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Don't Skip Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us again, but in many ways it is overlooked and overshadowed.  In our crassly commercial society, Thanksgiving has little retail value.  Of course, the grocery stores will have a bump in turkey sales for the month of November, but this is taken for granted. Because the gift of thanks is not an item to be purchased in a store, retailers prefer to skip directly from the bonanza of Halloween's sales of evil to the goldmine of Christmas' commerce that supposedly honors the Lord.  They boldly declare their motivation by advertising "Black Friday," which is the day after Thanksgiving when retailers make their greatest profits of the year (so named because of the black ink used to record profits).  Many retailers even open their stores on Thanksgiving Day to increase their profits even more.  In a society that is guided by TV and advertising, many people follow the lead of these retailers and have little anticipation or regard for Thanksgiving.

Of course, it isn't mandatory to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, but it is imperative that we be thankful.  In fact, one day in a year is far from adequate to express the gratitude that we should have for all of our blessings.  The word of God directs us to abound with thanksgiving toward God at all times in passages such as these:

Philippians 4:6 -- Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Colossians 3:15-17 -- 15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  17Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

1Thessalonians 5:18 -- In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Entire psalms are devoted to giving thanks to God, such as Psalm 107 and Psalm 136, and many of the psalms begin with declarations of thanksgiving (Ps. 9, 75, 92, 105, 106, 107, 111, 118, 136, 138).  Altogether, the Scriptures are replete with messages and examples of thanksgiving to God, so it is incumbent upon us to be grateful.

While it is our obligation to be thankful, thanksgiving should not be considered as a burdensome debt that must be paid in return for some benefit received. Instead, thankfulness is a healthy attitude that flows naturally from a heart that is attuned to God.  In fact, thankfulness is good for us in every way. Studies have found that the general trait of gratitude improves psychological, emotional, and physical well-being. People who are grateful tend to be happier, more optimistic, more energetic, and more prosperous than those who are not grateful.  Thankful people are also less greedy, less envious, less depressed, and less sick than others.  (These studies were conducted in 2010 by Jeffrey J. Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University.)  Christians ought not to be surprised by these findings, for they comply perfectly with the messages of Scripture.  What these findings do not mention is the most important factor in our well-being, which is that gratitude is good for us spiritually.

Although we speak of giving thanks as if it is a gift from us to God, the blessings of being thankful actually fall on us.  When we are thankful, it reminds of who supplies our needs and puts us in mind of God rather than ourselves (1Chron. 16:12; Ps. 45:17; 52:9).  It magnifies the name of God and helps us to fulfill our God-given purpose of glorifying Him (Ps. 69:30; Isa. 43:7). It also builds our confidence and trust, for it reminds us of how God loves us and always cares for our needs (Ps. 107:1; 136:1f; Rom. 8:32).  Being thankful allows us to become righteous in Christ, for it is simply right to thank God for His blessings.  Thus, giving thanks to God actually is a gift to ourselves, for He does not need our thanks, but we need to be thankful.

Therefore, don't skip thanksgiving to God like a retail store skips the Thanksgiving holiday. Don't let the pace of the world and the pressure to pursue the next big thing cause you to forget gratitude. Instead, take time to count your blessings, and thank God for them.  In fact, you should be thankful even to be thankful.  Gratitude is good for you in every way, but most of all it is good for your soul.  God has said, "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God" (Ps. 50:23).  Be one who honors God with thanksgiving, and look for His salvation in Christ.

Stacey E. Durham



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