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Thanksgiving is upon us. This holiday celebration will be filled with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, yams, green beans, and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving sometimes is reduced to just another opportunity to pig out – to indulge ourselves in food. Like many things, we’ve gotten distracted from the real meaning of Thanksgiving. It was late November in 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts. Unprepared for the harsh winter in the northeast, nearly half the settlers died before spring. The remaining ones persevered through prayer. With the help of some native Americas, they were able to reap a bountiful harvest that summer. The grateful Pilgrims then declared a three-day feast, starting on December 13, 1621, to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends. While this was not the first Thanksgiving in America (thanksgiving services were held in Virginia as early as 1607), it was America’s first Thanksgiving Festival. As we approach thanksgiving this year, let’s get back to the root of thanksgiving and that is giving thanks.
So when is it appropriate to thank God? Phil. 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” 1 Thes. 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Giving thanks is a theme that is seen throughout Scripture, but it’s not a simple thanks for the blessings. It is thanks because you recognize the source of those blessings. God certainly wants to hear our petitions, our burdens, our problems, our issues, but He wants to hear our praise in the midst of those issues. John 4:23-24 says, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
So the question remains, when is it appropriate to praise and thank God? Every morning and every night. Ps. 92:1-2 says: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night.” We should begin and end each day with prayer and praise simply because of who He is. In the middle of the night. In Acts 16:25 it tells that, “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Notice, “the prisoners” were listening. Paul and Silas were in prison yet they were still able to thank God and offer praise. This is what is known as the ricochet effect. As they were enjoying praise time together, the prisoners in surrounding cells heard them. I’m certain they were thinking, “How can they praise their God in this place? We can do them same thing. Ps.119:62 says, “At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You Because of Your righteous ordinances.” Remember Glen speaking of those middle of the night wake up calls? That just might be God telling you to look to Him for the solutions, to rely on Him. Anxiety in its simplest form is really failing to trust in God. Paul reminds us in Phil. 4:6-7 to, “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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” The peace that we need to get us through these rough patches can only come from God. It’s knowing that God is involved with our lives. Especially at this Thanksgiving time, we can thank Him at meals. Rom. 14:6 says, “He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God.” For some people that’s three times a day and another opportunity to recognize where our blessings come from. It also provides a reminder to those around us that, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (Ja. 1:17)
When we pray. Biblical prayer is always surrounded with gratitude. We should, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” (Ps. 100:4) We have the privilege to enter into the presence of God. No appointment in required. We can boldly approach Him. “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” (Col. 4:2) As parents we teach our children to say thank you when they are given something. God is listening to you and we should never take that for granted. He’s listening because He is a living God. If we learn to be thankful in all things, our outlook would change. We should thank God in every word and deed. Col. 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Speak every word in gratitude, and do everything with a thankful heart. These are marks of a spiritually healthy individual. I’m not saying be thankful when bad things happen and that’s not what the Scriptures are saying. We can be thankful because God is who He says He is. His promises are true. We should thank God here and now and forever. When a person makes the decision to invite Christ to be the Lord of his life, the Holy Spirit immediately indwells that person. It is this indwelling that makes thankfulness possible. This thankfulness begins here on earth and continues in eternity. There won’t be a Thanksgiving Day once a year in heaven. Each moment will be filled with thanksgiving. It’s hard for us to imagine a time where the cares we have will melt away, but that’s what happens when you’re in a relationship with Christ. Our time on earth is preparation for our time in eternity. Thanksgiving is an attitude; it is a character trait. We can thank God in all things because of who He is. Even in the trials and crisis that fill our time on earth, we can thank God. He’s right there with us.
Col. 3:15 reminds us to, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Grab a hold of one of the hundreds of verses in Scripture that speak about giving thanks and let that verse be on your lips day and night. Ps. 106:1, “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”