Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

What We Have to be Thankful for

  • Rick Warren
  • Updated May 04, 2021
What We Have to be Thankful for

What we have to be thankful for
Consider these four reasons for giving thanks to God
by Rick Warren

This month, our entire nation will celebrate Thanksgiving. The irony of it is that very little thanks to God will get done! We are so busy cooking, entertaining, watching football, and eating that, at best, about the only real thanks is in a single prayer before the big meal. And it's done by one person. We miss the fact that the whole point of the holiday is to give thanks to God for what he's done in our lives.

So today I want to share with you how you can make this Thanksgiving different. It starts with realizing that everything you own and everything you are comes from God. The Bible says in 1 Chronicles 29:16 "Everything has come from you and everything belongs to You." (NCV)

When we start saying, "What can we be thankful for?" we really have to thank God for everything. But I have a few favorite things I like to thank God for. This Thanksgiving, consider using these four favorites - or choosing some favorites of your own - to spend your day giving thanks to God.

1. I'm grateful to God for the grace he's shown to me.

The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8: "You have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God." What is grace? Grace is everything God does for you even though you don't deserve it.

In Psalm 103, there's a laundry list of just some of the things God does in our lives by grace. The writer says, "I will not forget the glorious things God does for me. He forgives all my sins. He heals me. He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with love. He fills my life with good things. He is merciful and tender to those who don't deserve it. He is slow to get angry. He never bears a grudge. He has not punished us as we deserve for our sins." Are those things to be thankful for? I'd say so.

When I think about the grace of God, my heart explodes with gratitude. Before I met Christ, I was hopeless - headed for hell with no hope for the future. I never would have been good enough to earn my salvation. But God came along in his wonderful love and said, "I'm just going to show you grace." So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful to God for the grace that he has shown me.

2. I am thankful to God for the plan he has for me.

Because I'm alive, I know God has a plan for my life. And he has a plan for your life too. Though your parents may not have planned you, God did. And God's plan is good.

In Jeremiah 29:11, God says, "I have good plans for you. I don't plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future." God doesn't say that his plan for your life is all happiness and comfort. God's plan sometimes includes pain, disappointments, and unanswered prayers. But we don't have to worry about God's plan or be afraid of it. God's plan is so great that he even takes our faults, our failures, and the things that other people do to hurt us and he weaves them into something good.

The more I stay in the center of God's plan for my life, the more my true potential comes out. God says: "I have good plans for you." I'm grateful for those plans.

3. I'm grateful for the home he's prepared for me in heaven.

2 Corinthians 5:1 says, "We know that our body will be destroyed. But when that happens God will have a house for us. It will not be a house made by human hands. Instead it will be a home in heaven that will last forever." Human beings were made to last forever. One day your body is going to die, but that's not going to be the end of you. The Bible says you were created in God's image, and that means you have a soul. You will spend eternity one of two places - heaven or hell, depending on whether you received Christ and trusted his grace or not. Jesus talked a lot about heaven and hell, and he says they're real places.

As a Christian, I don't have to fear the future. I know I'm going to heaven. Does everybody go to heaven? Absolutely not. Heaven is only for God's children. How do you get to be his child? By asking in faith to become a part of his family, by trusting in his son, Jesus Christ.

Are you ready to die? Only a fool would go all through life totally unprepared for something you know is inevitably going to happen. You know you're going to die; it's just a matter of time. But we don't have to be afraid of that. If we've trusted Christ and his grace, he's going to take us to heaven. And I'm grateful for that. A home in heaven!

What is heaven like? I describe it in four words:

  • Reunited: In heaven, we're going to be reunited with loved ones who are believers.
  • Rewarded: The Bible says in heaven we will be rewarded for our faith, our service, our trust in Christ, and our faithfulness in praying and serving and giving and sharing.
  • Reassigned: In heaven, we will all be reassigned new, fulfilling tasks.
  • Released: The Bible says that in heaven we will all be released from pain, fear, depression, sorrow, conflict, tears, and stress; instead, there will be great joy.

I know my life's finish line. I know the end of the story. No matter what happens in the rest of my life, I'm ending up in heaven. I'm thankful for that.

4. I'm thankful to God for the changes he's making in me.

My heart explodes when I think about this: I am so glad that I am not the same person I used to be. God is helping make changes in my life that I could never do on my own.

God sees my potential - and your potential - when nobody else sees it. When everybody else is writing you off as worthless, God says, "No, I see the diamond in you. I made you and I value you. I'm going to start making some changes in you."

If you're a Christian, God started that personal improvement program in you the moment you became a believer. Though God loves you just the way you are, he loves you far too much to let you stay that way.

Philippians 2:13 says, "God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him." God never asks you to do something he doesn't give you the power to do.

Jesus has the power to change you that nobody else does. I have seen Jesus change wife beaters into loving husbands, addicts in the street into responsible citizens, pompous business people into unselfish servants of God. I've seen God put marriages back together that were filled with daggers of hate. Only God can make those kinds of changes in our lives. And I am so thankful.

The power of thanksgiving

There's a great story in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas, two of the first Christians, are thrown in prison. In a dark, dank jail at midnight they decide to start thanking God. They start singing and praising God - and God does a miracle. He sends an earthquake that rattles all the jail doors loose. The jailer says, "I'm going to kill myself because all the prisoners are loose now."

Paul says, "No, we're all here."

The jailer says, "What kind of prisoners are you?"

"Christians," Paul says.

So the jailer takes Paul and Silas to his home and Paul tells them about Christ. That night the jailer's whole family accepts the Lord.

Paul and Silas's prison doors were unlocked when they began to praise and thank God. What prison are you in? An emotional prison? A financial prison? A relational prison? Are you locked up with guilt? Are you locked up with worry? Are you locked up with discouragement and disappointment? Are you locked up in a habit that you can't break loose from? Conflict? Whatever it is, start thanking God. And watch the prison doors open wide.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times best seller The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers.

Used with permission.  Copyright 2006 by Purpose Drive Life. All rights reserved.