The Focus of our Gratitude.
This past week we celebrated another Thanksgiving day. It is probably my favorite holiday of the year. A day set aside to thank God for all His many blessings. When Debbie and I first arrived in America in April 2000, we adjusted to the calendar of a new country and adopted the national holidays; such as 4th July, Labor Day and Memorial Day. But without a doubt the holiday that we most appreciated was Thanksgiving day. It is a holiday that has not been taken over by commercialism and greed, if you ignore Black Friday Shopping that is.
When we enjoyed our first thanksgiving we understood a little bit of the reason behind the early Pilgrims giving thanks on this day. We had arrived with little or nothing and the Lord had put generous people in our path, who cared for us and taught us how to navigate the American system.
Thanksgiving is all about God, and recognizing who he is and all the blessings he has freely given us. In a world that has all but pushed God away in every sphere of society it is amazing that we still celebrate thanksgiving. Because how can we celebrate this holiday if we don’t acknowledge our Lord and creator.
Dante Rossetti once said; “The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful, and has nobody to thank”.
Our scripture today is Psalm 100; it is a Psalm of thanksgiving or put another way it is a sacrifice of praise and thanks to God. The psalmist encourages people to come joyfully into God’s presence, acknowledging him as the creator and Good Shepherd. His goodness, faithfulness and love will last forever.
As I meditated on this Psalm I was drawn to the first part of verse 3; “3 Know that the Lord is God.” In order to thank God, we need to believe in God, but also we need to believe that he is who he says he is.
This led me to Deuteronomy 6:4; “4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This is the greatest statement in the Hebrew Law and also the first verse that every Jewish child memorizes.
I was also reminded of Hebrews 11:6; “6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
In order to be truly thankful, we need to meditate on the nature and character of God.
Do we thank God for his benefits or do we thank God for who he is?
Do we thank God that he is just and kind?
Do we thank God that he is loving, and slow to anger?
Do we thank God that he is merciful and unchanging?
Even though being grateful for the benefits of knowing God is proper and the right thing for us to do, it is only a part of what we must be thankful for. True gratitude must be rooted in the beauty and excellency of the character of God.
When we only focus on the blessings of God we are like a child who gets a gift from a parent and then uses that gift in a way that is not honoring to the parent. Do we focus on what we can get from God? James wrote very directly about this in James 4:3;” 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Jonathan Edwards once said; “And God is not glorified if the foundation of our gratitude is the worth of the gift and not the excellency of the Giver. If the gratitude is not rooted in the beauty of God before the gift, it is probably disguised idolatry. May God grant us a heart to delight in him for who he is so that all our gratitude for his gifts will be the echo of our joy in the excellency of the Giver? “
What are you thankful for today? Do you thank God by giving back to him, by blessing others, by using what God has given you to bring others to a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Let us strive this week to show our gratefulness by looking for opportunities to share the Gospel message with others and spend our resources on the things of the Kingdom of God.
Let us live in thankfulness and always acknowledge God as the source of all our blessings.