So the election season is upon us. In Louisiana, our motto is “vote early, vote often” (probably need to know a little Louisiana history to get that one–Google Huey Long). Now another cycle of elections will be contested and recontested. I remember a sign on the highway that combined election season with the Thanksgiving season. It said, Count your blessings. Recount if necessary.
This month, we celebrate a holiday that was initiated out of gratitude for God’s protection and provision. We credit the Pilgrims for giving us the holiday. 102 of them came to America on the Mayflower, setting sail for the new world to escape the religious persecution. The initial plan was to sail up the Delaware River in search of a place to settle, but the weather started getting rough and their tiny ship was tossed. . .
They settled on Plymouth Rock, near Cape Cod. Incredibly, they had the same number when they arrived as when they left–enroute, one died and another was born. The first year was not as kind. Of the 102 colonists who arrived at Plymouth Rock, 42 died the first year. The winter was harsh, the land was past the crop-bearing season. The native Americans were a Godsend to the decimated, half-starved Pilgrims, sharing wisdom and provisions.
After a long-awaited harvest of the first growing season, Governor William Bradford issued a decree setting aside a day for prayer and thanksgiving. It was the world’s first dinner on the grounds, after the winter of 1620-21. Ironically, Bradford had to practice being thankful in all things. His wife had drowned as the Mayflower was making land.
Psalm 100: a recipe for a thankful heart. David wrote Psalm 100 when he was in a pretty thankful mood:
Ps 100: A psalm. For giving thanks.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
The Psalm of thanks breaks down in sequence.
All nations are to praise the Lord
We acknowledge our dependence upon God
We express gratitude for His grace and mercy is the starting line for worship
Once the attitude of gratitude is established, thanks comes naturally! The application is found in some New Testament passages which teach on thanksgiving. We shouldn’t need reminding to be grateful to God for the amazing gift of His Son. But sometimes, we forget to be grateful for those around us. Whether family, friend or foe, we can and should feel gratitude for those relationships. However, I believe the key in extending gratitude–thanksgiving–to persons in our lives is to model gratitude by extending it in worship towards God. Here is my “great eight” of gratitude takeaways.
Giving thanks is a natural part of God’s grace.
Since we know that grace is given unreservedly by God–that we matter to him–that our heart response has to be gratitude.
2 Cor 4:15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Thanksgiving is a natural part of our worship
Our thanksgiving is horizontal as well as vertical. It is a joyful shared celebration.
Eph 5:19-20: Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thankfulness naturally shows up in our actions
If you are grateful in small things, even in a small way, you will naturally express gratitude in great things. Almost like a habit is no longer conscious, the reaction of thankfulness shows up in our conversation. Like the lady in the toll booth who hands me my change after throwing the quarters in the basket and says, “have a blessed day!”
Col 3:16-17: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Thankfulness is a natural response for our redemption
Every day, I am overwhelmed by the concept that God loves me and would pay the price of His son for me to enjoy eternity with Him. I am the recipient of an incredible, undeserved relationship. Like being admitted to a place I know I don’t deserve, but so much more. God knows me and loves me anyway.
Rom 7:23-25: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Thanksgiving is a natural response to the amazing things that God is doing through His church.
A little too often, we forget about gratitude when we have worked really hard to make something happen. Pause to thank God and the others on the team.
Col 1:3-5: We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints. . .
Thanksgiving is a natural appreciation for the words of God and the work of God.
Do not let pride stand in the way of thanking others. Show your appreciation. Emotion won’t kill most people. Go ahead and show it. Let those who help you know that you need them—and that you appreciate the strength you gain from them.
1 Thess 2:13: And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
Thanksgiving for believers is a natural response to difficult situations.
Practice thanking God for every circumstance. Don’t focus just on the circumstances you nominally would call wonderful. Ask God to reveal to you how even your difficulties are working to make you more like Christ, and thank Him for them
Romans 8:28: And we know that [a]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Thanksgiving is a natural way to trust God with the future.
Focus on what you have rather than what you lack.
Phil 4:5-6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.