THE HABIT OF PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING
A. Introduction: For a number of weeks we have been talking about the importance of learning to praise and
thank God continually. The Bible repeatedly tells us to do so. Ps 34:1; I Thess 5:18; Heb 13:15; etc.
1. It is easy to praise and thank God when we feel like it and things are going well in our lives. But, it’s
hard to praise and thank God when we encounter troubles, whether they be minor frustrations and
pressures or major problems and tragedies. We’re working on learning to praise and thank God no
matter what we face.
a. Praising and thanking God continually is not optional. It is God’s will that we thank and praise in
the good and bad times, when we feel like it and when we don’t feel like it.
b. We aren’t talking about an emotional or musical response to God. We are talking about verbally
acknowledging God by proclaiming His virtues and works. It’s always appropriate to praise and
thank the Lord for who He is and for what He has done, is doing, and will do. Ps 107:8; 15; 21; 31
c. In the last couple of lessons we have been considering how continual praise and thanksgiving not
only glorifies God, it also helps us counteract and get control of certain unChrist-like traits in our
fallen flesh—our tendency to magnify the problem and to complain about it.
1. We all have a natural tendency to focus only on what we see and feel in the moment. We talk
about what we see and how we feel, and speculate on all the possible negative outcomes in our
situation. The problem (not God) gets bigger in our eyes and we get more and more stirred up.
2. We also have a natural tendency to complain. To complain means to express discontent or
ungratefulness. God’s Word tells us that we are to do all things without complaining. Phil 2:14
2. Few of us would describe ourselves as ungrateful—because we all know that that is an ugly trait. And,
most of us are grateful for the good things. When we do complain, it seems right based on what we see
in our circumstances and how it makes us feel.
a. We said last week that doing all things without complaining doesn’t mean that you can’t say you’re
in a difficult situation or that you must like your circumstances. The issue is learning to express the
difficulties in your circumstance while still maintaining an attitude of gratefulness to God.
b. When you are grateful, you are more conscious or aware of what you have and what is right in your
life, rather than what is wrong and what you don’t have. So, you stop yourself from complaining
and express gratefulness, and you magnify God rather than fixating on and magnifying the problem.
1. Continual praise and thanksgiving helps you realize that, even though I don’t like this, I have
no reason to complain (be ungrateful) because God has already done so much for me.
2. When you face your troubles with continual praise and thanksgiving, it relieves some of the
emotional and mental pressure on you because God gets bigger in your eyes.
3. There is always something to be thankful or grateful for in every circumstance—the good that God has
done, the good that He is doing, and the good that He will do.
a. However, you can’t automatically pull praise and thanksgiving to God out of a hat when you need
it—when your circumstances are bad and your emotions and thoughts are stirred up.
b. You must already have the habit of continual praise and thanksgiving established. In tonight’s
lesson, we’re going to talk about developing the habit of praise and thanksgiving.
B. Paul the apostle wrote many of the key Scripture passages which we’ve used repeatedly in this study. When
we read the historical information we have about him (in the Book of Acts and the epistles) we find that Paul
continually praised and thanked God, no matter what he was experiencing or facing.
1. We’ve already looked at an incident recorded in Acts 16 where, while proclaiming Jesus and His
resurrection in the Greek city of Philippi, Paul cast a devil out of a slave girl. The devil had enabled the
girl to tell fortunes, which brought money to her owners. Acts 16:16-26
a. Her masters were furious and went to the civil authorities, accusing Paul and his co-worker Silas of
teachings things contrary to Roman law. The two men were arrested, beaten, and thrown in prison.
Yet, at their lowest point (literally at midnight), they prayed and praised God.
1. Keep in mind that Paul and Silas were real people who would have felt the same pain and had
the same emotions and thoughts as we would in that situation: We’re doing God’s work.
Why did He let this happen? It’s your fault, Paul! No, it’s your fault, Silas!
2. Although they would have been familiar with all the Old Testament passages about praising
God (including how Jehoshaphat and David responded with praise, II Chron 20; Ps 56:3-4), like
you and me, they would still have had to override their natural tendencies to complain and
magnify the problem.
b. They most likely didn’t feel like praising and thanking God. Yet they had to put forth the effort to
do so. Paul and Silas couldn’t have responded as they did unless they already had a well developed
habit of answering troubles with praise and thanksgiving to God. How did they do this?
c. How could they do this? When we read what Paul wrote about how he faced his difficulties, we
find that he knew some things (had information from God), learned them (became persuaded of
what he knew), and then put them into practice. Let’s consider what he knew and put into practice.
2. This incident at the Philippian jail occurred about AD 53. We have a letter written by Paul a number of
years later (about AD 62) to the believers in the city of Philippi—many of whom saw the jail incident—
that gives us insight into Paul’s mindset in the midst of trouble.
a. When Paul wrote this letter he was jailed in Rome, facing possible execution. Paul wrote to the
Philippians to inform them of his situation and to comfort and encourage them.
b. Among other things, Paul exhorted them that, as they themselves faced persecution (Phil 1:29-30),
they should rejoice: Finally, my brothers (and sisters), rejoice in the Lord (Phil 3:1, ESV); Rejoice
in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice (Phil 4:4, ESV).
1. Rejoice is translated from a Greek word that means to be cheerful as opposed to feel cheerful.
Remember what we’ve said in previous lessons. When you cheer yourself, you encourage
yourself with the reasons you have hope.
2. When you praise and thank God (speak with gratefulness about who God is and what He has
done, is doing, and will do), it cheers or encourages you because it gives you hope.
c. We have to presume that Paul took his own advice. If he didn’t do what he exhorted the Philippians
to do (rejoice always), then he was a huge hypocrite. This means that God used a hypocrite to write
the bulk of the New Testament documents (fourteen out of twenty-one documents).
3. The fact that Paul responded to his difficulties with praise and thanksgiving to God does not mean he
liked or enjoyed his circumstances or that he pretended they weren’t hard. In another letter written by
Paul, we get insight into how he viewed and talked about his circumstances.
a. In an epistle written to believers living in the Greek city of Corinth, Paul gave several descriptions of
his circumstances and the troubles he faced as he preached the gospel. Consider one.
1. II Cor 11:27-30—I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been
hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without
enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of how the
churches are getting along. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led
astray, and I do not burn with anger? If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that
show how weak I am (NLT).
2. Paul continued on and told the Corinthians what Jesus Himself said to him about his many
trials: My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness. So now I
(Paul) am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through
me…for when I am weak, then I am strong (NLT, II Cor 12:9-10).
3. A quick note on context. False teachers were challenging Paul’s authority and competence as
an apostle. He wrote the passage we are citing and stated his credentials, not to brag about
himself, but to help the Corinthians see that they should trust him rather than these false
teachers (lessons for another day).
b. Why aren’t Paul’s statements about his troubles complaints? If you recall, last week we looked at
the generation of Israelites whom God delivered from Egyptian slavery. Paul cited them as
spectacular examples of complaining. I Cor 10:10
1. Paul talked nothing like those people talked about their situation. They focused only on what
they saw and felt in the moment. Instead of being grateful for their deliverance and the
promise of a wonderful homeland ahead, they questioned God’s motive for delivering them
from Egypt. They railed at Moses. They belittled the provision God gave them (guidance by
day and night, and manna from Heaven). Ex 16:1-3; Ex 17:1-3; Num 21:4-5
2. Paul didn’t ignore or deny the unpleasantness of his circumstances or the physical harshness
and emotional and mental distress they generated. He acknowledged God and His help.
A. The Greek word that is translated boast in these passages means to boast, but it is also
translated rejoice in several places including Phil 3:3. In other words, Paul rejoiced in his
weaknesses because they provided an opportunity for God to show Himself strong.
B. You may recall that in a previous lesson we pointed out that when David was on the run for
his life, he wrote, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in God; I will praise His Word (Ps
56:3-4)”. David used a Hebrew word for praise that means to boast.
3. This is the same letter where in the context of his many troubles, Paul wrote about being
sorrowful yet rejoicing (II Cor 6:10), and used the Greek word that means to be cheerful.
c. Let’s go back to Paul’s letter to the Philippians. At the end of his letter he thanked them for sending
financial help to him and made several statements about how he made it through hardships.
1. Phil 4:11-12—Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether
I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned
the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or
A. The Greek word translated get along happily means content or needing no assistance.
Another translation says it this way: I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the
point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am (Phil 4:11, Amp).
B. Notice, Paul said that he had to learn how to do this, and that he was able to respond this
way because he knew some things.
2. He learned the secret of living in every situation: Phil 4:13—I have strength for all things in
Christ Who empowers me—I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who
infuses inner strength into me, [that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency (Amp).
4. Consider another statement Paul made about God’s faithfulness to him in the hard times. It is found in
the same letter to the Corinthians that we’ve already referred to.
a. II Cor 4:7—But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shines within us—is held in
perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So that everyone can see that our glorious power
is from God and not our own (NLT).
b. II Cor 4:8-10—We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We
are perplexed, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep
going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life
of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (NLT).
1. Paul knew that Jesus—God with him and God in him by His Spirit—would get him through
whatever he faced—good or bad. Paul knew that the Lord is able to bring genuine good out of
genuine bad, and cause everything to serve His ultimate purpose for a family of sons and
daughters who are like Jesus in character, holiness, and love. Rom 8:28; Eph 1:9-11
2. Thus, Paul could say: For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet
they produce for us an immeasurable great glory that will last forever. So we don’t look at the
troubles we can see right now; rather we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the
troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever (II Cor 4:17-18, NLT).
5. Back to Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In this letter Paul addressed the tendency we all have to fixate
on what we see and feel in the moment and then speculate about what might happen. All we can see,
think, or talk about is the problem and how we feel about it—and we worry and we complain.
a. Just before Paul thanked the Philippians for their financial gift, and told them how he gets along
happily (is content) no matter his circumstances, he wrote the following passage:
1. Phil 4:6-7—Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you
need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace,
which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your
hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (NLT).
A. Notice, Paul instructed us that when we face a circumstance that generates worry and fear,
we should tell God what we need—and then thank Him for all that He has done.
B. There is always something to thank God for in every circumstance—the good He has
already done, the good He is doing, and the good that He will do.
2. Note the very next thing Paul wrote: Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and
right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are
excellent and worthy of praise (Phil 4:8, NLT).
A. Thanking and praising God helps you do this. Continual praise and thanksgiving to Him
helps you keep your thoughts in the right place—on Him—since He is true and honorable
and right. He is pure, lovely, and admirable. He is excellent and worthy of praise.
B. Continual praise and thanksgiving helps you get control of your mouth, mind, and
emotions. It helps you magnify God instead of the problem.
b. Earlier in this letter, Paul reminded the Philippians that they should live in the light of the fact that
God by His Spirit is in them—the same God who strengthened Paul as he faced his troubles. Paul
told them that they should stay away from complaining so that God can shine brightly through them.
1. Phil 2:12-13—And now that I am away you must be even more careful to put into action God’s
saving work in your lives, with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving
you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him (NLT).
2. Phil 2:14-16—In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one
can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of
God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before
C. Conclusion: We need to develop the habit of responding to life’s troubles with continual thanksgiving and
praise to God. We have more to say next week, but consider these three thoughts as we close.
1. Developing a habit is a process. Start by praising God when you are driving or walking or working,
when nothing big is happening and your mind is wandering. Use that time profitably.
2. In the beginning, you may be halfway through a less than Christ-like outburst before you realize—I need
to stop this and praise God. You may feel angry as you express praise. At least you’re praising God,
which stops you from sinning in your anger (Eph 4:26). You’re moving in the right direction.
3. It takes time and effort to develop the habit, but it is worth it. Not only will it help you fulfill your
created purpose (to glorify God), it will help you have peace of mind in the midst of life’s hardships.