Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever! Theses are the words of the 107th Psalm verse 1, and a favorite mealtime prayer of my Grandfather, one that I remember Him saying at mealtimes when I was young. Offering up thanksgiving to our God is encouraged many places throughout scripture. In fact the offering of thanksgiving the biggest part of what worship and praise is really all about. It is what God really wants from us. Psalm 50:13-15, as is rendered in the New Living Translation states. “13I don’t need the bulls you sacrifice; I don’t need the blood of goats. 14What I want instead is your true thanks to God; I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High. 15Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” This coming Thursday we will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a time for us to pause and reflect upon all those things we have to be thankful for.
In the United States when we think of the tradition of thanksgiving day, our attendion is drawn to the pilgrims. At elementary school we learned the story of the first thanksgiving celebration in the new world at the Plymouth Colony in 1621. The the idea of a Thanksgiving Day as an Annual national holiday in the United States for expressing thanks to God, was first proclaimed by George Washington in 1789, but it was President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of 1863 that officially made it an annual observance. In 1941 an act of the U.S. Congress fixed Thanksgiving Day’s observance on the fourth Thursday of November. And that is when it has been celebrated since. Although today we are told by some, that anything of a religious nature has no place in government, It is obvious however to those who are better informed about the origin of our nation, and the intent of the framers of our constitution, that they did not hold that view at all. No indeed, in fact, the top lawmakers of our country intentionally set aside one day each year to especially give thanks to God. Imagine that!
It is no secret that the Pilgrims were God fearing Christian people, and it is also no secret that most of the founding fathers were as well. They were neither ashamed of their faith or unwilling to openly express it. It is only in recent times that opposition to faith based practices has arisen and garnered any legitimate attention. The Pilgrims knew it was their rightful duty to give thanks to God and they embraced it. Their lives were hard when compared with ours today, yet these people, in spite of their daily hardships, were thankful for everything God had given them.
Today we have so much by comparison, we live with conveniences and bounty that our parents never dreamed of, yet we tend to be chronic complainers about our circumstances, our finances, our families, our workplaces, and even about our church obligations. We as Christians would do well to refrain from complaining and step back to thoughtfully take stock of all the blessings small and large we have received. If we do so, I am convinced we will be truly astounded!
The scriptures make it clear that thankfulness is a spiritual virtue highly prized by God. In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul writes: “6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Now that sounds like more than a suggestion that Paul gives here. Instead it sounds like a command, but not just an obligation, it comes with a promise. In short, Paul is telling us that living prayerfully and thankfully is the key to experiencing God’s peace in our lives.
Perpetual thankfulness is a mark of a disciple of Christ. But what do we have to be most of all thankful for? That’s easy. Our salvation through Jesus Christ! Let us think of this and all of God’s wonderous provision for our lives as we gather together with our families this week to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Moreover, let us always remember to live thankfully before our God in His peace that passes all understanding, everyday of our lives. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever!
The writer is the pastor for Spring Creek Christian Church and Port Jefferson Church of Christ.