Give thanks in all things

In 1789, George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation stating, “Whereas 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, aid and favors. … Now, therefore, do I assign and recommend Thursday, the 26th day of November next … that we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks for his kind care and protection of the people of this country, and for all the great and various favors which he has been pleased to confer upon us.”

In 1942, Congress passed a bill setting the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. Now Thanksgiving was to be observed annually as a federal holiday. In the book The New England Mind: From Colony to Province, the author wrote this: “For the Puritan mind, to fix thanksgiving to a mechanical revolution of the calendar would be folly; who can say that in November there will be that for which thanks should be uttered rather than lamentation? By the time ceremonial gratitude can be channelized into an annual festival, calculated in advance, society is rewarding its own well-doing, not acknowledging divine favor … though the society doggedly persists in giving autumnal thanks, it no longer has a mechanism for confessing its shortcomings and seeking forgiveness for its trespasses.”

This year Nov. 26 is Thanksgiving Day. Most of the time it is associated with family, food and football. This year is different. Amid a pandemic, hurricanes, wildfires, racial discord, civil unrest and political rancor, we struggle to be thankful. Perhaps we have lost the concept of thanksgiving altogether. 

Thanksgiving is more of an attitude than an event. God has given us much. We have physical life, material possessions and spiritual truth. Sadly, most of us are spoiled with abundance. Yet we find it hard to acknowledge God’s hand. I hear people say, “Thank goodness,” or, “I’m so thankful.” They have no concept that it is the sovereign God of the universe who has made the blessing possible. Spiritual consciousness of the God of the Bible has been lost in the general population. We know to whom we are to offer our thanks as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

As believers we march on through this life without much more awareness of God’s hand of providence than our unbelieving friends. Perhaps if we were to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts about our sins, we could once again catch a glimpse of Calvary. Once the cross is in full view, we can do nothing else but offer thanks for all things. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Once we revisit the grace of God, we can begin to give thanks in all things. And as Paul writes once again in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The New American Commentary on this verse says, “Paul never instructed the church to thank God for evil events but to thank God that even in evil times and circumstances our hope remains, and God continues to work in our lives.”

The hardship of a pandemic will pass. Natural disasters will end one day. The injustices of this world will be rectified when Jesus comes back. So, when you think all is lost, give thanks. Return to the cross and enjoy the grace that is abundant. It is saving grace, traveling grace and dying grace. Above all people, we should express our deepest and heartfelt “thanksgiving” to our wonderful Savior. I pray you and your family will experience a blessed Thanksgiving.   

Executive Director Emeritus
Jim Richards
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
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