Thanksgiving brings to mind turkey and homemade stuffing, family and friends gathered around the table, and football in the afternoon…a wonderful day to enjoy loved ones and relax. While this is all true, today my mind goes back to the story of one of the first Thanksgivings.
As I glance back at that first Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the Pilgrims who arrived at the New World in the middle of winter. Through the dead of winter they struggled for food, labored against a bitter wind and fought against disease. In the end, nearly half of them did not survive to see the next springtime. Yet, our God sent Indians to teach them to plant, hunt and fish. So much so that they had a bountiful harvest upon autumn’s arrival and together, the Indians and the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving.
Instead of dwelling on the pain and loss of the past, they chose to celebrate the goodness of their God. This story always humbles and inspires me.
Many of us have walked through bitter seasons and struggle. Many of us have fought against sickness, disease, lack and loss, yet the truth remains that we have plenty to be thankful for. Just like the Pilgrims who trusted God and remained thankful in the most challenging time of their lives, we too must learn to thank God in the midst of the struggles and in the midst of the loss. We too must strive to keep a continual heart of thanksgiving through it all.
The true test of thankfulness is measured as we continue to give thanks from the deepest part of our heart in spite of the wounds and struggles of yesterday’s battles. We are not a people of weak faith. Mark 11 tells us to have faith in God, this scripture is also is translated as follows; have the faith of God or have the God kind of faith. Our faith is not only strong when things are going well. As sons and daughters of the Most High God we have a resilient and continual God-kind-of-faith in a faithful, loving and living God.
Of course, I want you to enjoy this ‘day’ of Thanksgiving with family and friends, however, for us who are in Christ, Thanksgiving should be more than a day, it should be a way of life, don’t you think?
A heart of thanksgiving is the will of God for the believer. In the Amplified Bible, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 declares; in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
From scripture we see that God’s will for us is to continually have a thankful heart. The word of God doesn’t say be thankful for everything but IN everything. This is not saying thank God for the loss of a loved one or disease or a financial collapse…but it is saying, while you are walking through those challenging times, remember to be thankful that He is with you and He will strengthen you and He will bring you through.
I often tell my daughter and my grandchildren that we can find something to be thankful for in every situation, we may have to search for it, but it is there. There is always, always something to be thankful for. If nothing else can be found we can always be thankful that God loves us so much, He wanted us with Him so much, that He sent His son, Jesus to redeem us back to Himself.
As with all of God’s principles there are benefits, great benefits for the one who chooses to have a heart of thanksgiving. One of my favorites is found in Philippians 4:5-7; Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
It is this heart, one of thanksgiving that I have learned to cultivate. The word cultivate means to improve by labor and to refine. This means thanksgiving doesn’t always happen naturally or easily, sometimes we have to work at it. We have to practice being thankful. When we choose to cultivate thanksgiving in our heart and in our life, we have a promise. The word of God promises us that the peace of God, that peace that reassures the heart, that peace which transcends all understanding, will stand guard over our hearts and minds.
In times of struggle or challenge, I have found if I will stop worrying and begin to give thanks, my attitude changes and my mind and heart becomes peace-filled. Isaiah 26:3 says God will keep us in perfect peace…when our mind is stayed upon Him. When we take our mind off the situation and place it back on Him, being thankful for who He is in our life, peace comes.
Hebrews 13:15 in the Amplified Bible says; Through Him, therefore, let us at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.
We are to constantly offer thanksgiving and praise to God. In this particular scripture it is called a sacrifice of praise; why? Because there are times that it is not easy to do, there are times that it is indeed a sacrifice, yet the word of God is plain, easy or not, a thankful heart is God’s will for us. God knows that it is a thankful heart and a mind stayed on Him that will bring us out of every challenge, therefore we give thanks…continually.
A heart of thanksgiving is pleasing to God! Psalm 69:30-31 says; I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bull which has horns and hooves. In Bible days, the people of God offered up animals as a sacrifice, today our offerings usually come in the form of money or things, yet in this scripture we find there is something that pleases God even more than an offering….and that is one who will praise and lift up His name with thanksgiving!
As we enjoy this Thanksgiving day, let’s also remember the words found in Colossians 2:6-7; Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in [union with] Him [reflecting His character in the things you do and say-living lives that lead others away from sin], having been deeply rooted [in Him] and now being continually built up in Him and [becoming increasingly more] established [a]in your faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing in it with gratitude.
Overflowing with gratitude – now that’s a heart that pleases the Father. It is our prayer for you today that not only will you enjoy this Thanksgiving day with family and friends but you will also begin to cultivate a heart that is indeed overflowing with gratitude.
As you do you will find, just as the word of God says; all the days of the afflicted are bad, but a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of the circumstances]. (Proverbs 15:15)
May your feast not end as the sun goes down on Thanksgiving day, but may you have a continual feast in Christ, a continual feast which is the fruit of a thankful heart.