The Heart of Thanksgiving
We often feel the pressure in Christian circles to be something: Thankful. It’s actually become kind of stressful for me to be thankful lately. It’s a funny thing, and I deeply enjoy being thankful, but the pressure to be thankful around the holidays has begun to bother me.
I want to ask a few questions and think about some answers around the topic of “thankfulness.” What is thankfulness? What are Christians thankful for? I’ll share a quote from one of my favorite authors:
“Christians often miss the point of... thankfulness. We stress the importance of thankfulness, but we forget the point of it,” (John Piper). “If we were to muster up thankfulness without a specific point or purpose or reason, then it is meaningless.” Mustering thankfulness without a reason is robbing thankfulness of what it means to be truly thankful.
What I want to talk about today is “What is the true meaning of thankfulness? Why are we thankful? What does it mean to be thankful from the pages of the Bible?”
The word “thankfulness” is not often used in the Bible, but its theme is found in thanksgiving, praise, and perseverance. Praising God for all the things He has done. A great example of thanksgiving and praise bursting out of David is Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!” (v.1)
9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Hebrews 11:9-11
Abraham and Sarah’s faith, joy, and perseverance were not in their circumstance, but God, who is over their circumstances. Their joy and their happiness were not in the fact that they would get a child, or the promised land, but that God was the point of His promises. When they put their trust and faith in God, they moved their thankfulness from what they had or gotten, to the Giver.
With so many hard circumstances in our lives around the holidays, Thanksgiving can be a very difficult time of year for many people; but thankfulness is not found in our circumstances but the God over and above our circumstances. “…Since [Sarah] considered Him faithful who promised…” Sarah received the blessing she was promised, simply because she believed God could do what He promised.
Question: What would Sarah say to people when they asked, “How did you have a child at 90 years old?” The only answer she could give was, “God did it. God gave me the ability to have a child at 90 years old when my body was well past the time I could have a child.” God did the miracle. To cause a barren woman to have a child, you need to have the power to change circumstances, to give life to what has long been dead. The only answer anyone could give would be to talk about everything God had done. It’s so obvious a human could not cause what happened. That’s why it’s called a miracle. God has done what was impossible for people, and it stands out. “How did that happen?! It’s a miracle!” Yes, it is! I’m glad you noticed. No one could have done it but God, and no one receives the praise and thankfulness but God.
“Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” Genesis 18:14
Is anything impossible for God to do? Can anything so wonderful and good be impossible for God to create? We believe in the God who can do anything. The greatest miracle in Scripture is your faith: that God gave life to what was spiritually dead and made you believe.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:1-4).
Questions for Reflection:
- What has God done in your life that you can be thankful for?
- What are impossible circumstances in your life that make you want God to change?
- How can you trust God and cling to Him as long as your circumstance don’t change?
- What could you learn about God being the joy of your heart instead of your circumstances?