Thanksgiving – A Lifestyle, Not Just a Holiday
Each year in America, the President of the United States proclaims the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. The citizens of this nation are called upon by the president to thank God for His divine protection and leadership for the past year and to look forward to what God will do in the coming year. We celebrate Thanksgiving each November to show our gratitude for the many blessings that God has bestowed upon our nation.
What does it mean to be thankful? What does it mean to have an attitude of gratitude in our lives? How can we demonstrate our gratitude?
In Colossians 2:6-7, we read, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” God has been so faithful and loving to us, therefore our lives truly ought to be overflowing with gratitude.
Charles Dickens said that we are somewhat mixed up here in America. He told an audience that instead of having one Thanksgiving Day each year we should have 364. “Use that one day just for complaining and griping,” he said. “Use the other 364 days to thank God each day for the many blessings He has showered upon you.”
As Dickens suggested, we should not wait for a special holiday to express our gratitude to God. Instead, thanksgiving should be a part of our daily lives. Our personal appreciation for God’s blessings should drive our thanksgiving, not the calendar.
One’s attitude in life often affects how one views his or her circumstances. An attitude of thanksgiving demonstrates one’s gratitude to God for life, for health, for family and friends. Believers ought to demonstrate gratitude to God for His unspeakable mercy, grace, and love. The Bible teaches that human beings are sinful and deserving of punishment. Yet, instead of requiring eternal punishment from us, God willingly gave His Son to die on a cross so that we might know Him. This act, known as substitutionary atonement, should be the source for our thanksgiving.
When we do fall short of His righteous standards, His forgiveness and grace allows us to repent and come back to Him for a second, third, one hundredth, and one thousandth chance. When we give thanks, we are thanking God for this grace, mercy, and patience. Most of all, though, we are thanking Him for loving us.
We ought also to say thanks to those people in our lives who love us, who teach us, who forgive us, who accept us. Someone who loves me and accepts me unconditionally can change my whole outlook on life for the better. I should express my gratitude to the people who have helped me and honor them by helping and loving others.
Thanksgiving ought to be an attitude in our lives, but thanksgiving also ought to be an action in our lives. We ought to live out our thanksgiving by sharing that gratitude with others and by doing things that demonstrate the thankfulness in our hearts. While we will all face difficulties and obstacles in our daily lives, we should remember God’s promises to stand by us during the most painful and troubling times. Philippians 4:6 reminds believers to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
We will all face problems in life, but it is not God’s plan for us to let those problems keep us from knowing and trusting Him. Our Heavenly Father asks us to let Him bear the burden of our sorrows and worries, for He is able to handle the toughest obstacles we may face. The above verse from Philippians reminds Christians that we are to be anxious for nothing, that we should not allow any problem or difficulty in life to keep us from worshiping and serving God. Instead, we ought to take those struggles to our God with thanksgiving, grateful that He loves us and promises to help us through the toughest of times. We are to be thankful that He is willing to share our burdens, that He is capable of leading us through the darkest of nights, and that we are able to share every difficulty with Him. No problem in life is too small or too insignificant for prayer. We are so important to God because of His love for us that He is standing by to help ease our pains. For that, we must be grateful.
Note that the verse from Philippians 4 states that we should have thanksgiving in everything, not necessarily for everything. It might be unrealistic to ask someone to be thankful for their cancer or divorce or bankruptcy, but scripture does ask them to be thankful in those difficult circumstances. We can be thankful in those difficult circumstances because we are not facing them alone, but instead are able to fellowship with the Great Comforter, our Lord Jesus.
The God of this universe has given us unspeakable blessings and for our entire lives, we ought to give thanksgiving and honor to Him. For our physical lives and for our health, we ought to thank God. For our families and friends, we ought to thank God. For His Word, which comforts us with just the right answers to our problems, we ought to thank God. And, most of all, we ought to thank God for His promised Messiah.
We ought to demonstrate thanksgiving and gratitude in our lives because God is good and we are not, yet He loves us anyway. Our promise of eternal life found through belief and trust in Jesus Christ should leave us thanking God each day.
“For the Lord is good; His loving kindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations”(Psalm 100:5).
This week and every week, may we all demonstrate thanksgiving to God and to others.
Rev. Trey Graham is senior pastor of First Melissa in Texas, an author, radio host, and frequent traveler to Israel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.