“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Imagine for a second what the very first Thanksgiving was like. Imagine the challenges present in 1623. The pilgrims left everyone they knew and everything that was familiar. Approximately 100 voyagers endured sickness and storms on a perilous journey across the Atlantic. The first winter was brutal. Yet, when the harvest season arrived, they set aside a day to give thanks. Despite the hardships, they found there was much to be grateful for. They chose to celebrate and thank God for His blessings even though life was difficult and their blessings were few.
There are stories in the Bible that mirror the Pilgrims’ thankfulness; one of them is found in Luke 17:11-19. In this passage of scripture, we read a story about a man whose heart was focused on Jesus, not just focused on his blessings. It’s the story of when Jesus had compassion, mercy, and grace for ten lepers on the roadside and healed each one of them … but only one man was so thankful that he took the time to return and say thanks. The leper surely still had lots of problems in his life, but being grateful, he heard Jesus give him the greatest blessing when He said in Luke 17:19, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
What about us? Are we thankful for what we have and what Jesus has done in our lives rather than being concerned with what we don’t have? We, too, have much to be grateful for. Every day, we can thank God for the great things He has done. Giving thanks does not have to be a grand gesture or complicated. It can be as simple as offering a prayer of thanks.
We should be thankful because God is worthy of our thanksgiving. It is only fitting to credit Him because “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father,” (James 1:17). Expressing thankfulness helps us remember that God is in control. Gratitude, then, is not only appropriate; it is healthy and beneficial to us. It reminds us of the bigger picture that we belong to God and have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
Thanksgiving is awareness of who God is and what He has done. It does not mean we don’t realize that there are difficulties. It just means that we stand upon a greater reality. God is on the throne and deserves praise and our gratitude.
Before we gather around the table this year, gobbling up turkey and a slice of pumpkin pie, let’s be intentional about giving thanks no matter what. We all have a lot to be thankful for this time of year. But not only should we give thanks during the holidays, but we should also give thanks to God every day of the year. Each day brings a new opportunity to be grateful and celebrate what God has done.
- How is it possible to give thanks even in hard times?
- Does thanking God lead to praising God in your life?
- For what are you most grateful today?