By Chaplain (Col) Stephen W. Leonard, USA, Ret.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29
Before or after a fabulous Thanksgiving meal, you may stop to thank God for His goodness in giving you this abundance of delight. Or think even of the believer living in poverty who, nevertheless, thanks God for the glorious sunrise of the morning. In either case, one with much and one with little, you ought to thank the One who provides every good gift.
Many people express thanksgiving for the blessings they experience in life. And why not? Whether a believer in Jesus Christ or not, you are mostly thankful for nice occurrences, such as the gifts of a fine meal, a soft bed, a roof over your head, enough money to buy clothes, recovery from serious illness or health problems, good friends, escape from an accident, or you name it. Thanksgiving stemming from such blessings is natural. But does this thanksgiving move you closer to God? Does it enter into increasing your sanctification in Him?
When does thanksgiving for His grace in your life move your heart into a closer relationship with God? Is your thanksgiving perfunctory, or is it an activity purposefully intended to increase God’s grace in impacting who you really are? To truly move your heart into an increasing intimacy with Him.
There is “natural” thanksgiving, which epitomizes you saying “thank you” to another for bringing you a cup of coffee or picking up something you dropped and handing it back to you. You say such “thank you’s” hundreds of times a day. It is the “natural” thing to do in civil discourse.
But think about your thanksgiving to God. Is it just civil discourse? “Thank you, God!” or is it something more than that? Are you just being “nice” to God, or is your thanksgiving in word and thought more purposeful in drawing your heart into more intimate fellowship with Him? Into becoming more conscious of what exactly He is to you and what He most wants to provide you? What is it He thinks you most need from His hand? Another meal? Or another heart?
The two types of thanksgiving range between civil discourse and your hunger for righteousness; between “natural” thanksgiving and what we might call “gracious” thanksgiving. Between “thank you, Billy” or “thank you, God” or something like this, “God, you are my God, and you want me to have this relationship with You and so much more that I so desperately need. Purify my heart to know what it is I need, and ask You for it from Your hand, even as I strive to become like your Son, Jesus.”
This is a thanksgiving that understands who God is and what He most wants you to have from Him. Which is more important? Forgiveness of your sins, or healing of your crippled legs? (Mark 2:1-12) Do we thank God more truly when we acknowledge that He wants to give us at least the abundance of a meal, but, even much more, He wants you to have the righteousness of himself? Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, AND (then) ALL THESE THINGS SHALL BE ADDED UNTO YOU.”
Thanksgiving to God should be so much more than civil discourse. Think of those things that you need from Him before you see Him face-to-face and fellowship with him in His home: heaven.
Now, what thanksgiving do you give to God for what might be perceived as “bad” occasions in your life: your house burns down, you get cancer, you lose your job, you do not have enough money to buy your next meal, your friend betrays you, you are feeling depressed and lonely? Do you thank God for such things? If you see Him as the primary One responsible for your life, is God not the source of the “bad” things that happen as well as the good? These “bad“ outcomes may well direct you to a different path, which turns out to be a far better direction for you.
In any case, you need to thank God for whatever He brings into your way. He is your God, and His will is whatever and what always occurs. And, just think, that He brought such into your life for a good purpose. What is it?
Two types of thanksgiving. Which most epitomizes you? When thanking Him for your Thanksgiving feast, thank Him also for your relationship with Him and all that particularly means to you. What has God brought about in your life of which you need to be aware? Can you describe it? If you can’t, possibly you do not know all that God has done for you, and, therefore, you cannot thank Him. Thanking God graciously and not perfunctorily should be the most important thing you do in your life. There is nothing that should satisfy you or Him more.
“Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul. Thank you, Lord, for making me whole. Thank you, Lord, for giving to me, Thy great salvation so rich and free.”
(Chorus from Seth and Bessie Sykes’ hymn, “Thank You, Lord,” 1940)