I really enjoy the Thanksgiving time of the year (maybe because I was born on Thanksgiving day?!). Time with family, birthday presents, a fantastic meal with plenty of delicious leftovers, and then the subsequent decorating for Christmas are just a few of my favorite things. Most importantly though, I love the extra time reflecting on the goodness of God in my life. Truly, as the songwriter said, “Count your blessings. . . .name them one by one. . . . and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
I must admit though, sometimes when I’m meditating on God’s gifts, the Spirit reveals to me that I’m lacking in gratefulness. I don’t know who first said this, but it’s one of my favorite quotes on gratitude: “What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today?”Let’s just be honest – we live in an ungrateful state too many times. Too often we have not taken time in the morning to thank God. Too often we have not been quick to praise Him when He has answered some prayer. On too many occasions we have behaved like the nine lepers who did not return to offer thanks to Jesus, instead of the one who did. Yes, we have grown accustomed to taking the blessings of God for granted. If tomorrow God gave us only the things we thanked Him for today, I’m afraid many of us would be in serious trouble.
Instead of living with a grateful heart, we often live with an entitlement mentality, thinking we deserve everything we have and more. Or we live with a grumbling spirit, complaining that we don’t have the newest item on the block. Both of these conditions, whether it’s entitlement or complaining, give us an unpleasant disposition that actually repel folks away from us. On the flip side, living with gratitude in our hearts and thanksgiving on our lips not only pleases God, but it encourages others because of its’ joyful spirit.
It’s important to be reminded that Thanksgiving is not just another holiday that we enjoy with family, but thanksgiving is commanded in the Bible. On multiple occasions God exhorts His people to give thanks:
1 Chronicles 16:8 – “Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people.”
Psalm 100:4 – “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”
Psalm 106:1 – “Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for his mercy endureth forever.”
Ephesians 5:20 – “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 4:6 – “Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.”
Colossians 4:2 – “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Hebrews 13:15 – “By Him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.”
We need to make sure that Thanksgiving is not just on our tables, but that it is daily in our hearts and on our lips. Bob Jones Sr. said, “When the spirit of gratitude dies out in a man, he is well nigh hopeless.” How sad it is when believers get caught up in the “me-first, materialistic, entitlement” age in which we currently find ourselves. We are not going to be much use to God when that type of selfish pride fills our hearts. You see, gratitude grows best in the soil of humility. When we properly remember who God is, and who we are, then having a thankful heart will not be difficult. An entitlement mindset and complaining spirit come when we are not accurately focused on Christ – what He has done for us and what He is still doing for us.
When we look at Jesus and all that our relationship with Him affords us, how can we not start each day by giving thanks to God? Our eternal destiny in heaven is settled, nevermore to change when we know Christ personally. For our sorrow, He gives us joy; for our worry, He gives us peace. When we’re defeated by sin, His blood cleanses. His life can then fill us to overcome that sin. When we’re afraid, He gives courage; when we’re unsure, wisdom. The resources of His grace are abundant and unending, and that is a reason to say thank you. Not to mention all of the family, physical, and material blessings we have!
If this day finds you discouraged, try thanksgiving! If you are facing a very difficult trial, try thanksgiving! If you feel the need to draw closer to God, try thanksgiving! If you want to be a better testimony to others, try thanksgiving! If you want to be free from a proud and discontent heart, try thanksgiving! I encourage you to spend some extra time this holiday season with the Lord – write out a list of God’s blessings, sing through hymns and choruses of praise in your devotional time, or memorize a thanksgiving psalm. Do something extra special to let God know how much you love Him and that you are thankful for His daily gifts.