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THE GIVING OF THANKS

 

It seems like just yesterday that it was New Year’s Day, yet here we are at Thanksgiving. If you have noticed the television commercials, as usual they went straight from Halloween to Christmas advertising, talking it up about what’s on sale and so on. Naturally there is at best only a token mention of God in all this, especially in today’s morally rotten society. The very heart of Thanksgiving is skipped over altogether, for the most part. If anything is said about this particular holiday, it pertains to food and sports, mostly. Indeed, to many, Thanksgiving is another day off from work, a day of football and other sports and prodigious eating, and to some, prodigious drinking as well. Even to the more family-oriented, many people care no more about God than they do about the price of tea in China. Yet Thanksgiving is a day intended specifically for giving thanks to God, and this, in turn, is a picture of what we should do as Christians every day of every year of our lives—give God thanks. Before we discuss this, let’s have a brief look at the history of the Thanksgiving holiday in America.

 

 

The early settlers in America, including the Pilgrims, were thankful to God for a lot of things. President George Washington declared November 26, 1789, as a day of public thanksgiving. The presidents after him made thanksgiving declarations, but they were not always on the same days or even in the same months. It was Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, who proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be observed each year on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, when the last Thursday of November was on the 30th, Franklin D. Roosevelt amended this by issuing a Presidential Proclamation that the holiday would be observed on the second to last Thursday of November. There was disagreement in a number of states about this, so in 1941 it was set to the time that it comes today, on the fourth Thursday of November. [1] It is worth noting that in earlier times, despite this country’s flaws, most people in the United States were at least professing Christians and did make sure that Thanksgiving was celebrated with the giving of thanks to God. As our society has devolved into something more secular and less moral, this day, as previously noted, has become for a lot of people just another day of leisure to do what they feel like doing.

 

 

As Christians we know that we are to give thanks to God in all circumstances and at all times. This is not just a churchy suggestion; it is a Biblical principle. Thankfulness to God is a major theme in both the Old and the New Testament, as these selected Scriptures illustrate:

 

 

Psalm 30:11-12:  You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

 

Psalm 106:1:  Praise the LORD! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

 

Philippians 4:6-7:  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 

Colossians 3:15:  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

There is certainly more than this in the Word of God about giving thanks to Him, but you can see that such thankfulness is to be part of our daily lives.

 

So what do the attitude and action of thankfulness do for us?  They help us maintain our focus on God. Jesus Christ is our Savior, the Holy Spirit lives in us to help, guide, and comfort us, and God is our adoptive heavenly Father. That alone is a lot to be thankful for! Even when our lives are going badly, we can be thankful that we are going through hard times as saved persons. Even when faced with tragedy, we can thank God that because He lives in us, we are never alone. When times are good, we can certainly thank God for that.

 

Thankfulness also helps us to appreciate what we have, whether it be food, clothing, shelter, good health, a spouse, a job, or whatever else it may be. As examples from my own life, even though I have some health issues, I thank God that my health is not anywhere nearly as bad as it could be. When I have to run to the restroom at an inconvenient time I am thankful that I can do that. There are people on dialysis, and as much as I used to drink, that could have been me, but by the grace of God it was not. I miss deceased loved ones such as my father and both sets of grandparents, but I am thankful to the Lord that I still have my mother and other family members here. It gets discouraging sometimes in dealing with the limitations I brought upon myself due to a criminal record, but I am thankful to God that I am a free man and that I did not get killed while in prison. When you look into your life, no matter what condition it may be in, you can always find something worthy of thanksgiving. Thankfulness leads to contentment, and that also helps you also to keep things in perspective and to maintain a good attitude towards your Father in heaven. The apostle Paul understood this well. Despite all the persecution he went through once he became a Christian, Paul was thankful to God and knew how to be content:

 

Philippians 4:10-13:  But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

1 Timothy 6:6:  Now godliness with contentment is great gain.

 

The giving of thanks does not mean that we are to live in denial of reality. Remember what Paul said in Philippians 4:6-7. Let your requests be made known to God, and that includes your burdens and concerns. In today’s church landscape we are suffering from many things, and one of those things is denial. To hear some preachers and other believers say it, a real Christian should not have any problems. They say that if you are worrying about anything you are sinning, that you don’t have enough faith in God. They act as if it is your fault if you or someone close to you is going through any sort of difficulty. So often you ask brothers and sisters in Christ how they are doing and immediately they say things like, “I can’t complain,” “I won’t complain,” “I’m too blessed to be stressed,” “Wonderful,” and so on. Really? On the one hand, an attitude of contentment, gratitude, and thanks is laudable, but on the other hand, there is such a thing as being phony. Life happens to all of us. We live in a fallen world where both blessings and problems land at the feet of the saved and the lost, the good and the evil alike (Ecclesiastes 9:11; Matthew 5:45). People get laid off, loved ones get seriously ill or die unexpectedly, natural disasters damage or destroy homes, accidents happen during travel, et cetera. You can be concerned, talk to someone about what you are going through, and pray to God about it all while still being thankful to Him. If you cannot talk to God and your fellow believers about your problems, then who can you talk to?

 

Enjoying a good meal or a good sports game on Thanksgiving or any other day certainly is not wrong in and of itself. But as you enter into this Thanksgiving holiday, regardless of all the world’s efforts to drown out what this day is for, give thanks to God for whatever you can think of. As Christians we should give God thanks every day of the year, but Thanksgiving serves as a good reminder and a good focal point to maintain or reset that grateful attitude. If you are reading this and you are lost, you can be thankful you are alive because as long as you are on this side of the grave you still have a chance to get saved. Backslider, you still have a chance to repent and rededicate your life to the Lord, so thank God for that. Fellowsaints, in all things, give thanks to God, and happy Thanksgiving!

  

 

 

[1]  Wikipedia article, “Thanksgiving (United States).” Retrieved 11/18/2021.

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