Just in case you needed a reminder, the holidays are right around the corner; in fact (not that I am counting), Christmas is, as of the date of this publication, 55 days away. And its festive decorations have adorned stores for weeks. If you ask me, it’s a little bit crazy. In all the season’s busyness, it’s easy to overlook one of our most important holidays—Thanksgiving.
It might be my favorite. I mean, what’s not to like? We gather together, family and friends, to do one of my favorite things … eat! Start with a great turkey, add some mashed potatoes and all the fixings, and finish the meal with various pies. All of this resulting in getting completely stuffed, and falling into the proverbial food coma, only to wake up and be hungry an hour later. Can someone say “leftovers?”
While all of this is a great deal of fun, for me, what’s important is the “thanks” in Thanksgiving. As Christians, every day should be Thanksgiving; this is something that we are commanded to do. Psalm 118:1 tells us: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
Theoretically, that sounds pretty good, but in reality, giving thanks can be difficult. It’s easy to say “Thank you, Jesus,” when things are going well, like when a baby is born, but are you as thankful when a loved one passes away? It doesn’t say to give thanks when you are “feeling” good, but to give Him thanks because He is good! Again, easier said than done, right?
Do you think you’ve got it bad? Well, let me introduce you to Job. This is a guy who most might say got the “short end of the stick.” In one single day, he lost his seven sons and three daughters. And yet, against all odds, he continued to give thanks to the Lord. He was grateful regardless of his circumstances. Job 1:21 states, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Can you say the same? Can you be grateful regardless of circumstances? This is what the Lord desires for us.
And if you need more convincing that having an attitude of gratitude is beneficial, research shows that grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier. Professor Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratefulness, states that gratitude reduces toxic emotions ranging from envy to frustration; it reduces depression and increases happiness. Oh, and yes, it will help you sleep better, too.
To give thanks sincerely, you must realize that God is in control of your life. Sometimes we understand this reasonably simple concept; however, we are often entirely mystified by it as well. I don’t care how many plans and good ideas we may have; ultimately, God is in control of our lives, not us. Sometimes, it’s hard to fathom how we struggle to accept this Biblical truth. Proverbs 16:9 tells us that we can make our plans, but the Lord determines our path.
God is in control of the good things that happen to us, and He remains in control when bad things occur. The sooner we realize that God loves us, and that He is always looking out for our benefit, the more we will thrive.
To help you realize that your circumstances aren’t as bleak as you might think, let’s consider the New Testament account of Paul and Silas. If any two people had every right to be bitter about what was happening to them, it was those two. While preaching the Gospel in the city of Philippi, they were arrested, imprisoned and severely beaten. Did they try to escape or curse God for their predicament? Nope, they started, of all things, singing. So much so that the other prisoners began to listen. Meanwhile, a great earthquake shook the grounds, and the jailer, who ashamedly and fearfully thought every prisoner had escaped, prepared to take his own life, only to be stopped by Paul, who led him to Christ, as well as his entire family. That’s what happens when you have an attitude of gratitude, even when faced with the worst of circumstances.
I know that we live in difficult times today. The world is a dangerously divided place. Our way of life is being challenged. Our young soldiers are paying the ultimate price. And it would be easy to ask God why and be resentful of what He is doing. Yet, that’s when it’s the most important to give thanks. We have so much for which to be thankful.
Here is what we need to do: maintain an eternal perspective. God is on the throne, and He is in control of your life. So, if you feel like it or not, rejoice in the Lord—not in your circumstances, but the Lord. Give thanks to Him for He is good, even if things are not at the moment.
Remember that jailer whom Paul led to Christ? He asked Paul and Silas: “What must I do to be saved?” They replied: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).
Have you done this yet? If not, you are missing out on humanity’s greatest reason for thanksgiving. ©2021 Greg Laurie
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Greg Laurie is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, with campuses in California and Hawaii. He began his pastoral ministry at age 19 by leading a Bible study of 30 people. He is the author of such books as “Jesus Revolution” and his latest, “Billy Graham: The Man I Knew.”