Thanks Be To God


I have a great love for the classic hymns of Western Christianity, and one of my favorites is by the Scottish pastor and hymnist Horatius Bonar. It’s a prayer for God to fill him with a spirit of praise and thanksgiving. It says in part:

Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God,
In every part with praise,
That my whole being may reflect
Thy being and Thy ways.

Fill every part of me with praise;
Let all my being speak
Of Thee and of Thy love, O Lord,
Poor though I be, and weak.

So shall each fear, each fret, each care
Be turned into a song,
And every winding of the way
The echo shall prolong;

So shall no part of day or night
From sacredness be free;
But all my life, in every step
Be fellowship with Thee.

When the Lord begins to answer that prayer and to fill us with praise and thanksgiving, there are two great repercussions. First, the Lord is blessed spiritually; and that’s the primary thing. All our praise and thanksgiving is directed toward Him. But second, there is a collateral result. We are blessed psychologically. God created our spirits to praise Him and to thank Him. When we engage in that activity, we are doing what we were made to do, and that meets huge mental, emotional, and psychological needs within us. God is blessed spiritually; and we are blessed psychologically.

That means it is therapeutic to study everything we can find on the subject of praise and thanksgiving in the Bible. And with that in mind, I want to show you a statement that is made exactly six times in Scripture.

In the Bible there’s a phrase that occurs exactly six times in three consecutive books of the Bible: “Thanks Be to God!” Here is an outline of the references as a tool to help you conduct your own study in Scripture. Think of it as a mental gratitude walk through three of Paul’s letters and see the apostle Paul used this phrase:

1. Thanks Be to God for Redeeming Our Souls – Romans 6:16-17

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

When I was a young adult, Alex Haley wrote a powerful novel about slavery—Roots. It became a miniseries, and it was very difficult to watch. The Africans who were captured, stuffed onto ships, torn from their loved ones, flogged, abused. That’s what slavery does. And when we are enslaved by sin, the abuse is self-destructive to us and deadly. But thanks be to God, He sets us free. The very word “Redemption” means to be purchased out of slavery and set free.

2. Thanks Be to God for Victory Over Our Fallen Flesh – Romans 7:21-25

So I find this law at work:  When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?   Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Even though our souls are redeemed, we’re still waiting for the redemption of our bodies, which will occur at the resurrection (See Romans 8:23). Our bodies (our “flesh”) wars against our spirit. The passions that come from our bodies and minds can defeat us, but thanks be to God, He has provided for that too. Paul honestly discusses his own struggle with the temptations of the flesh, but he goes on in Romans 8 to give us the secret to consistent victory—the indwelling Holy Spirit who makes us more than conquerors through our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Thanks Be to God Who Will Redeem our Bodies at the Resurrection – 1 Corinthians 15:47-57

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I tell you a mystery:  We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:  “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  Where, O death is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus has redeemed our souls, and He has provided the Holy Spirit to give us victory over our as-yet unredeemed flesh. But one day our bodies will be resurrected, free from temptation, vice, sin, and deadly impulse. Thanks be to God for that.

4. Thanks Be to God Who Spreads His Message Through Us – 2 Corinthians 2:12-17

Now when I went to Troas to preach the Gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there, so I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.  But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.

As we’re awaiting the resurrection, we have the joyful task of sharing Christ with others. Like the woman who was always fragrant because she worked in a perfume factory, we also spread the fragrance of Christ to others. Thanks be to God for that!

5. Thanks Be to God for Enthusiastic Friends – 2 Corinthians 8:16-17

Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.

We don’t have to live or labor alone. Thanks be to God who gives us friends who share our concerns and our enthusiasm. 

6. Thanks Be to God for Jesus – 2 Corinthians 9:15

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Paul’s final use of the phrase, “Thanks be to God,” summarizes all the others. Thanks be to God for our Lord Jesus Christ—His incredible, indescribably gift.

Conclusion: Thanks be to God that Jesus has redeemed our souls; provided the Holy Spirit to help us with the temptations of the flesh until the resurrection and redemption of our bodies; spreads His message through us; gives us friends to help us; and most of all gives us all there is of Jesus!

The habit of thanksgiving can change your personality. Psychologists tell us that we all have pre-set personalities. Some of us are naturally melancholy; some sanguine; some introverted; some extroverted; some optimist, some pessimistic; some choleric, some phlegmatic. But whatever our personalities, the habit of gratitude and thanksgiving improves our spirits in notable ways. We can learn to take gratitude walks, keep gratitude lists, offer thanks over our food, go to sleep counting our blessings, and add this new phrase to our daily vocabulary: Thanks be to God!