"Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe." Hebrews 12:28 NLT
November - and Thanksgiving in particular - is the month Americans choose to show their thankfulness.
Hopefully, we’ll remember our heritage and how the early Pilgrims celebrated by inviting their Indian neighbors who had shown them how and what to plant so they could survive in the New World.
But honestly, some days, months and years have made expressing thankfulness difficult.
The year my son left to live with his mother was a hard year to be thankful. Nor did I feel thankful when I sent my daughter to college. Empty nests are lonely. The year my father died was a difficult year to be grateful. As well as the year I spent a week in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer and spent more time in the doctor’s office than out of it.
But I was thankful for the message I received one day when I sat down at my computer to write. A message that simply read, “I’ve been enjoying your Love Lines. Can you send me your number?”
Ironically, I had just thought about this friend a week or so before. Almost eight years had passed since we’d sat down and reminisced. He and I had been work associates right after we graduated from high school - 36 years before - but our lives had taken us in different directions.
I sent him my number, and within five minutes, my phone rang. His voice sounded the same - his spirit just as chipper as I remember. For the next 30 minutes, we caught up on the last eight years. I was thankful I had a good friend. Though the miles separated us, I knew I could depend on him if I truly needed him.
First century inhabitants also had reason to be thankful if they listened to and accepted the message of the early apostles. Their contemporaries may have killed Jesus and placed His body in a cold tomb, but God had raised Him up and validated salvation for anyone who chose to believe.
Like many other things in life, I don’t tie thankfulness to my feelings. I thank God because it’s the proper thing to do. Such as the lame beggar whom Peter healed: “He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them” (Acts 3:8).
When I examine situations closely enough, I find reasons to thank God even when it appears there are none. As the lame beggar demonstrates, praise is an appropriate method of thanking God. If Christ does nothing more for me than what He has at Calvary, I have sufficient reason to praise Him forever.
Giving is another way we demonstrate thankfulness. I’ve wandered through periods when money was tight, bills fell behind and some services were disconnected. Yet I still gave. God’s kingdom work is worth it, and He has promised to meet our needs when we do.
We can also thank God with time: worshiping with other believers, using our spiritual gifts, indulging in spiritual disciplines and loving our neighbors through acts of service.
I’m not always as thankful as I should be. Sometimes it takes a call from an old acquaintance to remind me what I’ve had and what I still have. Among the many things I don’t have on earth that I might enjoy having, the eternal things ahead outweigh them all and should prompt me to give thanks in the present.
This Thanksgiving season, make sure you demonstrate a thankful spirit.