Small Group Curriculum

How Can I Give Thanks?

11.26.17 | Grateful

PREPARATION

STUDY | Spend the week studying Philippians 4:4–7. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.

DETERMINE | Many questions have been included in this guide. Read through this lesson to determine which questions will work best to encourage, push, and grow your group. 

PRAY | As you prepare, pray for the preaching of God’s Word this coming weekend. Pray also for your time in this week’s study and your group’s openness to God’s Word.

LANDING POINT | Understanding God’s grace turns our complaints into thanks.

Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion

  1. Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
  2. No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
  3. No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
  4. Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group. 

INTRODUCTION

As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.

Around Thanksgiving people often ask, “What are you thankful for?” Many point to their family, good health, a profitable year in business, etc. Of course, most of us could think of something to be thankful for. But what if you don’t exactly feel grateful? What if gratitude seems to be in short supply in you?

A 2015 New York Times article suggests that we can choose to be thankful, and doing this can actually make us happier. The author cites a 2003 study1 that asked one group in the study to keep a list of things they’re thankful for. The other group was asked to list difficulties or neutral things that affected them. After ten weeks, the first group enjoyed significantly greater life satisfaction than the others. “How does all this work? One explanation is that acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one’s brain into processing positive emotions.”2

The Bible says “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). God gives us good gifts, but the greatest gift He has given us is Himself. His grace gives us a new relationship with God, which gives us every reason to be thankful. And understanding God’s grace turns our complaints into thanks. That’s what your group will discuss this week as you explore Psalm 100.

Q: Why is it often easier to complain than be thankful?

Q: Discuss the following statement and whether you agree or disagree: It’s easier to act your way into a feeling than feel your way into an action.


LEARN

Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.

CALL TO PRAISE

Psalm 100 is a hymn of thanksgiving. It’s likely that this hymn was sung during festivals and feasts.3 The psalm focuses on God’s relationship with His people and how we are respond to that relationship. The psalm is short and simple in structure. It’s divided into two parts, and each part contains a call to praise God and a reason for giving Him praise and thanks.

The psalmist offers different ways we can express our thanks to God. We can state or declare (v.1 and 4), sing (v.2), or serve (v.2) with our thanks. There is festive joy in the psalmist’s voice as he directs God’s people to offer thanks with a loud voice for who God is and what He has done.

READ: Read Psalm 100. List three observations about the text related to giving thanks.

Q: Consider the different ways you can express thanks to God. What are some practical ways you could do one or all of them this week?

CELEBRATING THE RELATIONSHIP

Each call to give thanks in Psalm 100 relates, in some way, to God’s character. God is Creator. He is Shepherd. He is good and loving and faithful to His promises. The climax of the psalm is in the middle (v.3), where the psalmist confesses God as a God of relationship. He is our God and we are His people. His love knows no boundaries, and He has proven Himself faithful to every generation of believers.

Q: Name three things about God’s character that you are thankful for.

Q: What would it look for you to celebrate your relationship with God more? What would be different about you?


LIVE

Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.

FINDING GRACE, BEING THANKFUL

What do we learn from Psalm 100 about thanksgiving? Essentially, this psalm celebrates the grace of God we experience as believers. And when we experience God’s grace and our minds are overwhelmed by thoughts of it, thankfulness is sure to flow out of us. You cannot truly experience grace without being thankful. The two go hand in hand.

Q: Why can you not experience grace without being thankful?

FINDING CONTENTMENT, EXPERIENCING REST

You could spend hours searching the depths of what Psalm 100 says about who God is and what He does. The psalmist gives us so many reasons to be thankful in God. Thankfulness gives way to contentment. The contented heart sees all it has in God and celebrates that, like the psalmist. The contented heart is restful in God, not restless, not striving to do or be or have more.

Q: What does contentment look like for you? In what ways are you content (or not content) in life right now?

FINDING SATISFACTION, PRODUCING FRUIT

If you are growing in your understanding of God’s grace and find contentment in all that you have in your relationship with God, you are living the satisfied life. Does that mean you are completely without want or need? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that you find your ultimate satisfaction in experiencing God’s profound grace and abiding in Him. And grace-filled, abiding people are fruit-bearing people.

Q: What does it mean to find “ultimate satisfaction” in God? What other things might compete to be ultimate in your life?

Q: How does being satisfied in God relate to fruit-bearing?


LEAD

NOT YOUR BEST DAY

On your best day, understanding God’s grace can move you to practice gratitude and be thankful for all you have in Christ. But let’s be honest. We don’t always act like we do on our best day, do we? The truth is, we can often be more demanding than grateful, more entitled than humble, and more unforgiving than gracious. The good news is that admitting your weaknesses and failures is the first step towards real change.

Q: What stands in the way of you living your “best day” each day? Be specific.

LIVING YOUR BEST DAY

What if God wanted you to live more like you would on your best day? What if you understood, in greater degree, that the gospel “supplies abundant and life-transforming grace to deliver us from a lifestyle of complaining and invites us into a lifestyle of gratitude.”4 The gospel changes you and transforms your mind, heart, and soul to experience more of God’s grace and feel a deeper gratitude because of it.

Q: What would a “lifestyle of gratitude” look like for you? What would be different?


PRAY

Offer thanks to God for who He is in His character and for the praiseworthy things He has done in your life. Feel the freedom to shout, sing, or declare your praise and thanks to God.


FOLLOW UP

Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:

  • Write ten things they’re thankful for every day for the next week. Compile your list and share it with someone else in the group.

  • Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their life.


COMMENTARY

Praise and Thanksgiving

The call to give thanks is varied in Psalm 100. Verses 1–2 call for acclaim (or praise) for who God is, while v.4 is a call to worship. Praise and thanksgiving go together naturally in our worship.5

God’s Covenant Love

Like other psalms (e.g., Ps. 36, 107, 118, 136), the “steadfast love” of God recalls His commitment to His covenant (or promise) to make the Israelites His people and His treasured possession (cf. Exod. 19:5–6). God’s love never fails, even when we fail to be loving or thankful in response to His love. “The foundation of joy for God’s people is his enduring character of gracious love, of keeping his promises.” 6

Making Your Joy Complete

In Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis writes: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”7 Our joy in God is completed when we express it in praise and thanks to God.

 

 

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ENDNOTES:
1. Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84, no. 2 (2003): 377-–89.
2. Arthur C. Brooks, “Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.,” New York Times, November 21, 2015, https://www.ny- times.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/choose-to-be-grateful-it-will-make-you-happier.html (accessed November 14, 2017).
3. Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 741.
4. Paul Tripp, “Prepare Your Heart for Thanksgiving with Paul Tripp,” Crossway Publishers, November 17, 2014, https://www.crossway.org/arti- cles/prepare-your-heart-for-thanksgiving-with-paul-tripp/ (accessed November 14, 2017).
5. Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 743.
6. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1064.7.
7. C S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1958), 95.