Giving Thanks Always
What do you do on Thanksgiving? Do you watch parades, watch football, eat at least one huge meal with lots of snacks between means? And there may be some measure of visiting with friends and family. These are all good things that we have come to associate with the holiday we call Thanksgiving. There is also a rich heritage that goes with our national holiday but which is very often forgotten and even pushed out by the contrivances of the modern celebration. Our pilgrim forefathers had journeyed into the unknown in search of the freedom to worship and serve the God of Scripture without encumbrance of government intervention. But the journey, and the new life it brought, challenged them to trust the grace and providence of God as they never hand, and that “first” Thanksgiving was the expression of their genuine thanks for His merciful goodness towards them. Far from the relative safety of the Old World, and surrounded by the dangers of a raw and unknown land, they nevertheless had a very strong sense of God’s provision and His grace in their lives.
Paul’s words to the Ephesians were appropriate when he wrote them, they were so to our Pilgrim Fathers, and we should heed them now: “…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)
There are certain seasons which remind us of God’s grace and generosity and should remind us to give thanks: Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s incarnation and Easter of His passion and redemption. Even secular holidays remind us of God’s goodness. But, in the end, those earthly seasons are reminders that we re to give thanks always.
Life also brings various situations that are opportunities for giving thanks, and those situations are not always what we would choose. Ironically, Thanksgiving morning brought me two situations that were not of my choosing: a car window stuck in the down position and a clogged kitchen drain. Addressing those issues was not how I wanted to spend the morning of my holiday. And giving thanks was not my first response. But these relatively minor problems were ordained by my Heavenly Father, and are to “give thanks always for all things.” The Lord may be pleased to bring much more significant trials to us. Part of trusting and glorifying Him is learning to “give thanks always for all things.” He means them for our good and His glory. In fact, He is working to see that these ends are accomplished. (Romans 8:28 & 29)
We hear a lot about being thankful during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, but we hear very little about to whom we should give thanks. The very idea of gratefulness presupposes we are the beneficiaries and another is the benefactor. Those of us who know Christ and enjoy his salvation know who is the giver of every blessing and gift. “Every good and perfect gift is from above…The Father of lights.” (James 1:17) Gratefulness is not just a good feeling about the stuff we have and the supposed safety and security we enjoy. True gratefulness is recognition of and a submission to the loving sovereignty of our great God who does all things well. The true child of God recognizes that, even if we never ate another bite of pumpkin pie or watched another football game, we are the recipients of untold mercies in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thanksgiving Day is therefore a reminder that, as unworthy as we are, we are called to live life to the glory of Christ until He returns.