My Dear Friends,
Many have been misled to think that Thanksgiving is possible only in the midst of bounty. How wrong they are. Harvard Theological Professor Peter Gomaz said, “Thanksgiving isn’t about bounty at all. It’s about survival. In 1621 the feast began with five kernels of corn. It was a reminder of the hardships the first Pilgrims had experienced the previous winter. Food was running out and they were faced at one point to a ration of five kernels of corn. But through it all they thanked God for providing.” Gomaz says, “Thanksgiving is about when you come to the brink and almost fall over it and know that you survived because of God’s Divine Intervention.”
It is particularly critical during these hard economic times that we work to make every day Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is gratitude in our hearts, even in the worst of times. It is the ability to praise God in spite of the circumstances.
Jesus has come to set the captives free. This means freedom from an ungrateful spirit of always feeling life has given us a bum rap. This happens when we make every day a day of Thanksgiving. After all, that is God’s will for our lives according to I Thess. 5:16-18; “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Let me share with you the true story about Private Smith, a twenty-year-old soldier who was spending his third year away from home in Baghdad. His first Thanksgiving was in South Korea with latrine duty and eight hours of guard duty. The second year he was in North Africa. That Thanksgiving the army was able to serve three hot meals but suddenly a sand storm ruined all the food and all the soldiers had to eat a peanut butter sandwich for Thanksgiving dinner. Now, here it is a year later and Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Private Smith is in his tent cleaning his rifle and grumbling, “this year had better be different.” He started thinking about when he was a child in Mississippi and how the family would sit around the table reading scriptures and talking about what they had to be thankful for.
No sooner had Private Smith blurted out “what do I have to be thankful for this year?” A big explosion took place.
Two weeks later he heard a quiet voice say, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.” Then he heard a voice start yelling, “he’s starting to come out of his coma.” Private Smith opened his eyes and whispered his name, rank and serial number. The doctor responded by telling the nurse in the room, “You have just witnessed a miracle.” Private Smith asked why the doctor would say that. The nurse told him that two weeks earlier a bomb had landed near his tent. As the explosion took place the private covered his friend’s body and saved his life. When that happened he sacrificed his right leg in the explosion. Private Smith reached down where his leg used to be. He said, “You know, it’s been real difficult for me to be thankful on Thanksgiving and other days as well. I guess I was trying to be thankful for the wrong things. Things I thought were important but really aren’t. I lost my leg but I gained something even more precious, my life. I am also thankful my buddy is alive too. I am so thankful and glad for what I have. This is the best Thanksgiving ever.”
Maybe you are one of those who get all caught up in being thankful for the bounty and this year there is no recognizable bounty. You may be homeless, the utilities may be shut off and you may be unemployed or really hurting. It may be tough times but thank God you still have your life and so much more.
Life is filled with so much that we have to be thankful for. We need to thank God for family, friends, life, creation and most of all the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Psalm 95:1-3 declares, “O Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God. And the great King above all gods.”
Robert Emmens after studying the effect that an attitude of gratitude has on people for ten years states, “People who view life as a gift and have an attitude of gratitude experience a multitude of advantages. Those who express their gratitude can increase their happiness by 25%. Grateful people have greater optimism and lower levels of depression. Keeping a gratitude journal for just three weeks results in better sleep and more energy.
I remember after my first wife Penny died and I felt I had very little to be thankful for, I read a book called Thanksgiving Therapy. After reading this book, I started a gratitude journal, which consisted of listing each day ten things I had to be thankful for. Not only did it help me survive this very difficult period in my life but it also prepared me later for my marriage to Debra. Now I naturally find myself thanking God for Debra and all the other blessings God has given me, even when things don’t seem to be going right.
The holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas are the most stressful times of the year for me. Not only do we get all the people we usually get at New Life Evangelistic Center but we also get all those who are suffering from the cold. Then there are all the people who need food, gifts, shelter, utility assistance and so much more during this holiday season. Last year I found this holiday season much more enjoyable then other years. That happened because I made a special effort to make every day Thanksgiving. Every time I felt the stress mounting with more and more demands being made of me, I would then declare, “I am too blessed to be stressed!” I would then pray and surrender that stressful situation to the Lord.
Making every day Thanksgiving is all about what are you going to focus your attention on. If you only think about what you don’t have and what you have to do, then you will only get bitter and stressed out. That is why Paul says in Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
It is time to wake up and be thankful. The one who never thanks God and steps out in faith and dares something should expect nothing.
When Moses woke up, he not only heard the voice of God but acted on what he heard and thanked God for it. Moses had reached a point where he was no longer contented with just raising sheep. The fact is the one who is content with what he has done will never be famous for what he will do – Happiness is to lose yourself in a cause greater than yourself and thank God for it.
The person who is failing all the time is the one who is usually complaining and thinking about what he can’t do rather then what he can do. The believer like St. Paul will declare, “I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me.” Then he will “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, presenting your requests before God” (Phil 4:6). We don’t need more strength or more ability or more opportunity, all we need to do is use what we have and thank God for it.
Failures always ignore the things they can do and waste their time dreaming about the things they can’t. New opportunities won’t help the person who isn’t thanking God for the ones he already has and using them. Opportunities are multiplied when they are seized with an attitude of gratitude. They die when they are neglected.
When you start using the talents God has given you and thanking Him for them, you then go forth by faith. As you do this every ceiling will become a floor on which you can walk and you will see a new ceiling rise above you. As you thank God and climb on this new ceiling of opportunity you will see there is no limit as to what God can do.
Make every day Thanksgiving and discover that the best way to better your lot in life is to do a lot better with what you have. Thank God now and build on the lot that you have been given.
As you make every day Thanksgiving and read the scriptures in spite of what the economic indicators in your life appear to be, you will become more and more aware of what Christ has already done for you. When you turn to Him in repentance for all the time you have wasted through a spirit of ungratefulness and read Col. 1:14 you will see that in Jesus you have redemption and your sins are forgiven. Then go on and read II Cor. 5:17 and see how you need to be thanking God for making you a new creation in Christ Jesus. Heb. 10:19-21 tells you how you now have access to God at anytime.
The time has come to stop complaining and start thanking God because God has delivered you from Satan’s domain of darkness and brought you into the Kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13).
Thanksgiving is an attitude in our hearts that is always grateful in spite of the circumstances. It is the same gratitude that the one leper expressed when he came back to thank Jesus for his healing (Luke 17:16-18). Ten lepers were healed physically, but one came back thanking Jesus for his physical healing. As a result of his thankfulness he also found himself receiving a mental and spiritual healing the other nine ungrateful lepers did not receive.
Life is filled with so much that we have to be thankful for. “O come let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God. And the great King above all gods” (Ps. 95:1-3).
Now even in these times of what may be economic difficulties lets go forth making every day Thanksgiving as Ps. 100:4,5 says, “enter into His courts with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good. His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Remember this is God’s will for your life. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thess. 5:16-18).
Lets work to make every day Thanksgiving.
Yours in Christ,