Did you know that Thanksgiving is one of the most American of our holidays? Its roots are firmly established in our nation’s history. Many of the traditions we enjoy at Christmas and Easter, for example, were brought here from the old country -whether England, Germany, or the rest of northern Europe. But our Thanksgiving holiday is most definitely American. It was our Pilgrim forefathers who traveled to this New Land to seek a place where they could worship God in freedom, and it was the Native American's generosity that helped them survive.
The New Land was so harsh many Pilgrims perished during their first devastating winter. In fact, half of the settlers were dead by March. At one point only five men were well enough to care for the sick. The living conditions were so severe, the weather so harsh and the food so scarce, the daily ration of food was reduced to five kernels of corn! Not five ears of corn but five kernels of corn. Not per meal, per day! They literally had almost nothing!
But they thanked God, not just for their plenty - which they didn't have - but that they were still alive! They thanked God they had survived that first forbidding winter and that He was still with them.
How good are you at saying, "Thank you!"? One of my favorite stories goes like this.
A little boy returned from a birthday party and his mother asked him, “Bobby, did you thank the hostess for the party?” “Well, I was going to,” Bobby replied. “But the girl ahead of me said, ‘Thank you,’ and the lady told her not to mention it. So I didn’t!”
Giving thanks is not only a good social grace, it is an essential spiritual discipline. The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that giving thanks in all circumstances is the will of God for our lives. Wow!
Why is giving thanks so important? Why is it God's will for our lives? Why should it be more than just Thanks-Giving, but our lives should be all about Thanks-Living?
1. Thanks-Living is My Recognition of Who God Is and What He has Done.
What has He done? He has blessed me over and over and over again! God is good! All the time! He has given me salvation and made me His child. I have a loving wife, a wonderful family, and a godly legacy from Christian parents and others. Plus He has blessed me with material possessions, the Stuff! (Though I have to admit, I am less impressed with "stuff" the older I get.) He overwhelms me with His faithfulness.
Who is He? He is Lord! He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. He is Creator, Redeemer, Sovereign King. He is Holy, Righteous, Faithful, True. He is full of Mercy and Grace, Forgiving, Compassionate, Kind. As Lord, He can choose to do what He desires. He deserves all my praise and thanksgiving simply because of Who He is.
2. Thanks-Living is Not based upon the Amount of God’s Provision.
Thanksgiving Day is a time to express our gratitude for the Lord's great generosity. As a result, it is tempting to equate God and His Goodness with the amount of His Giving. We can have much thankfulness for much! But how thankful are you for little? The Pilgrims were able to thank God in the midst of almost nothing.
Here's a question to consider: What happens when God does not bless you the way you expected but instead disappoints you? For many people, disappointment can turn to anger and anger can turn to bitterness. And bitterness is deadly. If anything can ruin your life and cripple your Christian life, it is bitterness!
What is the antidote to bitterness? A Thankful Heart! Let your thankful heart be the filter that cleanses away the grit and grime of disappointment, anger and bitterness.
Here's the key: If you can thank God for little, you can thank Him for anything!
3. Thanks-Living is Key to an effective Prayer Life.
A thankful heart releases Faith in prayer. When you can thank God for all things, you can trust Him for what else He wants for you. And like praise, thanksgiving builds confidence in God’s ability and desire to help.
How? It is tempting to present our requests with fear or worry or doubt. The enemy is too big! The problem is too great! The adversity is too overwhelming! The circumstances are too hard! It all seems impossible!
Instead, Philippians 4:6-7 instructs us to present our requests with Thanksgiving. Instead of begging and pleading, you are thanking the Lord in advance for what He will do. You are thanking Him for His love and compassion, that He knows your needs even before you do.
Thanking Him in advance for Who He is and What He will do changes your perspective from desperation and fear to rest and confidence. When you have confidence in God’s ability and kindness, then you can begin to rest in Him. Paul tells us that "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (v7).
So don't just Give thanks. Live thanks!