Isn’t this what this month is all about?
Isn’t this what the national holiday is really all about?
Certainly, people view and celebrate Thanksgiving Day in so many different ways. Well, except for the turkey. Those poor birds have nothing about which to be thankful. I suspect most of the United State are grateful for the time off from work, great food, and a time with family or friends. Sometimes, the origin of the tradition is recalled. You know? The pilgrims and native Americans having a big feast together, and all that.
But, from God’s point of view what is the essence of Thanksgiving or even thankfulness? Well, here it is: God wants us to be a people who are always giving thanks and who are always living thanks. In other words, we are called to a life of thanks, or as I call it – thanksliving. Here’s why:
There are many places in the Bible that talk about praising and thanking God. Especially the Psalms. Psalm 100 is a premier example. In fact, there are a set of Psalms dedicated to giving God praise and thanks. Psalms 30, 32, and 34 flow from hearts of individuals grateful to God. Corporate praise and thanks can be read in Psalms 67, 96, 106, and 124. Even the Psalms of lament and Lamentations complain to God about life’s challenges and travesties, but at the end is the complainer’s promise that says something like, “Nevertheless, I vow to praise and thank God for he is good.”
Psalm 33 is a good example of how we are to thank God. It commands believers to rejoice in the Lord. Then it tells us how and why.
Centers on Three Things
First, proper thanksgiving centers on three main reasons. We need a reason to be grateful, right? Most of the time we think of giving thanks to God happens when he answers our prayers. That’s a good thing. And for the food we are about to eat – also a good thing.
Yet, the scriptures give us reasons that are wider and deeper than that. God’s Word calls us to be thankful for three big broader, more profound reasons. What are they? God calls us to be thankful because of
- God’s awesome character (Psalm 33:4-5,20-22)
- God’s mighty works (Psalm 33:5-12)
- God’s redemptive acts (Psalm 33:13-19)
1 God’s awesome character
Psalm 33:4-5 tells us to rejoice and praise the Lord because of God’s awesome character. How do we know about the character of God? He is revealed beautifully to us through his mighty works and acts, and by what he says about such things. The Bible records the history of God’s powerful events, but without the Lord’s interpretation of them we would not really understand what they mean. So, the Lord kindly tells us.
What is rather clear is this – God’s Word is his Work. He speaks and it happens, and then he speaks again to explain it all. Even his names describe the blend of his actions with his character.
2 God’s mighty works
Read Psalm 33:5-12. Take a moment to meditate on it. Notice that we have the thems of creation and the Exodus going on here. Anyone who knows the story of God’s creative work in Genesis and a kind of recreative work through the exodus of his people will see this. Here is a huge motive for praising God. He is mighty, powerful, and grand. Let the earth fear God and let all of its inhabitants stand in awe because of that!
Other parts of the Bible declare to us that God is famous on account of his creative abilities and because of his caring providence. I like how clearly the pastors, elders, and professors defined it when they wrote the Westminster Shorter Catechism. They said, “God’s providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all hs creatures and all their actions.” We celebrate his fame because he is both creator and curator of all things.
3 God’s redemptive acts
We give God thanks because of his name. We give him thanks because of his fame. We also give him thanks because of his claim on our lives. He has taken us out of Egypt, out of the world, out of captivity as slaves to the world, the sinful flesh, and the devil. Jesus Christ became a man to ransom us from all that. Jesus lived a sinless life in a perfect way to fulfill God’s law on our behalf. Why? Because we could not do so. Such holy perfection is far too high for us to reach and much too impossible for us to fulfill.
He went to the cross to die for our sins and to remove our guilt. Upon that rugged cross, Jesus paid the price. He died, was buried, and miraculously brought back to life. He not only rose from the dead, he arose to be the head of all things from his heavenly throne.
In the Old Testament, God saved his people time and again. All of those redemptive acts are recounted through celebrations and scrolls. Psalm 33:13-19 is such an account. The result of redemption is that we are now free to belong to the Lord as patrons, partners, and Paternal kids. We owe God everything, and in a gracious, loving way he owns us. His claim is upon us and as a result, we praise him.
Giving Thanks Characterizes True Believers
These are weighty reasons for praise and thanks. So much grander than answered prayers, food, or a turkey dinner; wouldn’t you agree? This is why in the Old Testament true believers of this awesome God were called God-fearers.
Not only that, they were called God thankers. Paul reflects on that in Romans 1:21. Unbelievers are not thankful to God. In fact, they are often characterized by thanklessness as a general disposition. True followers of the Lord are thankful to God for who he is and what he does. They are also characterized by a life of thankfulness. At least should be.
Giving Thanks Celebrates in Active Ways
In the Bible, praising, honoring and thanking God are active expressions. They are nearly simple whispers of thanks, softly spoken solemn words, or mental meditations. Nearly every instance of private or public thanks to the Lord were whole-souled and full bodied activities! The least expressive type was when the one praying and praising God lifted their hands and arms to the heavens. Think Daniel in his room.
The other two kinds of giving thanks were physical and feasting. When God’s people were so gripped by who God is and what he does they responded in ways that might seem crude to some today. Think – dancing, jumping, crying out, shouting, singing, singing loudly, playing loud instruments and playing lots of different instruments. Gratitude was then and is now both an attitude and an activity.
There were times of corporate thanks. Every major worship event was a feast. Weekly Sabbaths were times when families feasted to commemorate and praise God. As a nation, Israel celebrated with the five main feasts. One of them was specifically designated as the thanksgiving feast (Leviticus 23:9-14). How much more expressive and whole-bodied of an experience can you be than through eating? It is both what you do with your hands, but also what you take inside of your bodies.
As Christians, we too celebrate God’s name, fame, and claim through Jesus Christ who makes all that possible and secure. We do that in times of corporate worship, but we commemorate most deeply at the Lord’s feast. The Lord’s supper, in which we have communion together with Christ, is also called the eucharist. This is from the ancient New Testament term for thanksgiving (1 Corinthians 10:16). This is because the commemorative meal is a time to thank Jesus.
We praise and thank the Lord because of Jesus Christ, our savior and Lord. His name reveals his character. His Word reveals his mighty acts of creation and providence. His Cross reveals his redemptive acts. Ingesting Christ by faith, taking him deep within our bodies and souls ought to cause us to live lives fill with thanks. And thanksliving is God’s way for an enriched life.
Is an overflow of giving thanks
This is what we see in the Bible time and time again. Psalm 86:12 expresses it well, “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” Whole-heartedness in Scripture is mind, will, emotions, soul, and body. Everything about you and me gives thanks as a response to the Lord.
Is God’s will to live his way
That is, to live from an overflowing heart of gratitude. This is because we are “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith…abounding in thanksgiving!” (Colossians 2:7) Thanksliving is not only a command, it is also the expected produce of a soul embraced by Jesus.
Is fuel for the flourishing life
Say what? Gratitude and thanksliving is fuel for the flourishing life? Really? Yes, that’s what Scripture informs us. One example is found in 2 Corinthians 9:11-12, where it says, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”
How do you go from Thanksgiving to Thanksliving?
Here are some suggestions. For a more thorough look at how to do this, read my new book (coming soon). See the details below.
1 Get a journal and write in it things for which you are thankful
Write in it at least three days a week, but the best way is to take three minutes each day and handwrite something for which you are grateful.
2 In private and corporate times, give thanks to God for
- His name (his awesome character)
- His fame (his creation and providence)
- His claim (he saved you)
3 Give thanks for others and appreciation to others
Here are 12 Ways to Show Appreciation and Gratitude. Give:
Songs and music
I for an I
Investment in their lives
Notice of their achievements
God thanks for who they are and what they do.
This is the month set aside to give thanks. This coming Thursday is a special day for giving thanks. However, for the believer in Jesus Christ, we not only celebrate God with praise and gratitude one month a year, we do so when we have the eucharist. We do so when we gather for corporate worship. We do so privately. And we also do so as an expression of Christ’s bountiful life overflowing through us in thanksliving. It is always time to give thanks and always time to live thanks.
To find out more about my new book, ThanksLiving: How to Gain a Perspective to Enrich Your life go to Relavate.org. You can easily subscribe if you wish to be on the list to be the first to know when the book is released. Should you want to know more about how to appreciate others in meaningful ways (over two months worth of ideas), then download the free ebook, How to Appreciate Others in 12 Meaningful Ways.