Putting the ‘thanks’ back into Thanksgiving


Posted: November 21, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

The first Thanksgiving, during which the Pilgrim colonists feasted with their Indian guests, lasted three days.

The idea was the same, but the menu was a bit different. They would have served entrees of cod, eel, clams and lobster. For their main course, they would have had wild turkey, but also seal, swan and eagle! (Now that’s just outright un-American!)

Everyone has his or her favorite part of the turkey. I like white meat, my wife dark. Some prefer the turkey leg. I heard about an industrious turkey farmer who was always experimenting with breeding to perfect a better turkey. Because his family preferred the leg over any other part of the turkey, this brilliant farmer came up with a turkey that had six legs!

He was bragging about this to friends, and they asked, "Well, how did it taste?"

"I don’t know," said the farmer. "I never could catch the darn thing!"

Sometimes with all the eating (and maybe football), we forget what Thanksgiving is all about. We have so much to be thankful for in America today.

You might say, "Well, not me! I am having a really rough time right now!"

That may be true, but let me help you put things in a little perspective.

Someone wrote, "If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, then you are more blessed than the million who will not live through this week.

"If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

"If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, then you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.

"If you have money in the bank, cash in your wallet and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8 percent of the world’s wealthy."

Again, we have much to be thankful for. And when you get down to it, this is why we primarily exist: To give thanks to God – not just on Thanksgiving Day – but every day of our lives.

The Bible says to us as believers: "Praise the LORD! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever" (Psalm 106:1). And in the New Testament we are urged: "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name" (Hebrews 13:15).

A sacrifice of praise?

Yes, praise, worship and giving thanks to God can sometimes be a sacrifice, because we simply don’t want to, or don’t feel like it. We may be down or depressed or dealing with some tough issues at the time. Maybe hardship or tragedy has visited your home, and you just don’t have the heart to say thank you to God.

But it’s interesting: The Bible doesn’t say, "Give thanks to the Lord when you feel good," but rather because "He is good!"

The Gospel of Luke gives us the account of 10 men who were miraculously touched by Jesus. These men were lepers, and at the time, you couldn’t get any lower in life than that. They were complete outcasts, the very scourge of society. Yet Jesus went out of His way to touch and heal them of this dread disease.

But after these men had been healed, only one returned and gave thanks to God. In response, Jesus asked a probing question that He perhaps is still asking today. He said, "Were there not 10 cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?"

The nine who had walked away unthankful were men of Jesus’ own country, Israel. The one man who remembered to return and give praise to God was a Samaritan, despised by the Jewish people of that day. Even so, when this Samaritan leper was healed, he knew in his heart he had to do something.

This man who might have been considered the very worst of this group of diseased men had more spiritual insight than the others who should have known better. He saw the importance of remembering to thank God for the answers to prayer, and recognized that "to whom much is given much is required."

What does that say to me? Just this. In approaching God to ask for new blessings, I should never forget to return thanks for the many blessings already given!

One of the reasons we are to give thanks is because as we remind ourselves of God’s power, kindness and faithfulness to us through the years, it bolsters our faith. Giving thanks may not immediately lift us out of our circumstances, but it can lift us above them, so that we are no longer under their control.

And as we think about the many answers to prayer we’ve already received, our faith grows bolder and bolder. We are reminded in the depths of our soul that "Nothing is too hard for the Lord!"

Three things will help me remember to give God thanks this year.

First, I must realize that as a Christian, God is in control of all circumstances surrounding my life, both good and bad. The Bible tells us, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

Second, I must realize that God loves me and is always looking out for my benefit – both in this life and in the life to come. Again, Scripture says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Finally, I must realize God is wiser than I am. He is always dealing with me for my best eternal good. I always want what’s best for my immediate good, but what immediately seems good is not always eternally good.

Have you taken the time to give thanks to God for what He has done for you? The fact is God loves you and has a plan for your life. But we are all separated from Him by our sin. Yet God loved us so much He sent His Son to die on the cross for us. If we will turn from our sin and ask Christ into our lives, we can be forgiven!

Jesus says, "Come unto Me all of you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Come to Jesus this year, and you will have a blessed Christmas season like never before. From our home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

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