had a car accident, and God told him clearly, “That servant of mine that I sent to you two years ago whom you helped – I’m keeping this person alive, because of that.” He had never thought of it. He didn’t say, “God, as I’m sowing this Lord God, you’re seeing this seed I’m sowing now, Lord – show up for me.” No. He just went with the Spirit. And that’s the beauty of just going with the Spirit. When you just go with the Spirit, you don’t know what you’re doing really. I’m really serious. It results in all sorts of things.
Sadhu Selvaraj talks about God telling him to wait on Him – to fast and pray for about seven days or so – just a period of fasting and prayer. And he obeys. He gets a letter thereafter from a couple that was being oppressed by a Hindu witch doctor. I mean, the couple was terribly oppressed for years. The man couldn’t sleep. Imagine not being able to sleep. Every night, you don’t sleep, and you have to go to work. The people were just wretched. It was really evil. The witch doctor would call evil spirits against them. They were nominal Christians, so they were terribly tortured. And he got to that house, and God told him, “Go to bed.” He slept and woke up by five minutes to twelve AM or thereabout, and as he kneels down to start praying, the Holy Spirit says, “Just lift your hands and give praise.” So, he didn’t even pray. He just lifted his hands, just saying, “Lord, I bless Your name…” This was the warfare. Why? Because the actual warfare had finished in the earlier days, when he prayed (in the obedience of faith) – when he didn’t know why he was praying.
The power of obedience cannot be gainsaid. As he lifted his hands, he saw angels come. He saw the witch doctor go to the cemetery and call out wicked spirits, and they filled the sky. But as he lifted up his hands, he saw an army of angels come, led by a mighty angel, and they clashed in the sky – they defeated those demonic forces. In the physical, this witch doctor fell sick with terrible boils, and he died horribly. It was not because Sadhu prayed against him, but because he had been so wicked. God chose to judge him like that. He had heard that they had brought a Christian (to intervene in the matter). So, he went and called out wicked spirits to come and kill him (Sadhu), to prove that his (sorcery) had power. God defeated him! Sadhu’s obedience didn’t require him to bind and cast anything. He just lifted his hand, and gave praise. Also, he had sowed before in obedience.
Every time the Holy Spirit nudges us, may God help us to go with it. Is it praise? Then praise. Whatever it is, obey.
- Pastor Ita Udoh