The original American Thanksgiving Day as it has become an annual National holiday had its beginnings from a sense of gratitude to God by early settlers for survival in a new and often harsh land. But, in recent years I fear, that it has little more significance than a family gathering over their favorite feast, and perhaps some football.
However, from the beginning of creation, God had it in mind that behavioral gratitude was to be a significant aspect of the human mindset.
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
4 In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
5 The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.” (Psalm 95:1-7)
Adam and Eve most likely showed much appreciation for and to God for all the benefits of His Creation, His continued presence, and His deep love for them. However, I suspect they themselves did not appreciate the vast blessing it was to be free to revere God openly until their rebellion lost their freedom of relationship to God.
Adam’s sin of rebellion against God broke the possibility for an eternal relationship with sinful man. Man could not fix this! But God, in Christ Jesus, was incarnate into the world of man 3,974 years after Adam for the purpose of redemption; to save man from the hated sin and its necessary punishment.
The Bible is overflowing with directives to give thanks to God. Thanksgiving, praise and worship must flow together as a living stream of cool, clear water. We will not effectively praise and worship God without being thankful, deep within. These are aspects of loving respect that can only truly flow from the heart of a redeemed child of God.
That mood of thanksgiving is advantageous for us. God wants us to achieve the spirit of gratitude, being thankful for all He is, and all He has done for us. Without acknowledging where our blessings come from, we become proud and self-absorbed. We begin to suppose that we have accomplished everything on our own. Thanksgiving keeps our spirit properly bonded to God, Who gives good things.
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)
The real test is to be thankful when we find ourselves in circumstances we do not care for. When we resolve to be grateful to God in all things, we keep our resentment in check. We cannot have both mindsets of being grateful and resentful at the same time. We are not expected to show gratitude for the wickedness that comes our way, but we can be grateful that He is with us seeing us through it. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
We do not praise Him for harm that comes our way which He did not instigate, but we praise Him that He gives us the capacity to carry on through it. We are thankful for His promise, in Romans 8:28 that “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”.
We can be thankful toward God even when we are in dreadful circumstances. We can still be thankful in our grieving. We can still be thankful while hurting. We can still be thankful toward God while outraged over our sin, and the sin of others toward us. In each these times of difficulty, we can still give the “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15).
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7)
I wonder, if the Church of God would overpower the resent years of fear and disappointing distrust with an unshakable attitude of genuine thanksgiving, could that bring a nation back toward respect and honor for God, our Creator?
If the Church does not rise up, we may never know.
Church—America, Happy Thanksgiving!