Thanksgiving :: by Lynette Schaefer

With the season of Thanksgiving upon us, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on this holiday in terms of how we can celebrate it to bring honor and glory to God. The secular worldview generally thinks of Thanksgiving as a time to party, with lots of preparations, food, and overeating. It is a time to bring family and friends together. It could also be a time of stress, overspending, and friction with family members. It is also a painful time for a lot of people who have lost loved ones during the year, or for those who are separated by miles.

Although the traditions of the Thanksgiving holiday are not necessarily evil in themselves and should be enjoyed, as Christians I would like us to take this a step further to focus on a more positive approach and use this season as a time to be truly thankful to God for all the wonderful things He does and is doing in our lives, rather than focusing on our own agendas or plans. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Thank God for His precious Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. (Titus 3:4) Jesus is most precious because He loved us enough to come down from heaven to willingly offer us salvation by grace by offering Himself on the Cross. (John 6:51, John 3:13) He died on our behalf while we were yet sinners. (Rom. 5:8) What an awesome concept that Jesus willingly came to earth to live as God in flesh, in the form of a humble human being, experiencing the same trials and pains we do, to die a most excruciating death in order to purchase (redeem) us by His own precious blood. (1Pet. 1:19) Accordingly, there is absolutely NOTHING we can do to earn salvation on our own. (Is. 64:6; Eph. 2:8-10). We depend on the Lord completely and totally for His Grace.
  • Thank God for our precious Faith through the Word. (2Pet. 1:1; 1Pet. 1:7) The Word should be very precious to us, because it is God’s communication to us to bring us to a knowledge of Himself and to give us instructions on how to live rightly. We learn how to have a meaningful relationship with God through what He says in His Word about Himself, and also we learn about ourselves. Our faith helps us to grow in our Walk with God and keeps us from straying into dangerous situations in our lives. We learn discernment and how to make godly choices, which gives us peace and contentment. Most of all, we learn that our identity in Christ is that, instead of sinners deserving of God’s wrath, we are now children of God (Rom. 8:16) and therefore very valuable. We need to make it a regular habit to study the Word each and every day, and go to it to hear counsel from God on His direction for our life so we can stay in the center of His Will.
  • Thank God that we have a future with Him in heaven. (John 3:15, 16) We know we have a much better life waiting for us after our life on earth is over. We can look forward to being around the Throne with Jesus and having everlasting health, freedom, security, love, and happiness. (Rev. 4:1-4) We won’t have to contend with the limitations of earthly living forever. It is all based on the Work of Christ, how much He loves us, what He has accomplished for us, and what He has planned for us.
  • Thank God for the Rapture. (1 John 3:2) For all those who belong to Jesus, He will sound the Trumpet Call at the appointed time and call us to Himself in heaven. As the Bridegroom, He is eagerly anticipating the time to have His bride with Him. Likewise, He wants us to look forward to being with Him as His bride and to trust our future to Him. He is worthy of our trust! Our future in heaven is totally based on His finished work on our behalf, which is the gift of Grace, and is not based on our own legalistic or meritorious works. We do good works as a result of what He has done for us in salvation and because we want to please Him; we don’t do them in order to gain eternal life, because as mere humans we fall far short of the mark.
  • Thank God we are accepted in the beloved. (Eph. 1:6) When we become Children of God, we are no longer in condemnation and subject to God’s Wrath. (Rom. 8:1) All our sins are thoroughly purged by the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5) by the shedding of Christ’s precious blood which we apply to our hearts at salvation. It is the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that saves; it is not our works of “righteousness” or water baptism. If that were the case, then Jesus’ crucifixion was a sham and unnecessary.
  • Thank God for His many provisions and promises. (Psm. 78:20; Jer. 29:11) God is called “Jehovah Jireh”, or the God of Provision. He is the sovereign Source of all that we have: our food, homes, cars, money, jobs, health, relationships, etc. He owns it all. He wants us to manage the many provisions He gives to us well, and make good decisions in these areas. When we do that, He blesses us. He is also a God of many promises: eternal life with Him, security because of what He has done, we are the objects of His love and care, and an abundant life (in Him) that’s meaningful. We are not guaranteed a life of wealth, riches or perfect health on this side of glory, even though He gives us what is sufficient. In what ways has God provided for you that gives you pause to thank Him?
  • Thank God for His wisdom, mercy, strength. (1Cor. 1:24; Psm. 52:8; Titus 3:4; Psm. 46:1) The wisdom, mercy and strength of God is infinite, or without end. So when we learn to depend on Him for these things, they give us stability in our Walk and hope for our future. By studying God’s Word each day, we learn to identify all the ways He is wise, merciful and strong, and know that these are precious gems we can use to thank and glorify Him.
  • Thank God for His purity and holiness. (1Tim. 6:16) God’s nature is one of total purity and holiness. Likewise, His standards for our living are holy. (1Pet. 1:16) As children of God, we need to live holy lives and possess our vessels (bodies) to honor and sanctification (1Thess. 4:4; 2Cor. 6:16). God does not tolerate in His children a lifestyle of immorality, such as homosexuality, fornication, adultery, pornography, deviancy, etc. The reason is because these sins are abusive against ourselves, and they mar our relationships with others. Most of all, they alienate us from God and they are very destructive, not to mention totally unbiblical and forbidden. These things are from the deep pit of the devil who desires our destruction, so watch out!
  • Thank God for His comfort. (2Cor. 1:4; John 14:16, 26) As Christians, we are so fortunate to have the comfort and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that He indwells us continually. The Holy Spirit plays a very significant role in ministering to us as we develop our relationship with the Lord. He illuminates how to really understand and discern the Scriptures, what decisions we need to make, what is the direction for our life, etc. The key is to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit and to understand the nature of this ministering Spirit as a person of the Trinity in order to receive the full benefits that are intended for us. Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot develop a strong relationship with Christ, we cannot truly know God, nor understand the Scriptures properly. The Holy Spirit will only reveal to us that which lines up with the Scriptures and God’s Will. He is a ministering Spirit of order, not chaos, and is insulted when false Christian tares erroneously turn a “church service” into a circus and claim it’s from the Holy Spirit.
  • Thank God for answered prayer. (1John 2:1) I always marvel when I learn of someone’s answered prayers. It tells me that God is listening to our requests and honors them. He’s really there in Person, and He’s not a mere abstract concept “out yonder” somewhere. Some time ago, I was financially broke and desperately trying to get on my feet. It was a real struggle. I had been driving an old Hyndai Excel, which finally gave up the ghost. Consequently, my back was literally to the wall and I had no way to get to work, no way to earn any kind of income. I was trapped and vulnerable. So, I prayed and brought my burden before the Lord. I said, “Father, you know the situation I am in, that I need to somehow work in order to meet my obligations. Now I can’t do it because I don’t have transportation any more, neither do I have any money to buy another car right now. Somehow, I will either need you to give me a car that I don’t have to pay for so I can go to work; or if not, give me the means to work at home on my computer. Whatever way you want to work it out, I would appreciate your quick response and answer to my prayer. I thank you in advance for whatever you are going to do and give you praise that you hear and answer prayer and that I know I don’t have to worry because you’re a good Father and you’ll take care of it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” And I felt confident that something would be done. Well, wouldn’t you know that the very next day I received an email from my pastor saying there was a car available for me! It turned out it was his wife’s car, which is a 1996 Mercury Sable. It was worth some money, but he was willing to give it away. I asked him, “Don’t you want to sell the car or give it to someone in your family?” He said if I wanted the car, it was mine. I was flabbergasted (I always wanted a Taurus anyway). I asked him if he got a replacement car. He said all that was already arranged. Needless to say, the Sable saved the day and for the past couple of years, it has afforded me the opportunity to have steady employment and a good income. To this day, I treasure this car; and God answered my prayer in a most dramatic way that I never expected. Not only did I get a source of transportation, but a good car to boot.
    Sometimes, however, God doesn’t quite answer our prayers in such a dramatic way. There are times when we pray for something specific for years, and it seems to go unanswered (such as praying for an unsaved family member). We don’t know why this happens, but one thing is that it doesn’t mean God isn’t listening or doesn’t care. It could very well mean that God is working behind the scenes on circumstances and timing. Plus He knows the end from the beginning, so that means we need to trust Him to work things out. That’s where our faith comes in, and why it’s so important to be strong in faith. And, keep praying fervently! God loves it when we are fervent and seek to communicate with Him.
  • Thank God for other believers. (Heb. 10:25) God enjoys seeing His children assembling together with one another for worship and fellowship. The reason we do that is to encourage each other in our walk, and to bring honor and praise to the Lord. It is also a good way to form healthy relationships with other believers and to serve the Lord through ministry. In addition, we have opportunity to communicate with God through prayer when we assemble, too. Lastly, we come together to participate in the Last Supper communion to remember Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf; as well as the ordinance of water baptism, which is a symbol of the believer’s salvation in Christ.
  • Thank God for His justice. (Micah 6:8) Ever feel victimized? I have, and it hurts. I don’t like it when an injustice is done; and in this fallen world, injustice is likely to happen. Someone can accuse you of something you didn’t do, make fun of you, stab you in the back or make an unfair decision. Well, God knows these things and will not let everything go by the wayside. There will come a time, at the Great White Throne Judgment which will take place after the Millennium of Peace, when all injustice done by unbelievers to both God and to His saints will be vindicated. Injustices that were done to us will be reversed, and God’s justice will be done. He will not allow sin to go unpunished forever, and He sometimes responds to the sin of mankind by sending “warnings” or judgments to the earth. He does that to get our attention so man will repent of his ways. It is up to man to respond properly or not. But in the end, God will get the glory and all His saints will worship Him in gratitude.
  • Thank God for challenges and trials. (1Pet. 1:7) We may think that we should shun trials and tribulations because they are painful. We may even get mad at God for bringing them into our lives, because they sometimes cause havoc. But there is a big reason for trials. God doesn’t bring us trials because He dislikes us (that is Satan’s talk, don’t ever listen to it). Rather, trials help to grow us up in the Lord and make us just like Jesus. We learn to be overcomers because of trials and challenges. We grow very close to God because we realize we have to depend on Him for everything, including survival. Several years ago I dealt with unemployment and financial issues. Having an inconsistent income wreaked havoc and pain in my life. I had to learn through trial and error, a step at a time, how to overcome and achieve the consistency of income I needed. That process taught me to rely on God’s wisdom and direction and how to listen to what He was trying to tell me. Believe me, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Without Him, I’m not sure what would have happened, but I don’t think I would have fared too well.
  • Thank God for His continual work in our lives. (Phil. 1:6) God never takes His eyes off us. He is always watching us because He is intimately concerned with the issues of our lives. He desires to work with us on a continual basis so we can sense His nearness, His love, His direction and His instructions for our growth and His glory. He has promised never to leave nor forsake us. (Heb. 13:5) We need to listen to Him!
  • Thank God that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ. (Rom. 8:39) Do you know what that means? It means that, as God’s children, we are loved so much by Him that we are His forever and ever, with absolutely no conditions attached. It doesn’t mean we are His IF we do such and such; and if we don’t do such and such, we’re no longer His. We are eternally secure with Him because He has adopted us into His family forever, and will never cast us out. But it also behooves us that if we love and know HIM, we are willing to do things to honor and serve Him.
  • Pray without ceasing. (1 Thess. 5:17) What does it mean to “pray without ceasing”? Does it mean we need to be in a prayer to God 24/7? A Matthew Henry Commentary says, “Note, The way to rejoice evermore is to pray without ceasing. We should rejoice more if we prayed more. We should keep up stated times for prayer, and continue instant in prayer. We should pray always, and not faint: pray without weariness, and continue in prayer, till we come to that world where prayer shall be swallowed up in praise. The meaning is not that men should do nothing but pray, but that nothing else we do should hinder prayer in its proper season.” In other words, we should look at prayer as a time of joy in being in our Lord’s holy presence and know that He’s really interested in what we have to say to Him. We shouldn’t look at prayer simply in order to give God a list of wants or needs, but as an opportunity to fellowship with, and give praise, honor and glory to our Heavenly Father as He communes with us to give us direction and to show us His awesome ways.
  • Our joy as our response. (Psm. 66:1; Psm. 81:1; Psm. 95:1, 2; Psm. 98:4; Psm. 98:6; Psm. 100:1; Eph. 5:19). With so many wonderful and bountiful attributes of God’s Grace that is imparted to us, our response as Christians should be to respond with joy. In looking at the list above (which is only a small token of all God’s wonderful gifts to us, too numerous to mention here), we need to thank our wonderful God and Savior every day for all that He is and all He has done and will do in the future. He deserves our utmost honor and praise because He is sovereign over the universe and He has the supreme authority to be the Captain of our lives as our Creator. Therefore, we should yield our will to His Will for us, because He has only the best in mind for us.

As we stop to enjoy the Thanksgiving season with our families and friends, let’s make sure we first stop to thank our Lord, giving Him the honor and praise. Then let’s be sure we stop to thank Him every single day for all things, large and small, spending time with Him and being in sweet fellowship. He is most worthy of our reverence.

If you haven’t made a decision to make Jesus Christ your personal Savior, why not do it today? He loves you and desperately longs to have a relationship with you and give you the peace that passes all understanding. He is full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) But He will not leave sin unpunished on account of His holy nature. (Jer. 49:12)

If you have been longing for something beyond what “this life” has to offer, Jesus can offer you so much: Himself. He is full of love and grace, but He doesn’t force it on us, and we need to personally accept it. We need to be prepared because there will come a time when this earth and all sinners will be judged very severely as God’s forbearance of sin will be exhausted. Those who die without Christ will be eternally separated from Him and all the wonderful things He has to offer. There are no guarantees in this life…we can have something unexpected happen, and tomorrow will be too late! Now is the time! It is our choice to follow Him or reject what He has to offer.

It’s very simple. Come to Jesus humbly, recognizing that you are a sinner separated from Himself. That, without Him, you are eternally doomed to destruction and there is no hope. You can’t do it your own way and go to heaven; it has to be on God’s terms alone. Recognize how much you need His grace by repenting (turning from your sinful life) and ask for forgiveness so this burden of sin can be lifted. Fully acknowledge Him as the Sinless Son of God who willingly came down from heaven as God in flesh to be your Savior, shedding His precious blood and dying on your behalf so you can be forgiven and cleansed of all your sins, past, present and future. Thank Him for His offer of Grace and ask Him to be your new Master. He will respond to you with delight, adopt you into His family forever and all the angels in heaven will rejoice.

You will begin your new journey as a new creature in Christ, born anew from above and indwelt by the Holy Spirit with a new outlook or worldview. Start making a daily study in the Word by reading the book of the Gospel of John from the New American Standard Bible. It’s all about Jesus. Then make prayer part of your daily life and learn to listen to what God is telling you. Cultivate the life of a Christian by seeking out other believers to fellowship with. If you do that, you will grow in your new Walk and will always have Jesus right beside you.