Cause for Thanksgiving
The celebration of Thanksgiving is anchored in our national heritage. Its observance is an essential element of our nation's traditions and moral foundation.
As we think of Thanksgiving, our thoughts race back to the earliest days of American history. In our Lord's strength, our valiant forefathers sought religious freedom. They overcame the opposition of cruel tyranny and courageously dared to cross a stormy sea. The insistence of our forefathers to be free laid the groundwork for the American Revolution and the birth of a new nation.
The clarion call of America's first Thanksgiving has resounded down through the corridors of time. Today we still give praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for His providential care and faithful provisions (Ps. 8:19).
Without an annual Thanksgiving observance, something very special would be lacking in our culture. There would be an emptiness in our land during the harvest season, when abundant crops are gathered for the sustenance of life.
The motivation to thank the Lord actually began in the hearts of the Pilgrims as He prompted and guided them to seek a place of worship where they would not be crippled and harassed by fear. The Pilgrim found plenty of reasons to give thanks to the Lord as He protected and preserved them in their establishment of a fortress of faith on American soil.
Historical records confirm that the Lord providentially led the Pilgrims to the land in the Northeast. The voyage was overshadowed and blessed by the Lord's sustaining grace. It is little wonder that our godly forefathers set aside a special time of that became a national holiday for worshiping and praising the Lord of heaven. They recognize that He had remarkably guided them every step of the way (Ps. 37:23).
Thanksgiving became so intertwined with our national existence that in 1941 Congress ruled that “the fourth Thursday of November would be observed as Thanksgiving Day and would be a legal federal holiday” (“Thanksgiving Day,” The World Book Encyclopedia, World Book). Thanksgiving Day also serves as a sort of threshold for the Christmas season, moving our souls in praise, “Unto God for his unspeakable gift” (II Cor. 9:15).
Beyond our national life and honor, however, thanksgiving is a heart-encouraging, soul-invigorating, and spirit-uplifting exercise for the child of God. This is not only true for a special day, week, or month but also for the rest of the year. The ripened fruit of thanksgiving is best harvested in one's life on a daily basis.
Emblazoned on the pages of God's Word, thanksgiving is associated with praise (I Chron. 16:14),worship (Ps. 100:4), singing (147:7), joy and gladness (Isa. 51:3), prayer and supplication (Phil. 4:6), and wisdom and honor (Rev. 7:12).
The thrust of thanksgiving is, as the word suggests, literally the act of giving thanks. The exercise of thanksgiving encourages the believer in his daily walk before the Lord. We read, “O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever” (Ps. 30:12). Heartfelt thanksgiving is never out of season.
First Thessalonians 5:18 states, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This text offers several guidelines for thanksgiving.
The Command: “Give thanks” A paradoxical law of life is that we gain by giving. We keep what we give away, but we lose what we keep. We receive by giving. The Bible states, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.” (Eccles. 11:1).
In our materialistic age and time, we need to be diligently on guard lest we be lured to embrace the “getting” philosophy. Our Lord put the quest for material things in perspective in Luke 12:15, saying, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consiste in the abundance of his possessions.”
The word “give” in I Thessalonians 5:18 is a present imperative and implies continuous action. Practicing thanksgiving adds vitality to the Christian life, joy to the heart, and direction to one's daily walk. Being thankful also adds heights to one's horizons and focus to faith.
Let us give thanks to our God. Let us thank the Lord first and foremost for His Person. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3). He gave His Son to be our Savior (Matt. 1:21; Acts 4:12).
Let us give thanks to our God for our parents, who taught us the ways of the Lord from the earliest days of youth (Eccles. 12:1; Col. 3:20). The single parent deserves special recognition for rearing children in the fear of the Lord. Strong families make for a healthy nation. No nation or people will endure for long without committed families (cf. I John 2:12—14).
Let us give thanks to God for His Word, which was written by “holy men of God” (II Pet. 2:21) and given by inspiration (II Tim. 3:16). God's Word is inerrant and infallible. It is the final authority in all things of faith and practice.
Let us give thanks to God for our nation and for the holy privilege of worship without fear (cf. Gen. 15:1). Let us give thanks to God for one another and for the common bond of grace in salvation (Eph. 2:8-9; Jude 3). Let us thank Him for the assurance (Heb. 10:22) of one day dwelling together forever with out Lord (Rev. 21:3).
The Scope: “In all circumstances.” The scope of thanksgiving includes everything. The believer is not instructed in this passage to give thanks for “everything” but in “everything.” “There is a silver lining in every cloud. God is with us whatever befalls us” (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Baker).
The basis for thanksgiving in life's difficulties is the truth that God is all-wise, loving, and sovereign. Since God is omniscient, He cannot err. Since He is loving, He cannot be unkind to His children. Since God is sovereign, He rules over all His creation (Rom. 11:33—36).
God allows trials along our pilgrim pathway in order to make us better, not bitter (cf. Rom. 5:3). He chooses the time and measure for His glory and our good (Rom. 8:28).
We give thanks in everything because God has a purpose for all that He puts into our life as well as for what He leaves out (Job 23:10). Our Lord is the master Weaver. He knows exactly how to make and mold us for His glory and honor, for He does all things well (Mark. 7:37).
Charles Spurgeon, the famed London pastor said, “When we cannot trace God's hand, we can trust God's heart” (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, London). Trials and troubles along life's pathway are tempered by our Lord's profound compassion and limited by His omnipotence.
We give thanks to God in all things because He is preparing for us a permanent residence in glory (John 14:1-6). Augustine said, “Our souls were made for God, and we are restless until we rest in God.”
The Purpose: “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thess. 5:18). It is remarkable that giving thanks is related to God's will. In thanksgiving we bless the Lord and lift up our souls in worshipful praise.
The terms “instruction” and “guidance” help us understand the term “counsel.” We are instructed in the Word of God (II Tim. 3:16) and guided in our daily walk by the Holy Spirit Rom. 8:14).
As a pastor over the years, I sometimes would be asked, “How can I know the will of God?” A child of God may sometimes feel the Lord's will is discernible only to a special group, such as pastors, teachers, or missionaries.The Scriptural fact is that practicing thanksgiving will motivate any believer to walk in the will of God. Thanksgiving is an exercise that pleases the Lord, who wants to see His followers committed to expressing their sincere gratitude.
The counsel of the Lord is operative in Christians who thank Him on a continual basis. This course of action results in the actual performance of God's will.The counsel of God is formed in His unerring omniscience. We read, “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Ps. 33:11).Heeding the counsel of the Lord with a grateful heart, brings instruction and wisdom in the ways of the Lord. Walking in the counsel of God is a discipline that God wants to see continued in old age (Prov. 19:20).
Thanksgiving is a vital ingredient in the believer's daily walk. It kindles cheer and joy in the soul (Luke 1:13—17; Col. 3:16). Thanksgiving also promotes gladness and happiness in one's life, working like sunshine to drive the clouds away.
Failure to participate in worship afforded by thanksgiving opens up the way for complaining and murmuring (Phil. 2:14). Such action dampens the spirit with devastating results and allows unfruitfulness to take over.
A thankful believer will always be a good witness to the unsaved, who constantly listen to our words and examine our demeanor in the office and at the work place. A sour-souled saint will drive people from the kingdom of God. The psalmist spoke of individuals who stand “in the way of sinners” (Ps. 1:1).
The great need of our day and time is for God's people to develop and pursue worship in thanksgiving, backing up our talk with our walk (Eph. 4:1). Worshipful praise coupled with words and deeds (I John 3:18) will enable us to make an impact for God in our community through our care and concern.That kind of witness will be understood and heeded by those who look for reality in us. In turn, there will be a sort of magnetic pull of the lost to the Savior. Joy will flood the hearts of God's people as we see sinners move from sin to salvation (Acts 4:12).