Thanksgiving message I gave in 2015
One phrase repeated in Psalm after Psalm after Psalm is, “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good” (Psalms 136:1). Maybe it’s repeated so often because we forget. When we give thanks, it’s because we remember. We are called to remember. We see this when God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and led them up to the Promised Land. At that point, Moses told the children of Israel to remember that God brought them out of Egypt’s slavery (Deuteronomy 15:15). Instead of being afraid of the inhabitants of Canaan, remember what God did to Pharaoh and his mighty army, drowning them in the depths of the sea (Deuteronomy 7:18). We remember what great things God has done for us, and the right response is thanksgiving. The children of Israel then entered the land, fought and won it.
So with remembrance comes courage against the enemy. The Promised Land is not heaven, for we do not fight in heaven! That land is figurative of our soul with its fleshly nature, and it is full of enemies of God. When the Word reveals the enemy within, then we can remember the Lord by reviewing His promises. Then with courage we confess the sin as sin and ask for forgiveness. Then the blood washes the sin away. We then stand on that ground, holding it for Christ. We’ll fight the good fight of faith when the inhabitants of the land arise up to reclaim the space, and hold it fast.
With remembrance comes thanksgiving, but also courage.
The Psalms are full of thanksgiving, all pointing to God as the source. “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.” I had a dry period recently and had stopped writing. Normally I would post a devotional in my Yahoo Groups account once a week, send devotionals to Deaf Devotionals Daily Devotions for the Deaf publication, post a commentary a day on my Twitter account, and so on. I wandered from all that while praying for what book the Lord wanted me to do next after I had written hundreds of devotions from the book of Mark in Steps of a Disciple. Then came His voice: “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Matthew 22:37). My focus should be the Lord, not my works and writing.
So I just gave myself to Him afresh, just to enjoy Him and give thanks for God’s indescribable gift. Soon I found a new vigor to take up all the works I had done in the past. Then I realized that all those things I was doing earlier was God prospering me: “And He is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). How good God is! Don’t take it for granted, but “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.” Then in the remembrance, give yourself afresh to Him.
Lastly, there is a lot of suffering going in the world today, and Christians are not immune to it. We may have had a difficult setback this year that is still hurting us, perhaps the economy is squeezing us, or something unfortunate happened to a loved one. It’s hard to give thanks in these circumstances. However, Christians have something the world does not: we have the mind of Christ. We can see these troubles with new eyes, that God uses even our difficult periods in life for our good — to strengthen our faith, form our character, or rediscover of joy of His help in unexpected places. Only one who knows God can see that.
David wrote, “Yea, though I go through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for thou art with me. Thy rod and they staff, they comfort me” (Psalms 23:4). God is with us in the hard times. David found God trustworthy, inherently good to be with, even in the valley of death. “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.” Our circumstances may not be great at present, but God always is. Thanks to His goodness, there is always a light in the dark places. His presence with us is that light.
Give thanks to God, but not as in the formality of shaking hands to thank a person. Rather, with a spiritual mind, recite from the heart what the Lord has done for you, and let it give you courage to act on His behalf. Let the Lord be your focus, not the world and its temporary goods. And remember that He is good all the time, so even in the darkest places there is reason to give thanks.