Text: Philippians 4:4-9
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
A Peanuts cartoon depicted Charlie Brown bringing Snoopy his dinner on Thanksgiving Day. When Snoopy looked at his bowl and realized it was just his usual dog food, he began to grumble. “This isn’t fair,” he griped. “The rest of the world today is eating turkey with all the trimmings, and all I get is dog food. Because I’m a dog, all I get is dog food.” He stared at his food for a while and then finally conceded, “I guess it could be worse. I could be a turkey.”
Throughout the Bible, the idea of thanksgiving is rendering back to God the sacrifices of praise and worship as an expression of gratitude for His good will toward us. Scripture exhorts us to give thanks “always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). But let’s be real. Sometimes it’s hard to choose gratitude when we feel like things are working against us rather than for us. Yet it’s in these times that thanksgiving must become more than a superficial feeling; it must become an earnest demonstration of our faith—a faith that God is indeed good and He works all things together for the good of those called by Him (Romans 8:28).
The “first Thanksgiving” in the United States was a simple gathering of friends who united to give thanks to God for sustaining them in a very difficult season. Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrims suffered the loss of 46 of their original 102 colonists. With the help of 91 Indians, the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival, lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a “thanksgiving” observance.
In 1789, George Washington proclaimed it a National holiday, calling on citizens to praise “that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”
During one of the darkest chapters of our country’s history, the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated in 1863, proclaiming that our country had been blessed with “gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” The president invited fellow citizens to observe the day “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise” to God while calling on prayers for the “Almighty Hand to heal the wounds” of a bitterly divided nation.
True thanksgiving doesn’t wait for circumstances or seasons to change. As Snoopy realized, thanksgiving is a matter of perspective. In every season of life, we get to choose whether our focus will be on the goodness of God or the gravity of our circumstances; thus determining whether our heart will be filled with gratitude or grumbling. Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl came to the powerful revelation that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
In every season of life, we get to choose whether our focus will be on the goodness of God or the gravity of our circumstances.
It seems that the Apostle Paul would agree. From a prison cell, while in a dark season of persecution himself, Paul could look beyond walls of incarceration and say, “Rejoice in the Lord always… The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV).
Paul attributed an anxiety-free spirit to a lifestyle of prayer and thanksgiving, thus making a correlation between our perspective and our inner peace. The key to this peace is found in what we choose to focus on (Philippians 4:8-9).
What might our lives look like if we learned to rejoice in the Lord always—no matter how good, bad, or unfortunate the circumstances may be in the moment? A.W. Tozer said, “Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.”
Think about that as you abide in Him this Thanksgiving week.
Want to know more about what it means to have a “saving” faith? Discover how to have a personal relationship with God.
For further study: Luke 17:11-19, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Psalm 136
Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:
- What is one of your favorite Thanksgiving Day memories/traditions?
- In what seasons of your life have you found it difficult to choose gratitude?
- When has God ever given you a shift in perspective about being thankful?
- From a prison cell, Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” How would this apply to your life right now?
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