Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Among my cherished memories is how we celebrated Thanksgiving the last few years with my father in his mountain home. My daughters and I shared the cooking of an abundant, delicious feast—turkey with dressing and gravy, ham, green beans, corn pudding, two kinds of sweet potato casseroles, sticky rice, two kinds of cranberry relish, yeast rolls, pumpkin and apple pies with real whipped cream and ice cream, sweet iced tea. … My mouth waters just thinking about it!
But the highlight of Thanksgiving was not the food, or the televised football games, or the fun of being with family. The highlight was always the fellowship around the dining room table. As we sipped our coffee and gorged on one last piece of pie, each one shared what he or she was most thankful for. As exceedingly precious as those moments were, I am convicted that the attitude of gratitude to God is not meant to be meagerly measured out once a year around a dining room table. It is to be translated into genuine thanksliving.
The concept of thanksliving seemed to escape the early Israelites. They had been delivered from bondage in Egypt by the supernatural power of God. Yet within days of their deliverance, they apparently had forgotten His power on their behalf and were blaming Moses for having delivered them from Egypt so they could die in the desert (see Exodus 14:11).
For the next 40 years, as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, they constantly whined and complained and were filled with doubts as to God’s care. Even though He had supernaturally delivered them from the enemy, from thirst, from hunger, from disease and from a variety of other crises—their focus always seemed to be on themselves and on their immediate problems, instead of on the God Who had delivered, cared for and guided them.
After wandering for 40 years, all the men who had walked out of Egypt died except for two—Joshua and Caleb. Joshua was chosen by God to lead the second generation of freed Israelite slaves out of the wilderness into the Promised Land of Canaan. Once again, the Israelites experienced God’s power as He rolled back the waters of the Jordan River, enabling them to cross over on dry ground and take possession of all that He had for them. And to help ensure that the Israelites did not regress into the old pattern of whining, doubt and complaining, God allowed them to be challenged in a unique way to keep their focus on Him through thanksliving.
Read Joshua 3 and 4.
I. LITERAL THANKS
- What were the stones of remembrance, and where did they come from? Read Joshua 4:2-3, 5, 8.
- Why did God say they were to be collected and carried to the riverbank? Read Joshua 4:6-7.
- From the following passages, describe other visuals God gave His people and what each represented: Genesis 9:12-16; Exodus 12:1-13; Matthew 26:26-29; John 20:24-29.
- What has God done for you as recently as this past week for which you have yet to thank Him?
- What are some practical, literal things you can do to help you remember what God has done for you so you can cultivate and maintain an attitude of gratitude?
II. LIVING THANKS
- What was necessary before the Israelites could experience God’s power? Read Joshua 4:10.
- What was the living proof of God’s power, in Joshua 4:11?
- What do you think the crossing of the Jordan symbolizes in the Christian life?
- Did the Israelites believe that their experience of God’s power meant their lives would be easy from then on? Give a verse to prove your point.
- What is significant in Joshua 4:18? How would this affect the Israelites?
- Who are the living stones today, and what is one of their primary purposes, according to these passages? 1 Peter 2:4-5 with 1 Peter 2:9? Ephesians 2:19-22 with Ephesians 1:4-6?
III. LASTING THANKS
- What did the stones mean, in Joshua 4:22-24?
- What were the Israelites to do with the memories of their experiences of God’s power? Read Joshua 4:6-7, 22.
- When others look at your life, do they demand an explanation for what they see? What explanation do you give them?
- What literal object could you place in your home or office that would be a conversation starter, giving you the opportunity to tell others about your experiences of God’s power?
- What testimony are you leaving behind for your children/grandchildren, and how will you be sure they get it?
- How do nine of the 10 lepers in Luke 17:11-19 illustrate living thanks, but not lasting thanks? How does the one leper illustrate both living and lasting thanks?
- What are at least two reasons for us to give verbal testimony to what God has done for us? Read Joshua 4:24; Luke 1:1-4; John 4:28-42; John 20:30-31; 1 John 1:1-4.
During His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus proclaimed that if those who loved Him did not praise Him, the stones would cry out! Do you love Jesus? Then why would you or I allow a stone to have the privilege that is ours? What has silenced your praise this Thanksgiving? Could it be that the corruption, chaos, confusion, COVID, and just plain craziness in our world has distorted your focus? If you are honest, would you admit to having become self-centered? Then join me as we refocus now by completing the following sentence with as many of His attributes or blessings as we can:
I thank God for __________.
What will you do now, regardless of what happens all around you, not just to celebrate Thanksgiving this month, but to practice thanksliving throughout the year? ©2022 Anne Graham Lotz
This article is adapted from a study originally published in November 2003.
Anne Graham Lotz has proclaimed God’s Word worldwide for more than 40 years. Her newest book, which she co-authored with her daughter Rachel-Ruth Wright, is “Jesus Followers: Real-Life Lessons for Igniting Faith in the Next Generation.” It is available from major booksellers online.