The month of Thanksgiving is upon us! Let us take some time today to reflect upon its meaning, beginning with this great passage of Scripture from Psalm 116 (NKJV):
For You have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living.
I believed, therefore I spoke,
“I am greatly afflicted.”
I said in my haste,
“All men are liars.”
What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people (NKJV, Ps. 116:8-14).
If your life is anything like mine, you may feel as if you have been working from behind for the entire year. And perhaps we feel that way because it is true!
But I have made a decision to get ahead of the game for this month of Thanksgiving. I decided, in fact, to begin today. November is such a glorious month, and the theme of thanksgiving which it brings to the forefront of our minds is so precious that I do not want to waste a single day of it.
As the Psalmist reflects in the verses listed above, he sees that thanksgiving is actually the perfect antidote to the unrelenting flow of events which stress our minds and thus infect our souls all throughout the year. He made a deliberate choice to look back—not focusing uneasily upon tragedies that might have occurred, but rather with thanksgiving to the God who had “delivered (his) soul from death.” As long as he possessed life, he would give thanks.
Notice, as he comes to this end of this Psalm, that he states in verse 17:
I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the LORD.
As the Apostle Paul also counsels us, thanksgiving is the polar opposite of anxiety. Notice the contrast that he sets up in Philippians 4:6-7:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
If your life is anything like mine, you have so much to be thankful for that you probably do not even know where to begin giving thanks—although you may not always show it. Indeed, you may even be living in such a way that evidences a reliance upon worry and fear rather than “prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving.” This month, even on this first day of the month, is the time to change that pattern.
Just think of all that the Lord has blessed you with, and how much appreciation is due to Him in return! As the late Dr. D. James Kennedy observed,
Thanksgiving sees beyond the second causes to that great First Cause, which is the hand and heart of God… . Thanksgiving can transform the commonplace into that which is sacred and diffused with the presence of God.1
There are, doubtless, some reading this article who are suffering much, and my heart goes out to you. Certainly every one of us faces trials. But I believe that each of us also has so much for which to be thankful. Indeed, if you are a Christian today, and bound for heaven, how can you be less than thankful?
There is, therefore, also a healthy humility involved in giving thanks which is, indeed, good for our souls. This concept becomes so clear in the words of David:
Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. (ESV, 1 Chron. 29:10-15)
What is your outlook as we begin this month of Thanksgiving? Will you allow the Lord to use it for the greatest good in your life by actively obeying His direction to give thanks?
My encouragement to you today is that you do not allow yourself to become stressed to the point of mental exhaustion over the fact that the holiday season is already upon us, or that the end of the year is near. Rather, embrace this month of Thanksgiving! Get ahead of it now, and wring every bit of spiritual edification out of it that you can. As you focus first and foremost on the Lord, trust Him to give you new energy—perhaps even to accomplish some of those things that you have left unfinished during the first 10 months of the year. Make this month memorable by turning it into a time for cleansing your soul on the promises of Scripture by the action of thanksgiving.
And when the upcoming holidays are over and the year of 2017 is passed, you will be able to look back upon it with joy and gratitude.
Truly, we have a month to give thanks!