Short but to the point, Psalm 100 calls believers to give thanks. Yet undergirding the joy is a message too often overlooked.
“Sometimes we miss the other important sections of this psalm, like the commands,” said Ed Steele, professor of music. “Psalm 100 is one of my favorite psalms and begins with the command ‘to make a joyful noise.’”
Commands such as “enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise,” are also included, Steele noted, explaining that being thankful in worship begins by focusing on God’s steadfast faithfulness.
To help make this Thanksgiving a joyous one, here are three stories of God’s faithfulness as demonstrated in changed lives, restored joy, and lessons learned in giving thanks.
Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, Arnold Alao, a master of divinity student, once considered himself “counter-cultural” because his family did not celebrate Thanksgiving. Today, he is “counter-cultural” in a different way.
Alao came to faith in Christ two years ago after faithful NOBTS students and faculty walked beside him and answered every question he raised. “It was a struggle,” Alao said of his journey to Christ. “There were times I realized I needed God, and that Jesus was God, but at other times, I suppressed God’s leading.”
Though an introvert, Alao desires to see others know Christ and boldly shares the Gospel in hard places such as on a mission trip to Utah or at the recent Mormon temple reopening in Baton Rouge.
Alao is grateful for believers who led him to faith, but also pushed him out of his “comfort zone” to tell others. Still, the bigger change in his life, Alao says, is a desire “to truly know God.”
“God has changed my life by changing my desires,” Alao said. “Old desires come back and I even fall into them at times, but God's presence in my life always reminds me that He is the one truly worth seeking and serving.”
Chad Gilbert’s mother was in trouble. Her life hung in the balance. Despite a cutting-edge medical procedure that transplanted a portion of Chad’s liver into his mother’s body, she was doing poorly and he was in constant pain.
Burnout came, both as a believer and a pastor.
One morning, as Gilbert sat down for his quiet time, he was forced to admit that his desire for worship was gone. What happened next was a “miracle,” Gilbert said.
“His Spirit flooded my being with an awareness of His love and care,” Gilbert explained. “I was sinking and He pulled me from the waters that threatened to overtake me. My heart overflowed—exploded—with praise that morning.”
The moment marked a turnaround for Gilbert and, as the crisis passed, he learned valuable tips believers can rely on in difficult times.
Maintaining a consistent time with God is vital, Gilbert said. He remained faithful to his quiet time because he remembered the joy he had experienced before.
“He is faithful,” Gilbert tells those experiencing difficulty. “Like Paul and Silas in prison, a song shall rise in the midst of your darkness, for He is with you until the end of the age.”
Gilbert stressed also the importance of healthy eating, exercise, and getting proper sleep, something many underestimate. Gilbert’s experience taught him that the spiritual and physical sides of life are connected. “It was a reminder of how finite I am, how dependent,” Gilbert said.
A former New Orleans pastor now serving as minister of evangelism, Trinity Baptist Church, Lake Charles, La., Gilbert has learned to check on a person’s physical wellbeing when they come to him struggling spiritually. He said, “I begin there.”
Drs. Ed and Kathy Steele asked themselves one day, “What if we really did ‘enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise?’” They made the commitment then to thank God for the week’s blessings as they drove to church each Sunday.
As the church worship leader, Ed Steele began stopping as he entered the sanctuary to praise the Lord yet again. “I'm not sure if the congregation noticed any difference,” Steele said. “But I did.”
God’s steadfast love and faithfulness is the reason believers can rejoice, Steele said, adding that as believers discover “the depths of the nature and character of God,” joy will be the result.
“Just as we take time to tune our instruments before we play, making time for thanking God for what He has done and praising Him for who He is ‘tunes our hearts to sing His grace,’” Steele said. “The admonition is clear from God’s word: this is something we ought to do.