This month at South Side we have been unpacking a sermon series about Thanks & Giving. Each week we have looked at what the word of God has to say about being thankful and what we give back in response. When asked what they’re thankful for, 85 percent of Americans say their health and/or their family. So it’s no surprise that nearly 90 percent of us will be sharing Thanksgiving dinner with family. Speaking of dinner, polls also show that Americans are thankful for food — and understandably so in this land of plenty. Americans love turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, stuffing and especially, it seems, pie. When asked what kind of pie we will be eating on Thanksgiving, 62 percent of us say pumpkin, 33 percent say apple, 27 percent say pecan, 11 percent say chocolate and 17 percent say sweet-potato. Add those percentages up, and you get 150 percent, which means most of us will be enjoying more than one kind of pie.
But we know that Thanksgiving isn’t really about pie or turkey, and giving thanks shouldn’t be limited to the fourth Thursday of November. As followers of Christ, we are called to be thankful and grateful every day.
History teaches us that after Congress called on him to establish “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer,” President George Washington declared in the autumn of 1789, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” Thus, Thanksgiving, which Americans had practiced in various ways and on various days for decades, was set aside as a U.S. holiday. President Abraham Lincoln and President Franklin Roosevelt would add a couple more tweaks to get us to the Thanksgiving we know today. Americans may have invented Thanksgiving, but we didn’t invent the act of giving thanks. The Bible has at least 154 references to “giving thanks,” “thankful,” “gratitude/grateful” and “blessing.”
Blessings — especially blessings from the Lord — are a dominant theme in the Torah. In Genesis, God promises to bless His people so that they will be a blessing to others. In Exodus, there is a promise that if we “worship the Lord…His blessing will be on your food and water.” Deuteronomy explains that God’s blessings come with obedience to God’s commands. Indeed, it’s safe to say that we are commanded to give thanks for those blessings. The writer of Chronicles says, “Give thanks to the Lord.” Why? Simply because “He is good.” David and Jeremiah echo this truth. The Psalms are sprinkled with calls to thanksgiving. “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness,” David declares. “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart.” Paul calls on believers to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you.” According to Paul, we should “always” be “giving thanks to God the Father for everything.” In Colossians, Paul implores us, “Be thankful.” In that same letter, he connects “the message of Christ” with having “gratitude in your hearts.” He writes, “live your lives…overflowing with thankfulness.”
I believe that we should be thankful and grateful every day not just because of those examples, but because of our own experiences, because of what the Lord has done for us and continues to do for us each day, because He deserves nothing less. There’s a wonderful little devotional book titled “Grace for Each Day” that reminds us, “We have received countless gifts from God but none compare with the gift of salvation. God’s grace is the ultimate gift, and we owe Him ultimate thanksgiving.” Interestingly, the word “grace” is intimately connected with the word “gratitude.” Both trace their roots to the Latin word gratus, which can mean thankful, grateful, and beloved. God has proved His love for us in this: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” paid the price for our sin, offered forgiveness and made a path back to the Father. This is God’s grace — the unmerited, unearned, undeserved, unmatchable gift of His love. The only thing we can do in return — the only thing He desires — is that we accept the gift with grateful, thankful hearts.
As that little devotional book asks, “Do you carve out quiet moments each day to offer thanksgiving and praise to your Creator? You should. Thanksgiving should become a habit, a regular part of daily routines.” So, before we exchange Christmas lists, maybe now is a good time to count our blessings and make a different kind of list — a “thanksgiving list.” I’ve been doing that this year, and it has reopened my eyes and heart to the countless ways God blesses me. As I jot down one blessing, it usually makes me think of another and then another. I have concluded that my list of blessings is endless because God’s grace is amazing and endless. This Sunday at South Side we will unpack our final message of our series by talking about “secrets of remaining thankful.” Worship time entitled “Encounter” begins at 10:45, and we have an ever growing children’s ministry with specialized classes for all ages. Come early before worship and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and a snack at Café Connect. May God bless you, and may you continue to always give thanks!
South Side Church of Christ