Thanksgiving. Turkey and stuffing. Pumpkin pie. Family gatherings/family squabbles. Football. These are the trappings that crowd our days and fill our conversation. The 'thanks' part of the deal sometimes seems peripheral to the whole production. Maybe God gets allotted a 30 second timeslot where heads are bowed and eyes closed - just before everyone digs into the feast spread out before them.
But what would it look like in our hearts and our lives if day-by-day, moment-by moment, we were thankful to God? After all, the Bible tells us,Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:19-20).
If you've ever felt beaten up by life, you know what it feels like to choke on those words. But did you realize the Apostle Paul wrote that sentence while he was locked up in a Roman prison, doing time for sharing the Good News with others, facing brutal treatment and harsh conditions. Yet from his prison cell he had the audacity to challenge followers of Jesus to "always give thanks to God the Father for everything." Makes it a little harder to dismiss it as irrelevant to our lives when times get tough.
Sorta gives you the impression that for followers of Jesus, a thankful heart doesn't overflow from having a 3G phone, the coolest clothes, or a sweet car. It doesn't even come from having a warm house to live in, from being popular or having a steady, reliable cashflow to "supply all our wants" (er, I mean needs).
As believers we should look to Jesus Himself as our model for thankfulness. And Jesus didn't have an abundance of 'stuff' in His life, or a nice house, a steady income, or a safe, secure foothold inside the 'popular crowd'. Yet He lived a life of gratitude and thankfulness. Check out these examples from the His life:
When Jesus fed the 5000, He only distributed the bread to the crowd after "He had given thanks" (Matthew 15:36).
At the Last Supper, the night before Jesus would face a painful death on the cross, Jesus "gave thanks" before He shared the bread and the cup (Luke 22:17, 19).
A truly grateful heart doesn't flow out of the circumstances of our lives. It flows out of a deep, strong, personal relationship with the God of the Universe. Jesus experienced that as a member of the Trinity and through His death on the cross, He opened up the door for us to experience a deep, strong, transforming, personal relationship with God - the kind of relationship the rest of the world needs to know about!
So this Thanksgiving take time to push aside the commotion and approach God with a thankful heart...for His grace and mercy, for His sunsets, for every breath His granted you. Then look for opportunities to move your conversations with friends or family toward God. Here are some ideas to get the conversation headed in a spiritual direction:
Ask your friends if there's one thing they're most thankful? Find out if they see Thanksgiving as more of a time for being thankful to God or being thankful to others? Share how God has made a difference in your life. Share how that has made you thankful. Find out if there's something in your friends' lives that makes it tough to feel thankful this Thanksgiving.
Listen and share how God reaches into our lives to "heal the broken-hearted" (Psalm 147:3) with His grace and mercy. Nothing could be a more natural overflow from your thankful heart than talking about God at Thanksgiving time. Don't miss the opportunity
Jane Dratz serves as Editor for Dare 2 Share Ministries (D2S) in Arvada, Colorado, a ministry committed to energizing and equipping teenagers to know, live, share and own their faith in Jesus. For more information about D2S, please visit www.dare2share.org.