The Thanksgiving holiday is once again upon us and as one pastor I know put it, time for food, football and flop. Once again we will watch the Macy’s Parade and likely see more commercials of stuff to buy on Black Friday then the actual parade. Yet in the center of all this, most of us will at some point take the time to consider everything we are thankful for. For some this may be easy, but for others it may be a struggle depending on their current situation. Regardless of the situation, even the most difficult circumstances can allow for a heart of thankfulness if considered within the right context.
In fact, the story which most consider to be the historical origin of Thanksgiving is a story of great difficulty for a group of people who experienced starvation, disease, death and hostility. It is a story of families devastated by the death of a spouses, children and friends where most likely the graveyard contained more tombstones than people living in the settlement. Practically speaking the settlement was an absolute failure and their efforts were hardly worthy of thanksgiving. Yet, in spite of these tragedies, they were filled with an overwhelming sense of thankfulness not because of anything they have done. It was a thanksgiving which identified God as the provider of all good things, most importantly the grace of God received through Christ. For them a heart of thanksgiving was not a one-time event which occurred once a year, but a continual state which likely helped them endure throughout their difficulties.
So to who are you directing your thanks towards this Thanksgiving holiday? It may seem like a simple answer, but consider the inconsistency in expressing thankfulness and gratitude without the recognition of a recipient. When most people receive a gift, they express gratitude towards the giver, but how often does someone mention gratitude for something without any recognition of the recipient. Who exactly are you giving thanks to? Without a recipient, it is merely a meaningless catch phase used to describe good things which you are glad to have.
If you are thankful for your job, your home, your family, your friends or even your life, to whom are you expressing this gratitude? For the Christian there can be no other answer except God, but for many other people the most honest answer is probably themselves. Thankful for a job they worked to obtain, a house they purchased, a family they built and the good health they sacrificed to attain. They have become the ultimate source of their own good circumstances; I’m thankful to me for me.
So this week as we visit with family and friends let us remember to verbally remind people of the recipient of our thanksgiving. Avoid the overused phrase, “I’m thankful for” without saying to whom you are giving the thanks. This may be the most powerful evangelism tool you possess this week as you interact with those who may not believe the gospel. When someone speaks of their thankfulness, don’t be afraid to ask the question “who are you thanking?” You may be surprised with the answer you receive.
At the same time let us also not forget that our response to God’s goodness comes not only in words, but action. Living a life of obedience to God demonstrates our gratitude and thanksgiving to Him more than any words. Be assured that at the same time people listen to us offer thanks to God, they are also watching us to see just how much we really believe everything we say.