Thanksgiving is not just a byproduct of good times; it is a crucial Christian discipline. I’ve been slowly learning this, particularly in the last year.
Over the past two weekends, formal thanksgiving has been front and centre here. We celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving (October 11-12) and then the 50th anniversary of Edson Baptist Church last weekend.
These formal times of giving thanks to God are right and good. Celebrations are good for the soul, and they train us to be thankful people when we come to them in humility and in a conscious attitude of dependence upon God for His grace.
It would be easy to blow off such events and say, “These are just days on a calendar.” This kind of nonchalance could even wear a mask of spirituality. However, God’s Word sets a pattern of formal thanksgiving and remembrance.
Formal thanksgiving is good, but it must not displace continual, heartfelt thanksgiving to God in our daily lives. Giving thanks is commanded by God in many places. This is one of those, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” things. Thanksgiving is not a work by which we are saved. Quite the contrary, it is a recognition that all good things – and particularly our redemption – come from God as gifts.
To fail to give thanks is to rob God of His glory and deprive ourselves of joy. If you think I’m overstating this, do a word search in a concordance (or your computer Bible program) for “thanksgiving” and “give thanks” and tell me that I’m wrong. If you’re not convinced yet, then read Psalm 50 carefully and work out the logic. We read Psalm 50 in church on Thanksgiving Sunday this year and I was freshly convicted by it.
If you’re still not convinced that giving thanks is that important, I heartily recommend John Piper’s message from New Attitude 2007 on the kind of obedience that pleases God (free download).
If you don’t feel like being thankful, repent! And then dig into God’s Word and look for Jesus there. Contemplate who He is and what He has done for you. Think about what you would have if God had not given you something (hint: nothing). What do we have that we have not received?
Give thanks. Seriously.