Here in America, we have a long tradition of thanksgiving. It began in 1621 when the first settlers declared a day of thanksgiving in gratitude to God for His bountiful provision of the fall harvest. Then during George Washington’s first year as president, he recognized a day of thanksgiving for the nation. Our current Thanksgiving holiday became official in 1863 during President Lincoln’s tenure.
Looking back at our nation’s focus on gratitude to God, it could be disheartening to see all the distractions of Thanksgiving Day today. Amidst the feasting, football, and early Christmas shopping, it’s easy to lose sight of the original purpose for the holiday—to thank God for all His provisions and blessings. Has something happened to our sense of gratitude?
The sin of ingratitude began very early in human history in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve decided that what God had given them was not enough. Although He had provided a perfect environment with abundant fruit from every tree except one, Adam and Eve weren’t satisfied and wanted more. When they ate from the one forbidden tree, sin entered the world and spread to all mankind.
Any time we aren’t satisfied with what the Lord has given us and decide we want something outside His will, we are expressing ingratitude. Yet those of us who know Christ as Savior have so many reasons to be thankful. In fact, according to Colossians 2:7, we should be “overflowing with gratitude.” Oftentimes we only think about the external blessings God has given us, such as good health, family, and physical provision, but let’s not overlook the spiritual blessings that come to us through our relationship with Christ.
First of all, our Thanksgiving should begin with the realization that God alone is responsible for our salvation. He chose each of us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and gave us the gift of faith so we could believe in Him (Eph. 2:8). From that point forward, the Lord works in us to develop godly character. He has even given us His Holy Spirit to seal us as God’s children, guide us into truth, and empower us to obey and serve Him. These reassuring truths should fill us with gratitude.
Thanksgiving should begin with the realization that God alone is responsible for our salvation
Second, we now have the incredible privilege of walking with Christ. Although we cannot see or touch Him, His presence is always with us. Paul tells us in Colossians 2:6 that we walk with Him in the same way we received Him—by faith. We have the promises in His Word to strengthen our faith and guide our steps, and when we don’t understand some of life’s situations, we can trust that He will always lead us in the best possible path according to God’s will.
Third, having been firmly rooted, we are now being built up in Christ (Colossians 2:7). Like a large tree with deep roots that stands strong in the storm, our relationship with Christ is rooted in God’s Word, which can never fail. We know we are eternally secure; no one can take from us our position in Him. He’s also promised to meet all our needs, so we can be at peace as we recall His faithfulness. And we should have joyful anticipation for the future, since we know that Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven and will one day return to take us home with Him.
Each time we come to His Word we learn more truths, which build up our faith and trans-form us into Christ’s image as we apply them to our lives. Over time, we recognize our growth in Him, which is a reason for thankful rejoicing. And when the storms of life come against us, we won’t panic because we know that God works in our lives through suffering and trouble.
Fourth, we are also being established in our faith just as we were instructed (Colossians 2:7). The Scriptures always instruct us in truth so that we will not be swayed or deceived by false religions, philosophies, and ideas. Christ is actively protecting us with the truth of His Word. We can have grateful confidence in His protection as long as we make sure that we are reading the Bible and listening to sound teaching.
These are just a few of the many benefits that are ours in Christ Jesus and that should cause us to overflow with thanks. A grateful heart is an expression of His indwelling presence. In fact, we can evaluate our relationship with the Lord by our degree of gratitude. If we’re thankful, we won’t complain about our circumstances because we’re focusing on what He is doing in our lives. We’ll also have a humble spirit, knowing that the Lord is the source of every good thing.
Thankfulness is a choice we can make daily. If it’s lacking in our lives, we must decide that we want to change. If we’ll start recognizing and acknowledging God’s wonderful blessings and ask Him to give us a grateful heart, He will begin transforming our lives. Then as we live more and more in step with Christ, His characteristics of goodness, love, kindness, and generosity will flow through us until we’re overflowing with gratitude.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. We pray that you will set aside time to give thanks to God this month as you remember all His blessings throughout the year. Allow yourself to delight in the spiritual benefits that are yours in Christ. What are some ways you have gone deeper in your relationship with Him? What challenges has He brought you through? May you be encouraged knowing that Jesus has walked with you through every circumstance, sustaining you with His loving care.