Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite times of year. But in November of 1981, I was especially excited about it. In addition to the usual joys that accompany this wonderful season, I had an extra reason to celebrate:
Our family had just moved into a lovely new home! And though we still had boxes to unpack and pictures to hang, we were feeling especially blessed.
There was just one nagging problem. In the weeks since the move, various members of our family had started getting sick.
The illnesses were nothing serious, just pesky ailments of different kinds. But they’d swept through the household like a wave. First, both of our boys caught colds. Then, Anna’s throat got sore and raspy. Next, my youngest son’s fiancé, who was living with us at the time, came down with something else entirely; and finally my daughter turned up with a swollen gland on her neck for seemingly no reason at all.
One night as we were getting ready for bed, Anna realized that with Thanksgiving just a few days away, she needed to get well quick. “Honey, I really want you to pray for me,” she said.
After we prayed together for her healing, I laid awake in the dark for a while and pondered the situation. There had to be a reason for this recent rash of sicknesses in our family. Something is going on here, I thought.
Was it the house?
No, surely not. The spiritual atmosphere of our new home had been sweetly cleansed even before we moved in. Members of our church who’d helped remodel it had been flooding it with love and prayers for months. And though Anna and I hadn’t yet formally dedicated the house to the Lord (we planned to do so after we were settled in) we had temporarily covered every room with prayers for God’s protection.
So, spiritually, everything seemed to be in order. Yet it was obvious something was still wrong.
With Anna already asleep beside me, I silently prayed for wisdom. “Lord, please help me understand this. What’s happening?” I asked.
The answer came immediately. In my heart the Lord showed me a vision of what appeared to be a big inflatable tent—the kind that’s kept erect by a system of air pumps and fans. The middle of the tent was partially collapsed. The top of it was sagging down.
I knew the instant I saw it what the vision meant.
The tent represented the condition of the temporary spiritual covering Anna and I had put over our house a few weeks earlier. It was sagging and deflated. The reason? “There hasn’t been regular praise in this place since you moved in here,” the Lord said.
It was a sobering revelation but it carried no sense of condemnation. It wasn’t like the Lord was saying, “You didn’t praise Me so now you’re going to get it!” On the contrary, like a loving Father, He was graciously reminding me of a vital spiritual truth:
Praise sets up a mantle of protection around us! It produces a spiritual atmosphere that our adversary, the devil, cannot move through. It serves as a powerful weapon we can use against him and insulates us from his attacks.
You can probably guess what Anna I did the next morning when we woke up. We walked through every room in the the house praising the Lord.
As we did, we sensed the atmosphere becoming more buoyant. We felt a little like we’d boarded the Goodyear blimp and we were rising up higher and higher. Within a couple of days everybody in the family was well.
That Thanksgiving I learned a lesson I will never forget.
I learned that no matter how busy I might be, I need to maintain a continual spirit of thanksgiving to God. I need to keep praising Him because, for us as believers, praise and thanksgiving is our very breath. It’s our spiritual oxygen.
Just think how important oxygen is to us physically. Our bodies absolutely must have it. We can survive for a while without food and even without water, but we must have air all the time. The same is true spiritually where giving thanks to God is concerned. We need to do it on a constant basis. To be spiritually healthy, we need to live in a sustained atmosphere of praise.
“But Pastor Jack,” you might say, “is that really possible?”
Yes! The Bible confirms it. It says in verse after verse:
• From the rising of the sun to its going down the Lord’s name is to be praised. (Ps. 113:3)
• I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. (Ps. 34:1, NLT)
• Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Heb. 13:15)
Notice that last verse compares our praises as believers to the sacrifices the Israelites made in the Old Testament. That’s significant! Why? Because in Leviticus 6:13 the Lord gave the priests specific instructions about the altar upon which those sacrifices were offered. He said, “A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.”
Personally, I find that command encouraging because tending the fire wasn’t all the priests had to do. They also had to offer prayers for the people. They had to shovel the ashes off the altar and take them outside the city and bury them. They had to wash and care for their ministry garments. In other words, the priests had a very busy schedule!
Yet in the midst of it all, they managed tokeep the altar fire burning.
You and I as modern day believers can do the same. We don’t have to join a monastery where all we have to do is praise the Lord. We can keep the flame of thanksgiving going in our hearts even while we go about the business of our everyday lives.
We can have praise on our lips while we’re getting dressed in the morning. We can speak or sing out our thanksgivings to God as we go to work or to the grocery store. Morning and night, we can find opportunities to lift our hearts in worship to Him.
I’m sure you already do this to some degree. But, loved one, I want to encourage you to do it even more. In this special season, I want to challenge you to come up to new levels of thanksgiving! That’s why I’ve arranged for you to receive my 4-CD series, All Hail the Power and my 2-CD series, Five Reasons for Thanksgiving and Thanks-Living as a thank you gift for your support this month. It will stir within you a fresh fire of gratitude toward God. It will help you live increasingly in an attitude of perpetual praise.
Oh, what a marvelous way this is to live! First and foremost, it blesses the Lord, and second, blesses us. It surrounds us with a mantle of divine protection and enlarges us spiritually. It changes our character, our countenance, and our lives.
Beloved, until I write you again, let’s ask the Lord to teach us more about this glorious lifestyle. Let’s tell Him more often how much we appreciate Him. Let’s celebrate this holiday season by constantly breathing the powerful oxygen of praise!
With a grateful heart,
P.S. You undoubtedly have a lot on your plate at this time of year (literally, perhaps!) so I want to remind you again to click here and receive your copy of All Hail the Power and Five Reasons for Thanksgiving and Thanks-Living. It will help you celebrate Thanksgiving all year long!