By Annette Griffin, Crosswalk.com
Before you begin this 30-day challenge, take a moment to pause. Let your fingers rest from scrolling. Resist the urge to multitask. Don’t contemplate how you might fit this challenge into your busy schedule. Just breathe.
Thankfulness is not another chore. It’s a gift.
Thankfulness can change our perspective, short-circuit our temporal mindset, uproot our bitterness, and bolster our downtrodden spirits. Scientific research shows a link between thankfulness and a healthy immune system, ideal sleep patterns, strong relationships, and many other measurable benefits. Scripture offers powerful examples of those who utilized the gift of thankfulness and reaped a harvest of peace, healing, and strength—despite their circumstances.
With all the proven physical, spiritual, and psychological benefits, why do we sometimes struggle with giving thanks in all circumstances? Do we view thankfulness as another discipline to master rather than a gift to accept and use?
1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” But within the same chapter is an often overlooked truth: “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
True thankfulness overflows from a wellspring of hope that already lives within us. When we incline our hearts to the truth about who God is, what He has done, is doing, and will do—thankfulness erupts from our satisfied souls, and our whole being joins the party.
Like every other act of worship, thankfulness is not expressed solely through the fruit of our lips—but also through the fruit of our lives (Hebrews 12:28). During this challenge, we’ll use our five senses as a theme to dive into scripture and celebrate the thanks-worthy attributes of God. On one day, we’ll give thanks. Another day, we’ll show gratitude. Then, we’ll take a day to pray for others who need hope.
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Day 1: Give Thanks for Spiritual Sight
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)
Before the Light of the World came to Earth as a baby, every human suffered from debilitating spiritual blindness. Humanity had no means of seeing or knowing the full truth because the Truth was still yet to come. When the Magi saw a star in the sky that would lead them to our newborn king, they rejoiced with great delight. They fixed their eyes on the star and traveled a vast distance until they could finally fall at the feet of Jesus and fix their eyes upon Him.
But when King Herod’s eyes were opened to the truth about the promised king, he reacted differently. The god of this age blinded his mind. He could not see that the light of the world, the very image of God, had come to save him from his spiritual blindness.
Today, thank God for Jesus! He is our light. Our sight. Our hope. Those who trust in Him no longer walk in darkness but have the light of life (John 8:12). Take a journey down memory lane to that moment when you first accepted Christ. Contemplate who you were before the transformation and who you might have become without it. Jot those memories down in a journal or as a letter to someone you love. Thank God for spiritual sight as you “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
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Day 2: Show Gratitude for Spiritual Sight
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.” (Ephesians 5:8-9)
In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, Paul explains how we, as beloved children of the light, should live. He lists the deeds of darkness, not as a checklist of don’ts, similar to Old Covenant law, but as a reminder of our freedom from sin, which Jesus already purchased. As children of the light, we have the privilege and power to lovingly go into dark places and shine the light of truth. We have the key to unlock the prison cells of those still held captive by sin—and share with them the Good News of Christ’s ransom (Ephesians 5:13-14).
Are you allowing Jesus to shine through you into the dark world, or are you hiding His light under a bushel of sin that no longer has any legal hold on you? Twice in this chapter of Ephesians, Paul encourages us to “give thanks” instead of giving in to sin (Ephesians 5:4, 20).
Your gratitude challenge: We can show gratitude for our spiritual sight by guiding others out of darkness. Today, identify any bushels that may keep your light hidden and throw off any entangling sin hindering your witness (Hebrews 12:1-3). Ask for divine appointments to let your light before others so they can see Jesus.
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Day 3: A Prayer for Those Who Lack Spiritual Sight
Father in Heaven, thank you for bringing us out of darkness and into your glorious light. Thank You for giving us eyes to see You, ourselves, and this world through Your truth. We pray for those who are still dwelling as captives in dark places, those still blinded to truth. Please open their eyes, Lord. Help them see Jesus, the light of the world whom you sent as a beacon. Thank you that you are the One who leads the blind in the way they should go. You’ve made a straight path for them through Your Son. Please guide them to that path so that your Word will be fulfilled and darkness will not overcome them.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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Day 4: Give Thanks to the God Who Sees You
“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29)
Invisibility might be an asset to a superhero, but it’s no fun for mere mortals. We want to be seen. We want to know we matter. We want to know that if we fall off the face of the earth tomorrow, someone will notice . . . and care.
In deep anguish, Sarah’s pregnant servant, Hagar, ran away to hide when her mistress could no longer stand the sight of her (Genesis 16:6). But the Lord’s eyes had never left Hagar. He met her beside a water spring in the wilderness to minister to her dry and weary soul. There, she gave Him the name El Roi, which means, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” Then she named the nearby spring Beer-lahai-roi, which means “well of the Living One who sees me.”
The Bible tells us about another woman near a well. About two thousand years after Hagar’s divine encounter, a woman in Samaria had a divine meeting. In John 4:5-30, we’re told that the Samaritan woman drew water from the well at an unusual time because she dared not show her face in public. Riddled with sin and scandal, the woman braved the scorching heat to avoid her searing shame. But Jesus, the living water, met her there and quenched her deepest need. He saw her. He knew her. He cared.
Today, thank God that He is the God who sees you. Even when you feel invisible or want to hide from the world and everyone in it, He sees you. He formed you in your mother’s womb. He knows every hair on your head. He counts all your tears. No pit too deep or wall too high will keep you from His presence. And nothing can separate you from His love. You are never alone. Ever (Psalm 56:8, Matthew 10:30, Psalm 139).
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Day 5: Show Gratitude to the God Who Sees You
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” (John 4:29a)
Yesterday, we discussed Hagar, Sarah’s pregnant servant, and the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well. After Hagar’s intimate encounter with El Roi and the Samaritan woman’s divine appointment with Jesus, both women put their thankfulness into action through acts of gratitude.
Hagar expressed her gratitude by obeying God’s command and returning home to Sarah,. The Samaritan woman expressed gratitude by rushing into her condemning community and begging them to see Jesus—the man who had seen her.
When we feel seen by the one, true, living God—His love fills an emptiness in us. That love compels us to love Him more and equips us to love others better. Through this cyclical love, God’s glory is always revealed.
Your gratitude challenge: How often do you see the people around you? Today, whether at home or away, make a concerted effort to look into the eyes of people God brings across your path. This exercise might be difficult in a world where most eyes stay glued to screens in spare moments. But you can show your gratitude for being seen by God by seeing others. Lift your eyes (1 John 4:35). When someone feels seen, they are more inclined to hear what you say. Be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you.
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Day 6: A Prayer for Those Who Feel Unseen
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for seeing us. The real us. And for loving us despite our insecurities, fears, and messy lives. We lift up those who don’t yet realize and may have forgotten that you are the God who sees. Help them to know they are never alone. Open the eyes of their understanding. If they’re lonely, draw them to You in their time of need. Help them understand they can be real with you because you already know them. Help them realize that while they were yet sinners, Your Son died for them. If they’re trapped in sin, let your kindness lead them to repentance so they, like Hagar, can truly see the One who sees them
In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
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Day 7: Give Thanks for Spiritual Ears
“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Have you ever wondered why, in Mark 7:33, Jesus healed the deaf man in such an unusual way? Undoubtedly, our Savior could have accomplished the miracle by the sheer act of His will. But instead, Jesus poked his fingers into the deaf man’s ears and said, “Ephphatha!” which means “be opened.” Every Believer experiences the miracle of Ephphatha during our rebirth. Along with our new hearts and eyes, we’re given open ears to rightly hear and understand God’s Word through the aid of His Holy Spirit.
In the parable of the sower and seed, in Matthew 13, Jesus explains that not everyone with human ears can hear or receive the truth. According to the parable, there are five different kinds of hearers: those who hear God’s Word with no understanding and are robbed of the truth; those who hear God’s Word with understanding and even joy, but when faced with trouble or persecution, they forget the truth; those who hear the Word with understanding, yet allow worry and worldly pleasures to corrupt the truth; and finally, there are hearers who receive and understand the Word, and bear good fruit from the truth planted in them (Mark 4:13-20).
Today, thank God that He opened your ears to hear and receive the Gospel. Ephphatha! Thank Him for His life-giving Spirit who brings His truth to life. Thank Him that you are His sheep and have been given ears to hear the voice of your Good Shepherd (John 10:27-28).
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Day 8: Show Gratitude for Spiritual Ears
“Consider carefully what you hear … With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more.” (Mark 4:24)
Although the Holy Spirit gives all believers spiritual ears as part of their rebirth, that doesn’t mean we always listen to what the Spirit says. At any given chance, our pesky old nature will take advantage of our free will and urge us to pull on a pair of spiritual noise-canceling headphones. That’s why fourteen times in scripture, Jesus gives this reminder: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The more we resist Satan’s ploy to dull our hearing, the more we benefit from using our spiritual ears. Our new selves gain power as our new ears thrive on the nourishment of God’s Word. The more we get, the more we want. Soon, we’re so full of the Word that we’re forced to find an outlet. We graduate from hearers to doers to sharers of the Word when His truth takes root in our hearts, and His Spirit springs up a crop of righteousness in and through us.
Your gratitude challenge: When was the last time you read the Bible for fun—not as a scheduled daily reading or as part of study, but just for pleasure? Reading our Bibles as a daily discipline or for a structured study is wonderful and needed. But for today’s challenge, pick up your Bible and prayerfully choose a Psalm. Read, listen, and hear what the Spirit has to say. We can show gratitude for our spiritual ears by delighting in His living word and letting it have its way in and through us.
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Day 9: A Prayer for Those Lacking Spiritual Ears
Precious Lord, thank you for giving us ears to hear your Word rightly, and thank you for giving us your Spirit, who leads us into all the truth. We pray for those who are so bombarded by the world’s clamor, their own lies, and the enemy’s deceit that they have no way of hearing Your truth. You are the God of Ephphatha. Please open their ears, Father. Break up their stony hearts and create fertile ground for your life-giving Word. Lord, please orchestrate divine appointments for them to hear the Gospel through Your Spirit’s power so they can receive Your incorruptible seed and bear fruit for Your glory.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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Day 10: Give Thanks that God Hears Your Prayers
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14)
Under the Old Covenant system, only God’s appointed priests dared approach the inner parts of the Tabernacle. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies. As the chief mediator between sinful Israel and their Holy God, the priests offered blood sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16). When Jesus died on the cross, that system changed. As our Lord took His last breath, the thick curtain between the Temple’s outer courts and the Holy of Holies was torn in two, giving all who put their trust in Jesus access to the throne room of God—on earth and in Heaven.
All who have been reconciled with God by faith in Jesus are invited to approach His throne of grace confidently. We do this through prayer. We can be sure God hears our prayers because we are in His presence. His ear is always attentive. He never sleeps nor slumbers.
Every whispered prayer, every shouted prayer, every tearful prayer, and even those prayers we dare not utter aloud—God hears, remembers, and answers them. He may not always answer our prayers according to our expectations. His ways are not our ways. But we can always count on receiving mercy, grace, and help in our time of need when we pray to Him (Hebrews 4:16).
Today, thank God for access to His throne room. Thank Jesus for His costly sacrifice. Give thanks for Christ’s intercession at the Father’s right hand and His ability to save us to the uttermost as we draw near to Him (Hebrews 7:23-25).
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Day 11: Show Gratitude for God Hearing Your Prayers
It’s easy to lose heart during long seasons of waiting on God. Each day without an answer to prayer brings the temptation to believe God has turned a deaf ear to our request. If you’re in a tough season of waiting right now, “Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call” (Isaiah 59:1).
If we pray according to His will and find ourselves in a spiritual waiting room, we can be sure God is not ignoring us. Based on the bigger picture, We can trust He’s busy behind the scenes working all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
Even if we pray amiss, we can be sure God isn’t ignoring us. God’s hard nos in our lives are gifts of mercy; they work together for good every bit as much as His yeses do (Romans 8:29). God loves us. He hears us. He wants us to talk with Him, cast our cares upon Him, thank Him, and yes, he welcomes our supplication. But the best thing when we draw near to God in prayer is He draws near to us. And in His presence, we find everything we need for life.
Your gratitude challenge: How’s your prayer life? When was the last time you set aside your day-to-day routine and found a quiet place to meet with God—just to tell Him you love Him? Today, make an appointment with God. Whether you spend 5 minutes or 5 hours, give God your undivided attention for that allotted time. Set aside your prayer requests and dedicate those moments in God’s presence to express joy and satisfaction in who He is (Psalm 37:4).
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Day 12: A Prayer of Thanksgiving to the God Who Hears
Father in Heaven, no matter where we are or what time of day, we can lift our prayer to You and know we’re heard. Thank you for that gift, Lord. We praise you for your power, faithfulness, and attentive ear. We thank You for answering the deepest prayers of our hearts, even when we can’t find the words or strength to utter them aloud. Thank you for strengthening our faith by answering our petitions. Thank you for your mercy-filled no and your victory-filled yes. Thank you that you don’t require religious phrasing, vain repetition, or the right incantation to merit your attention. Keep a watch over the door of our hearts, Oh God who hears, and set a guard on our lips. May our prayers flow from your Spirit within us and rise like incense to your throne of grace.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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Day 13: Give Thanks for Physical and Spiritual Bread
Even though grocery prices are skyrocketing across our nation, very few of us in the Western part of the world have ever experienced the gnawing ache of starvation. When the human body goes for a prolonged period without proper nourishment, it eats away at internal reserves to survive. Vital organs malfunction, the immune system weakens, and eventually, the body scavenges the last stores of protein, making death imminent.
It’s easy to take for granted the nourishment a single grape provides unless you haven’t eaten for several days. Then, that dainty morsel becomes a feast, a lifeline, and a ray of hope. Still, as thankful as you may be for that grape, its benefits are short-lived. When Jesus multiplied a few loaves and fishes to feed over five thousand hungry seekers (John 6), the crowd was astonished, overjoyed, and ready to make Jesus their king because of the dainty morsels.
Like the wandering Israelites in the Old Testament wilderness story, Jesus’s seekers filled their bellies with miracle food without realizing that Jesus, the Bread of Life, wanted to satiate a deeper, more pressing hunger that ached within them. The day after He fed the five thousand, Jesus revealed to His followers that He had come to give them better nourishment— new life through His body and blood. The shocking statement caused many disciples to desert Jesus that day with their bellies full and their souls emaciated. Only 12 remained.
Today, thank God for providing every morsel of food in your refrigerator, pantry, and table. Thank Him that your grocery store shelves are stocked, and pray for those who have less than you. Most importantly, thank Him for the Bread of Life, who sustains us for all eternity.
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Day 14: Show Gratitude for Physical and Spiritual Bread
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matthew 25:35).
In Matthew 25, Jesus describes what will happen during the world’s final judgment. He likens the event to a shepherd who separates his sheep from his goats. The sheep in the parable represent people who know God and are known by God during the final judgment. The goats represent others who think they know God and even call Him “Lord” but are deceived. In the end, God tells the goats that He never knew them. He casts them from His presence “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
One distinguishable difference lies between the blessed sheep and the rejected goats in Jesus’s parable. The sheep fed, cared for, and sacrificially loved people in need, as unto the Lord. The goats did not. The parable is a sobering reminder that those who truly belong to Jesus care about—and care for—the people and things that matter to Him.
Did you know that 828 million people worldwide go hungry every day? Every year, over nine million people die from hunger-related causes. When we love others by caring for their physical needs, it often allows us to feed their spiritual needs.
Your gratitude challenge: We can show gratitude for God’s bountiful gifts by sharing what we have with others. Prayerfully consider the plight of hungry people in your community. Stuff a backpack with nonperishable food items, a warm blanket, socks, toiletries, a Bible, and a handwritten note of encouragement. Place the backpack in your vehicle and ask God to bring someone in need across your path. Also, consider helping hungry neighbors in your city or globally by volunteering your time or a portion of your grocery budget to your local food bank or a reputable global outreach like Samaritan’s Purse.
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Day 15: A Prayer for Physically and Spiritually Hungry People
Dear Lord, You are the Lord of the Harvest. Everything we have was given to us by Your gracious, loving hand. And it all belongs to You. Thank you for your provision for our everyday needs. Thank you for sending the Bread of Life to fill a deeper void that will sustain us forever. We cry out to you on behalf of those hungry in our communities and our world. You hear their cries. Help us hear them, too. Use us as instruments of Your provision, love, grace, and care. As we help fill their bellies by sharing Your gracious gifts, open opportunities and hearts to receive the Bread of Life so they’ll never be spiritually hungry again.
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Day 16: Give Thanks for Jesus’s Body and Blood
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)
During the Last Supper, our Lord gave His disciples (and all future believers) two tokens of love to remember His impending sacrifice. Jesus could have picked a variety of foods from the Seder plate that evening to use as symbolic elements. But he broke a loaf of bread and likened it to His pure, spotless body, which would soon be nailed to a cross as a ransom for our sins. Then He poured a cup of wine to represent His priceless, perfect blood, which He would soon shed to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
In “Why Bread and Wine? Enjoying the Meal Above All Meals,” John Piper explains the ordinance of communion this way: “Bread and wine, loaf and cup: in these two ordinary elements, our crucified, risen, and reigning Lord declares to us his victories. He tells us who we are. And he gives us a taste of his coming kingdom when he will again preside over a supper, this time with no coming sorrow.”
Today, thank Jesus for living a sinless life. Thank Him for silently enduring the torture and torment of the cross as a ransom—for you. Thank Him for pouring out His blood as a drink offering—for you.
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Day 17: Show Gratitude for Jesus’s Body and Blood
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8)
In our discussion on day thirteen of this challenge, we discussed how Jesus amassed many followers and disciples during the climax of His ministry. The crowd gathered to hear him was so enamored with Jesus’s teaching and His ability to feed them that they were ready to take the teacher by force and make Him their king. His star-struck disciples still didn’t fully understand Jesus’s true mission. They were likely on board with the crowd’s desire to begin an earthly regime under Jesus’s rule.
But Jesus turned the tide of their fandom when He declared, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:54).
Only twelve remained under Jesus’s discipleship after His announcement. The others fled because they could not accept the mandate, which seemed to suggest cannibalism. Even those who stayed were disturbed by the hard teaching. When Jesus asked the twelve if they wanted to leave Him too, Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:38).
Peter had already tasted and seen that the Lord was good—in every sense of the word. Even though the apostle still didn’t fully comprehend Jesus’s ways, plans, or even His words, Peter knew that he had nowhere to go apart from Jesus.
Gratitude challenge: Where do you run when life gets hard or confusing? Is Jesus the One to whom you run first? Is He your place of refuge? If not, draw near to Him today, and remember. The Bible doesn’t suggest a specific time or place to observe the Lord’s Supper. Jesus simply said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Today, read the following scripture passages. Prepare the elements. Take communion. Taste. And remember Jesus’s sacrifice of love for you (Luke 22:19-20; Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
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Day 18: A Prayer of Thanks for Jesus’s Body and Blood
Father God, thank You for making heaven, earth, and this whole universe. Thank you for forming us from the dust and breathing into Adam’s nostrils to give life to all humanity. Thank you that when we sinned against you and forfeited Your precious gift of life, you sent your only son as a sin offering.
Thank you, Jesus, for giving Yourself as a pure and spotless lamb to pay our sin debt. Thank you that Your blood washes us white as snow. Thank you, precious Savior, for being the resurrection and the life and giving new life to all who believe in You!
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Day 19: Give Thanks that Death No Longer Stings or Stinks
“‘Take away the stone,’” he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days’” (John 11:39).
In John 11, we read about Mary, Martha, and Lazurus—two sisters and a brother who live in the small village of Bethany. Jesus loves this family dearly, so when he receives word that Lazurus has fallen seriously ill, he tells his disciples to pack up and get ready to go to Lazurus’s aid, a day’s journey away. Having just experienced persecution and death threats near Bethany, his disciples fear for Jesus’s life and try to talk their master out of another road trip. But Jesus insists.
By the time the entourage arrives in Bethany, Lazarus has been dead for four days. Mourners congregate around his sealed tomb. Mary and Martha are distraught, knowing if Jesus had arrived sooner, their brother would surely be alive. Jesus assures the grieving sisters that death has no bearing on the situation and instructs them to remove Lazurus’s gravestone. Martha resists, reminding Jesus that the stench of death will be unbearable. But Jesus insists.
After the stone is rolled away from the dead man’s tomb, Jesus shouts, “Lazarus, come out!” Wrapped in strips of linen cloth from head to toe, Lazurus emerges from the tomb, and Jesus commands the shocked onlookers to remove his graveclothes (John 11:43-44).
Today, thank God that when you received your new life in Christ, He replaced your graveclothes with His righteous robes. Thank Him that you no longer have to be afraid of the sting of death or the stench of your sins because you’ve been made alive in Him forever. (1 Corinthians 15:56, 2 Corinthians 5:15-21, Zechariah 3:1-4).
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Day 20: Show Gratitude that Death No Longer Stings or Stinks
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
Lazarus’s resurrection was the last straw for the Pharisees, who were sick of being upstaged by Jesus and His miracles. Although they had dedicated their lives to the outward display of piety, they had no power or real relationship with God. These religious leaders were so squeaky clean on the outside and so filthy on the inside that Jesus became disgusted with their hypocrisy and pronounced a whole chapter of “woes” upon them in Matthew 23.
Legalism and hypocrisy are cancerous sins. They lurk in the hidden places of a Christian’s heart and feed on unrepentant pride. These sins are more difficult to self-diagnose because the bearer of the disease often views their self-righteousness as a holy commission. And they can usually manipulate scripture to back up the theory. Such was the case with the Pharisees until Jesus called them out in a burst of righteous indignation.
When Jesus called Lazarus out of his tomb to live again, the dead man complied. But the Pharisees’ pride had already petrified their dead hearts. They were “full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27).
Your gratitude challenge: This new life Jesus purchased for us is priceless. We can show gratitude for our resurrection by caring for our spiritual health. Doctors recommend routine physical exams as an important component of preventative health care. Likewise, scripture recommends checkups to ensure our spiritual well-being (2 Corinthians 13:5). Today, use this spiritual checkup list to check for and treat any cancerous sin.
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Day 21: A Prayer for Those Still Dead in Their Sins
Loving Father, Your grace never ceases to amaze us. You rolled away the stones of our hardened hearts and gave us new hearts of flesh that beat for You. Then You breathed Your Spirit into our souls to make us live again. What kind of love is this? How wonderful, how merciful, how marvelous You are, Lord! Thank you, Jesus!
We pray for those who are still walking corpses in this land, which is no longer our home. They are full of dead man’s bones, but nothing is impossible for You. You are the God who brings dry bones back to life. Please take them out of the miry clay of sin and destruction. Place their feet on the rock of salvation. Remove their old hearts of stone and give them a new heart that beats only for You. Breathe Your life-giving Spirit into them, Lord. Make them whole and new through Jesus’s precious blood. Then, put a new song in their mouths so that many will hear it and know You are God.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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Day 22: Give Thanks that God is Worthy of Worship
“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:2)
John 12 opens with a celebration dinner for Jesus, hosted by the recently resurrected Lazarus and his two sisters. A familiar scene takes shape after Jesus, the disciples, and Lazurus recline at the dinner table. Reminiscent of Jesus’s first shared meal with these friends, in Luke 10:38-42, we see Martha again single-handedly serving her honored guests while Mary plants herself at Jesus’s feet.
But Martha and Mary are not the same women they were at Jesus’s first visit. We don’t hear Martha complain about the inequity of work. And Mary is no longer content to sit at the feet of their esteemed guest.
Instead, Mary kneels at the feet of her Savior—the resurrector of the dead, the author, perfector, and keeper of her brother’s new life and hers. She opens a bottle of perfume (worth over $50,000 by today’s standards) and saturates Jesus’s pre-scarred feet with the costly ointment.
Then, in reckless abandon, Mary bows lower. She lays her hair, her crown of glory, upon Jesus’s feet to wipe away the excess oil. Scripture tells us that the fragrance of the perfume filled the whole house, but the fragrance of Mary’s lavish worship undoubtedly filled a larger arena.
Today, thank God He is supremely and exclusively worthy of your lavish worship. Take an inventory of all the unique ways God has shown you His love this year, and thank Him for each one.
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Day 23: Show Gratitude that God is Worthy of Worship
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)
Not everyone at the dinner party we discussed in yesterday’s reading was thrilled about Mary’s extravagant act of worship (John 12:4-6). Judas Iscariot questioned why Mary’s expensive perfume wasn’t sold to benefit low-income people. But Jesus knew the heart of his greedy disciple, so he answered Judas’s insolent objection by saying, “Leave her alone, She has kept this perfume in preparation for the day of My burial” (John 12:7).
All humans worship something or someone. We can’t help it. Our Creator designed and equipped us for adoration. Some people spend their whole lives pursuing a worthy subject for their unbridled affection. Others squander their worship on people and things that they can never satisfy. But Mary, who had already discovered the one needful thing at Jesus’s feet, found the one worthy outlet for her worship in the same place. So can we.
Gratitude challenge: Mary’s wordless adoration spoke volumes. The fragrance of her worship filled the house and captured everyone’s attention, but her heart, soul, mind, and strength remained fixed upon the One she worshiped. We can show gratitude for God’s worthiness when we worship Him in Spirit and Truth. Today, fast one meal and use that time to praise God for his infinite worth.
“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.” (Psalm 96:4-6)
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Day 24: A Prayer of Worship
Oh Lord our God, You are the great I am. The One who was, and is, and is to come. We’re left speechless when we consider all You’ve done and all You are. Our lips cannot utter words adequate enough to describe your beauty, splendor, and majesty. But we humbly offer our clumsy words of adoration because You are worthy to receive all honor, glory, and praise. We join the angels and Heavenly creatures in declaring you are infinitely Holy. You and You alone deserve all our worship, Lord, and not just the fruit of our lips. You deserve nothing less than all we have and all we are. We bow our hearts, knees, and will in submission to Your perfect plan, for we are not our own.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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Day 25: Give Thanks for God’s Loving Embrace
“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
God so wanted to bridge the gap between Himself and fallen humanity that He sent His only son to die as a sin-offering. And even more unfathomable—God made this incredible sacrifice while we, the sinful ones, were still widening the gap (Romans 5:8).
In Luke 15, Jesus describes God’s unfailing love through the story of the prodigal son. In the parable, the younger son of a wealthy man demands his inheritance early. When the father acquiesces, the son grabs the loot and hits the road. He squanders his newfound wealth on worldly pleasures in a faraway land. After he finds himself destitute, starving, and in a literal pigsty, bearing the consequence of his sinful choices, the son finally comes to his senses.
With his haughty head bowed low, the son journeys home, hoping his father will hire him as a servant. Little does he know, his father has been watching and waiting the whole time, longing to be reunited with his beloved son. While the young man is still far off, his father spots him on the road in the distance. He runs to his son, throws his arms around him, and kisses him. When the son asks for a job, his father refuses him. Instead, with pure joy, the father prepares a feast in his son’s honor, showers him with gifts, and affirms his place in the family (Luke 15:11-32).
Today, thank God for His eternal embrace and loving refusal to let you go. Thank Him for His unfailing love, shown supremely through Jesus’s sacrifice and continues to be shown through countless kisses of grace daily.
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Day 26: Show Gratitude for God’s Loving Embrace
Jesus’s parable about the prodigal son is a rich reminder of God’s unfailing love for us and a powerful example of how He expects us to love others.
God gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, not because we deserved it and not because He felt obligated to pluck His wretched creation from their pit of sinfulness. He paid the ransom out of love. His love is not a fickle human emotion. It’s a perpetual embrace that girds, surrounds, engulfs, and never lets go. God is love. His love for us is tied to who He is. And He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. Oh, that we would have the power, together with all Christians, to grasp just how wide, long, high, and deep is His love (Ephesians 3:18).
When we understand the depth of love God has for us, we’re empowered to pay the debt of love He expects of us (1 John 4:19). We show our gratitude for God’s unfailing love when we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, our neighbors, and even our enemies—with His perfect love.
Your gratitude challenge: Prayerfully ask God to show you any area in your life where your debt of love is outstanding. Read the following scripture passages and listen for what the Holy Spirit may tell you about your relationships: John 15:12-13, Luke 6:35-36, Romans 12:9-10, 1 John 3:16-18, 1 Corinthians 13:1-2. If God reveals a shortfall in your love life, repent. Ask God to fill you with His love and request divine opportunities to pay it forward.
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Day 27: A Prayer for the Prodigal
Lord Jesus, thank you for your constant intercession for those who are Yours. We lift those who have received your salvation and have gone astray. Forgive them, Lord. Have mercy on them. Awaken them and bring them to their senses like the prodigal son in Your word. Open their eyes. Cause them to recognize their sin as squalor and long for home. You are their home. Stir up in them a hunger and thirst that can’t be quenched by any other source than Your living water. Flood their minds and even their dreams with every verse and line of scripture planted in them. Your Word does not return void. Thank you for your promise that not one of these prodigals will be snatched from Jesus’s hand. Have Your way with them. For Your ways are good. Your plan for them is good. You are good. And we trust You to see to completion the good work You began in them.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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Day 28: Give Thanks for God’s Righteous Right Hand
“After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19)
Our Father’s mighty right hand laid the earth’s foundation and spread the heavens. His right hand has strengthened and upheld His people since the beginning of time. With His right hand, He has equipped warriors for battle, cradled suffering children, comforted the brokenhearted, and delivered captives (Isaiah 41:10-13, Isaiah 48:13, Psalm 139:10).
God’s righteous right hand is the ultimate symbol of His power, dignity, and authority. Is it any wonder that we catch Satan slinking around God’s right hand, acting as our accuser in Zechariah 3:1? Or that we see Salome, the mother of the sons of thunder, errantly vying for the prestigious position at the Lord’s right hand for one of her sons in Matthew 20:21? What Salome didn’t understand, and what Satan did, was that anyone who sits at God’s right hand asserts and affirms their equal status to Almighty God.
Only Jesus deserves the honor and glory of sitting at the Father’s right hand. He is God. He is God’s righteous right hand. When Jesus was raised from the dead, He took His rightful place in the heavenly realms far above all rule, authority, power, and dominion.
Today, thank God for His sovereign authority over all things. Thank Him that you were made alive in Christ Jesus and through grace and have been raised with Christ and seated in the heavenly realms so that His grace might shine through you now and forever (Ephesians 2:4-10).
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Day 29: Show Gratitude for God’s Righteous Right Hand
Because God is spirit, He does not require the aid of human appendages to accomplish His work. As we discussed in yesterday’s reading, God’s righteous right hand symbolizes his supreme power, dignity, and authority.
Other references to God’s hand in scripture symbolize His constant care. Just like a loving earthly Father uses his hands to hold, comfort, guide, instruct, and discipline his children, our loving Heavenly Father does the same. Psalm 27:10 tells us that the Lord will hold us close. Isaiah 41:10 reminds us to have courage because God supports us with his victorious hand. Isaiah 41:13 and Psalm 63:8 inform us that He takes hold of our hand in times of trouble.
In our old age, we are told that God’s hand will carry us (Isaiah 46:4). His hand will lead us (Psalm 139:10). His hand will guide us (2 Chronicles 30:12). His hand fills us with courage (Ezra 7:28). In fact, John 10:28 tells us, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” That’s a lot of holding power!
Your gratitude challenge: When we place our hand into the hand of another, it’s a sign of trust. If you’ve been hurt by someone you thought was trustworthy, you might be reluctant to surrender your hand and your wounded heart into God’s care. That’s okay. He is gentle, patient, and kind. Today, by faith, physically lift your hand to your Father in Heaven. Cast your cares upon Him through prayer and let His wounded hands heal you (Isaiah 53:5).
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Day 30: A Prayer of Blessing As We Finish the Challenge
Gracious Heavenly Father, thank You for all who participated in this challenge. I pray You will continue to open their eyes so they see the hope to which You’ve called them. Let them experience the truth of Ephphatha so they can hear Your word and live it. Fill them with the Bread of Life until they are so stuffed with You and Your Word that they can’t wait to give some away. Remove their lingering graveclothes, Lord, that they may be the sweet fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved. Uphold them with your righteous right hand and help them touch the lives of others who need hope. Help them live in You, for You, and through You, firmly planted, built up, strengthened in faith, and overflowing with thankfulness.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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