It is Thanksgiving day! Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. It is an amazing holiday that was birthed in tragedy, plague, deceit and perseverance. It was the day that two different people groups came together to give thanks to God for His hand on their lives, the prosperity to come and the freedom they would share as a people group. While the original thanksgiving was seeped in tragedy and death—out of that tragedy and death an amazing American tradition came forth. A time when family, friends, strangers and a nation comes together and gives thanks for their lives, freedom, friends, family, work and various other things. In the bible, it mentions giving thanks or praise 146 times. That is a lot of times to mention something, I think it is mentioned a lot because we are supposed to do it a lot.
I am sitting in my backyard underneath my pergola, it’s a cool 63 degrees (f), and I am reflecting on giving thanks and what it all entails. What should we give thanks for? How should we give thanks? What does giving thanks look like in our lives? These are the questions that boggles and floats around inside my mind. Weird things to think about, I guess, but amazing when you come up with some of the answers that I have come up with. I have come up with three reasons we should give thanks—as believers—we should constantly be giving thanks to God, that is an obvious one—therefore, I will leave it out of my three reasons to give thanks list. Let’s dive in!
Reason numero uno: Forgiveness. We have been forgiven much so we should forgive much. I remember hearing this all throughout my childhood. It is an easy saying and I’m sure that you have heard it more than 100 times around your family home or in a church setting. While it is a great saying that is taken from the bible, it has deep implications and meaning behind it. We, as believers, have been forgiven of every sin we have ever committed, some theologians believe that we are not only forgiven of our past sins, but our future sins as well. I like that idea because it means that while I may screw up in the future, its covered! What I mean by that is that it is covered under the blood of Jesus. I will still have to repent and have conviction for what I have done and let the Holy Spirit work in my life to bring me to a lifestyle that doesn’t repeat the same patterns of sin that my natural body is longing to conform to… however, those past, present and future sins are covered under the blood the day that I reached out to Jesus and declared to the world that I am dependent upon Him, I am nothing and He is everything. My sins, are covered under the blood of Jesus. That’s pretty amazing to think about. Anyway, back to forgiveness—we as believers are to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Forgiveness is a choice, not a destination. What I mean by this is that you have to consciously choose to forgive someone. If you hold onto grudges, un-forgiveness and the pain of the hurt—it hurts you, not the other person. Forgiveness is for you as much as it is for the other person being forgiven. You must consciously choose to forgive them, inspite of them asking for forgiveness as well. They may never ask for forgiveness. As a believer, you are to forgive and let the Lord work on the other person in their asking for forgiveness. My grandfather, who passed last year, had an amazing saying that he stole from a Steven Baldacci book I believe, he said “Un-forgiveness is like sipping poison, waiting on the other person to die.” What if they never ask for forgiveness? Tough cookies! You did your part as a follower of Christ.
In my family Thanksgiving is a pretty important day; yes we eat lots of food and have awesome laughs and watch football as a family, but we do so much more than that as well. We gather around a large table and have fellowship with each other. Then it will get really quiet around the table, I think this happens because we all know what is about to happen next and we start sharing what we are thankful for. Several years ago my aunt, who was battling stage four colon cancer at the time, she knew this would be her last Thanksgiving and she decided to use this moment to get rid of all the un-forgiveness in the air. She started with a family member and spoke words of encouragement and affirmation over them while telling what she was thankful for; she spoke over my stepmother, Gabi, and asked for forgiveness for what had happened in the past in our family. There was a lot of un-forgiveness in our family from a messy divorce that had happened, get this, over 20 years ago! It took us 20-years to get past the un-forgiveness that was lingering over our family like a black cloud. My aunt passed that next year, but she left us an amazing gift of forgiveness that has brought our family close! Forgiveness is one of the most powerful things a Christian can do. It breaks all of our normal, human natured behaviors and is when we are most like Jesus.
Reason numero dos: It gives an account. Thanksgiving is so powerful because it gives an account for the things that you are thankful for. You are recognizing the provision, grace, mercy, forgiveness and blessings of God. Even if you aren’t a believer—you are acknowledging God for the things in your life without even realizing it. Think about it, who are you thanking when you are thankful if it isn’t God? Just a thought to ponder. Thanksgiving is so powerful and mentioned so many times in the bible because it is vitally important for us to realize, recognize and conceptualize the things that have been bestowed upon us in the previous year. We are able to give thanks and when you give thanks for something it makes that person want to pour out more upon you. For example: I love giving to people. It is one of my favorite things to do. Christmas shopping is done year round for me; the hard part is not giving the Christmas gift too early.
This year I had been blessed with my work and finances have been awesome. However, I will note that since taking on a youth pastor position in my church, my finances have decreases significantly… interesting how that happens isn’t it? I think its to recognize God’s provision and to put our trust in God taking care of all of our needs—which He has by the way. Anyway, back to the story. This year I have been blessed and I felt like blessing my father. My dad is one of the hardest working men I have ever met. I can’t think of any one that works harder for his family than him. He has been at the same job since he was 18-19 and he is now 55. That’s between 36-37 years!!!! That’s a long time! Because of his work ethic and having 4 kids to take care of, a lot of the things that he has wanted over the years has gone over looked and unpurchased. Something would always come up, be it the: House, kids, college, medical emergency, dental issues, vet bill, court costs (way back in the day btw) or simply his loving, and adoring children asking for a few bucks for a movie, he has never denied us. Anyway, I felt like this was the year I would bless my father. He has always wanted a Beretta 92Fs 9mm pistol. If you don’t know what this gun is, think of the movie Lethal Weapon, it’s the gun that Mel Gibson carries. My father has wanted this gun for over 20+ years. We would go to gun shows and every single table that had this Beretta on it he would walk up, grab it in his palms, grip it with, smile with admiration and look at one of us and say this exact line: “Wow! That’s a nice gun. I like that.” It never failed, he would see the gun. He would grab the gun. He would say the line. He would put the gun down. He would walk away. He couldn’t afford it. So, this year, I bought him the gun! I bought it for him as a Christmas gift… however, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it til Christmas without giving it to him. However, Father’s day was next week! So I brought it home from the gun store, wrapped it up and took it over to his house. He was reluctant to open it a week before Father’s day but I wasn’t giving the option. He had to open it. I couldn’t take it any longer. I had owned the gun for a grand total of 3 hours and I couldn’t hold onto it any longer without seeing his reaction. He opened it. He was shocked, stunned and thrilled. I haven’t ever seen him smile so much or hug me so much because of a simple item. Because of his thankfulness and appreciation for the gift I had bought him… It made me want to give him more! God is the same way I believe. When we thank him for what he has done in our lives, He wants to do more and opens the floodgates of his blessings, mercies and provision in our lives.
Reason numbero tres: (This is the extent of my Spanish by the way). Thanksgiving offers restoration. This one won’t be as long but it is my belief that when you give thanks to people, God and are appreciative of the things that have happened in your life it opens a door in the spiritual realm that offers restoration and brings you into a closeness to God like nothing else can. Jesus was constantly giving thanks to his Father for the things in his life. We are called to be like Jesus and when we consistently tell God how thankful we are, not just on the fourth Thursday of November on a day determined by the government to be called Thanksgiving Day, but when we do this consistently, with a pure heart and with only the intention of saying, “Lord, I love you. Thank you for _________________” fill in the blank. We open up a relationship with the Creator of the universe that has been lost since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. We are designed to be close to our creator. We were created that way. Adam and Eve walked in the cool of the day with God every single day. I cannot imagine what that would be like. I can’t way to just be able to look into Jesus’ face and fall before his feet weeping in thanks for what he has done in my life, but to walk and talk with him as I do my friend, Jon and Tasha, to walk and talk with Him just sharing in what is on my and on his mind?? I can’t fathom it with my earthly mind. I can’t wait to have that closeness to Jesus as Adam and Eve did. I believe that the way we can get closer to God is by restoring the relationship to the Creator that was once there by simply giving thanks and acknowledging God’s provision, power, intentionality, grace, mercy, forgiveness and blessings in your life. That’s what it’s all about anyways.
As we celebrate this amazing holiday of giving thanks today, I want to encourage you to ask for forgiveness where forgiveness is needed. More importantly give forgiveness where it hasn’t been asked for, and isn’t wanted. Give something that you don’t want to do and watch God pour out his blessings upon your life for being obedient to his nature. Ask for forgiveness. Give forgiveness. Take account for the things God has done in your life and bring a closeness to yourself and the Creator of all things seen and unseen today. I love you and appreciate you in my life. I am thankful for your friendship. I am thankful for your grace, mercy and forgiveness in me as I stumble through this life. I am thankful for my Jesus and I am thankful that he gives the opportunity to make himself known to us and in return we are able to make Him known!
Seth Williams Youth Pastor at Church Alive Orlando