When I say “Thanksgiving,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? (This is not a rhetorical question. Answer please!)
If you’re an American and you’re really honest the answer is most likely “turkey,” “food,” or “football.” (Of course I have a precocious person in my kitchen who answered “cornucopia” and a person in my office who answered, “pilgrims.”) That one little exercise bears witness against us that when it comes to this particular “holiday” our minds are not set on the things which are above but on the things of the earth. How then, as Christians, are we any different than our consumption driven neighbors when it comes to Thanksgiving?
It’s been called “thanks-living” and “an attitude of gratitude” and it is the Biblical mandate to “give thanks in all circumstances.” And yes, it is God’s intention that we live it for more than one day a year.
As Christ followers who know that “this” is neither as good as it gets nor all that there is but rather people who have a seat saved at the marriage feast of the Lamb, a home in heaven and an imperishable inheritance, thankfulness ought to be our way of life and our continual witness to the world. Is that the reality of your daily life? Moment by moment, are you lifting up prayers of thanksgiving, in all circumstances?
Check yourself today for signs of dissatisfaction, angst, complaining, bitterness, envy, murmuring, discontentment, or a critical spirit. Intentionally seek to have the mind of Christ in all circumstances. Take every thought captive to Christ and acknowledge moment by moment that every perfect gift comes from above. Invite the Holy Spirit to pervade your spirit with an awareness of God’s perfect providence even in seasons of hunger, loneliness and need. Recognize that there is a battle being waged for your soul – and an Enemy seeking to rob you of your joy. The Enemy wants your spirit to be dark, depressed and despairing. That is not God’s will for His children!
God’s desire is that we give thanks in all circumstances, acknowledging that He is present and active and working, even in those moments, hours, days and seasons when it “feels” otherwise.
Here’s an exercise to begin building spiritual muscles of thankfulness this week. I recommend doing one of these per day – or dedicating a day to the entire experience.
I. Read the book of Philippians and make note of every reference to joy. How many did you find?
Now, re-read Philippians and take note of Paul’s circumstances as he writes this letter. Consider specifically the “secret” to which Paul refers in verses 4:12-13. Do you know the secret?
Do you experience the joy Paul experiences in Christ no matter the circumstances? If not, ask and answer honestly, “am I practicing what is preached in Philippians 4:8-9?” What might happen if you spent today doing what God instructs here?
II. Read the book of Colossians and find the specific reference to thankfulness in every chapter. Now, reflect on your own life and make a similar list.
- For whom do you pray with thankfulness (Col. 1:3)?
- Have you thanked God today for your imperishable inheritance (Col 1:12)?
- How is your life overflowing with thanksgiving for the reality of being possessed by Christ (Col 2:7)?
- Does the peace of Christ rule in your heart and is the word of Christ dwelling in you richly (Col 3:15)?
- Are you doing all that you do, even the most mundane and repetitive things, in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Col 3:17)? Can you see that if you made this your moment by moment practice your life would be transformed?
- Devote this day to prayer, being watchful and thankful – and see what God will do (Col 4:2)!
III. Ephesians 5:20, Colossians 3:16 and First Thessalonians 5:16-18 echo one another in admonishing us to “be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Test yourself against that standard today. Are you a living demonstration of joy? Is your life marked by continual prayer? Are you thankful in all circumstances and “for” all things? Depression feeds on thoughts of lack; joy feeds on thoughts of thankfulness. Which “feeling” will you choose to feed today?
Start small and be intensely practical. From my own journal a year back, “I was sitting alone at a table in a hotel for the tenth straight day on the road. I was drinking bad coffee and wishing I were home. Then God pricked my conscience and Paul’s admonition to thankfulness pierced my heart. I started small, thanking God for the cup in my hand and the beverage inside. That led me to thank God for the person who had gotten up earlier than me to make the coffee and the person behind that person who had washed the cup and brought it to the table. I found myself thankful for the farmer who planted the beans and the farmer who had cared for the cow that produced the cream and the farmer who had grown the sugar cane…and all the subsequent hands and lives that God had used along the way. The moment and the breakfast and the interaction with the staff and the day were transformed.”
So, what are you holding in your hands right now?
Isn’t it worthy of a prayer of thanksgiving? #thankful