Although the origins of Thanksgiving go back to 1621, it was in 1863 when Thanksgiving was declared to be a national holiday by then president Abraham Lincoln. And it is a good thing to set aside a day to “take stock” and be thankful for the blessings that are ours. But “Thanksgiving” needs to be more than a once-a-year event. An attitude of thankfulness should characterize every day of our lives.
Both the Old and New Testament scriptures encourage us to be thankful. The psalmist challenges us, “O give thanks to the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endures forever….” (Psalm 136:1). Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, “Giving thanks always for all things to God…” (Eph. 5:20). To the church in Thessalonica he writes, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you….” (1Thess. 5:18).
Our age of materialism and commercialism lends itself to always wanting more, wanting better, wanting something else. We begin to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do, and we lose sight of God’s goodness in our lives as a consequence. It is interesting to note that a society’s decline often begins with a failure to recognize God’s blessing and be thankful for them. (See Romans 1:21.) So let us take a moment and ponder God’s goodness to us.
It’s easy and natural to begin our list of blessings with the THINGS in our lives – the home in which we live, the vehicles we drive, the clothes we wear, the food in our pantry and on our plate, the jobs which enable us to hopefully make ends meet. We can be thankful for the country, in which we live, which, though flawed, is still the best place in the world to live.
Can we also take a moment to thank God for the PEOPLE in our lives – our families, friends, and neighbors? Ponder for a moment those teachers and mentors who poured their lives into yours. Consider those whom God has brought into your life to encourage and help them. Be thankful for that neighbor or co-worker who makes our life a little more pleasant. And don’t forget that friend who was there to encourage you or physically provide for you in a time of great need or discouragement. Why not take a moment to write a quick note to thank one or more of them today?
And we should be thankful for the EVENTS that are a part of our lives. Paul’s encouragement was to give thanks in ALL things – even the difficulties. I’ve noticed in my own life that some of the times of greatest personal growth, personally and spiritually, were times of exceptional trial, when I had to be most reliant upon God and His promises. When we see our limitations and turn to Him, it is then we see His greatness and our faith grows in amazing ways.
Finally, let’s be thankful for the SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS found in Christ – salvation for those who believe on Him, the promise of heaven, His continuing presence and direction in our lives, the fellowship we find with other believers, and the opportunity to tell others about Him. David writes in Psalm 40:5, “Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works Which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, They are more than can be numbered.”
So let us be thankful – not just on one Thursday in November, but every single day. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name….” (Hebrews 13:15).