Often at this time of year, we put a lot of emphasis on Christmas. As merchants compete for our attention, we start becoming preoccupied with putting up the lights, trimming the tree, buying presents, and so on. In the process of it all, we can very easily forget the beautiful holiday called Thanksgiving. Proclaimed as a national Thanksgiving Day in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, it initially was a religious holiday and, more to the point, a Christian holiday.
At this particular time of year we can sometimes forget about how thankful we ought to be. We need to never forget that God has blessed us to live, in my opinion, in the greatest country on the face of the earth, the United States of America. We have so many privileges here. We have a lot to give thanks for.
Certainly the Bible urges us to give thanks to the Lord. We are told in Psalm 106:1, "Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever" (NKJV). Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (NKJV). Then in Hebrews 13:15, we read, "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" (NKJV, emphasis mine).
Sometimes worship and thanksgiving can indeed be a sacrifice. Why? Because we don't feel like it. It may be because we are down or depressed or things aren't going all that well for us. Maybe we are experiencing hardship or a tragedy has struck, and we don't want to thank God. But Psalm 106:1 doesn't say, "Give thanks to the Lord because you feel good." It says, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good."
We are quick to ask for help, but we are slow in returning thanks. Yet we should be just as definite in giving thanks to God as we are in requesting help from Him. As a result, there are at least three things about giving thanks that we Christians need to know.
First, to give thanks, we must recognize that God is in control of all circumstances surrounding our lives, both good and bad. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (NKJV). God is paying attention to what is going on in our lives. And He knows what you are going through right now.
Second, we must realize that God loves us and is always looking out for our eternal benefit, even if what we are presently going through is difficult. As 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (NKJV).
Third, we must realize that God is wiser than we are. He is always dealing with us for our best eternal good, where in contrast, we are always interested in what is for our temporary good. But sometimes what is good for us eternally is not easy for us temporarily. God will make that determination and work in our lives accordingly.
When is the last time you said, "Lord, thank You that you have allowed me to live in the United States of America.... Thank You for my church and allowing me to be a part of it.... Thank You for the freedom to openly worship You without fear of harassment, persecution, arrest, or torture.... Thank You for sending Your Son to die on the cross for my sins.... Thank You that He rose again.... Thank You that my life, which was once filled with guilt, is now filled with Your purpose and peace and joy.... Thank You that no matter what happens, You are coming back again for me"? There is so much to give thanks for. Have you been thanking God? Let's not wait until the fourth Thursday of November. Because for the Christian, every day should be Thanksgiving.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!