Thanksgiving has come and gone. I must admit that Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday. There are so many good memories for me around Thanksgiving. My parents always made it so special. There was always family and friends involved. If someone didn’t have somewhere to spend Thanksgiving, well, then they came to our house. And boy, could mom cook, bake, etc… There was never much of an agenda except for eating and hanging out with family and friends. We played games, watched football, took naps and ate. However, there was one thing we always did: before the main meal there was always scripture reading and going around the table sharing our thanks to the Lord for something in the last year. There was something that was powerful in those moments. It set the mode and mood for the rest of the day and as I think about it for all of life in our family. My parents were consistent and encouraged a grateful heart. And that is one thing I am very thankful for. And the tradition carries on in my own family. So this Thanksgiving we (my wife, children and brother-in-law) went around the table reading scripture and giving thanks for things that the Lord had done in our lives. It was a great time and I must admit it may have been the best Thanksgiving meal we have had as a family!
So what is it that is so powerful about giving thanks? I am sure that there are many things, but I am going to mention three here. These are the three that I shared with Waypoint Church on the Sunday before Thanksgiving (you can listen at http://www.waypointomaha.com if you so desire). All three have to do with good vision. The power of giving thanks is that it brings good vision and this is how:
- Thanksgiving brings us into God’s presence – Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” In His presence there is fullness of joy; in His presence there is protection; in His presence the mountains of our lives melt like wax; in His presence the things that keep us from God cannot stand! It is thanksgiving that leads us into His presence and it is in His presence where life is abundant. When discouragement, despair, or depression wants to set in it is His presence that delivers me and it is giving thanks that ushers me into His presence time and time again.
- Thanksgiving helps us see what God is doing. All through the Bible you will find a theme of giving thanks. This is important to God. Why? I believe that this is one of the reasons: it helps us see what He is doing rather than what He is not doing. We as humans have a tendency to look at what God is not doing. When we get our eyes off of what He is doing it is easy for us to forget that God is good and when we forget that God is good it becomes impossible to see all the great and good things that He is doing. The Old Testament tells us about the time when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt with great signs and wonders (the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the cloud by day and fire by night, His presence on the mountain with Moses) and yet they couldn’t see all of this and built a golden calf to worship and wanted to go back to Egypt. If only they would have stopped and thanked God for all He had done and was doing I think they would have had a change of heart. Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” This is what happened to the Israelites and this is what happens still today to those who refuse to be thankful to God.
- Thanksgiving helps us see His goodness and abundant supply. This is very similar to point number two but I wanted to bring a little more emphasis. Once again if we go back to the story of the Israelites coming out of Egypt we can learn so much. God had provided so much for them: manna, shoes that didn’t wear out, water from rocks, freedom from slavery… And yet they grumbled and complained about what they didn’t have. Instead of stopping to say, “wow, thank you God for protecting us, thank you God for supplying water and food, thank you God for our freedom…”, they only saw what they were lacking which caused them to complain. And when one complains, he/she cannot see the goodness of the Lord. I know that in my own life when things are tight financially and there are things I want, it is so easy for me to get my focus on what I can’t have and begin to complain or throw a pity-party when all along His provision in my life is amazing. If I would just stop and begin to thank Him for what I do have then what I don’t have would begin to be insignificant. Thanksgiving helps us see the goodness of the Lord and His abundant supply.
Thanksgiving is not only important it is powerful. It brings clear vision. Clear vision empowers us to walk in the purposes and power of God. And when we walk in the purposes and power of God we walk in a way that brings life to others and changes our world!