Giving thanks is an essential part of our walk with God. We have things to be thankful for every single day. One day every year, however, we have a day specifically set apart to express our gratitude. During Thanksgiving, we reflect on the past year and are thankful for all the ways God has provided for us. We all know the story of the pilgrims and how they were thankful just to be alive in their new land. Today, however, we seem to have lost the true meaning amidst all the materialism that surrounds the holiday. For weeks, we are forcefully reminded of the sales and chaos that will commence as soon as the dinner table has been cleared. Football games give us some measure of distraction from our overstuffed bellies. How should we give thanks in a way that honors God?
Showing our gratitude is one of the ways we grow closer to God. "Let us come before him with thanksgiving, and extol Him with music and song, for the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods," Psalm 95:2-3. The Psalms are full of praise, thanksgiving, and worship to God. David surely had much to boast about by human standards. He was the king of Israel and was a mighty military leader. Yet He knew that it was God who allowed him to be a successful ruler and that it was not by his own hand that he was victorious. We may look at our possessions or the life we have and be proud of what we have accomplished, but it is important to remember that God is the one who blesses us with these things. When we offer God our gratitude, we are recognizing Him as being the Creator and Ruler of our lives.
It can be easy to be thankful when everything is going the way we want it to go. However, life rarely follows the neat framework we plan out in our heads. Trials, tribulations, struggles, and setbacks are all a part of life we must go through. "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus," 1 Thessalonians 5:18. God wants us to know that even when we feel we are being punished or are being met with difficulties, He is still there and He still loves us. Even if we lose everything we have in this life, as long as we remain faithful we can be thankful for the sacrifice of Yeshua (Jesus) and for His unconditional love: "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever," 1 Chronicles 16:34.
When we aren't grateful, we begin to stumble in our walk with God. Ungratefulness is essentially telling God that we don't want or need Him. When we give someone a gift or help them in some way and they don't thank us, we may become offended. How much more so do we offend God when we take for granted the many gifts He has given us. We may be proud of our earthly accomplishments and material possessions, but we must remember that it is God who allowed us to have those things, and we are to use them for His glory and not our own. As God told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8:17-18, "You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today." Romans 1:21-22 tells us, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor (glorify) Him as God or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became foolish."
The most obvious way we show our gratitude toward God as well as toward our fellow man is with our words. From an early age we are taught that when someone does something for us we should tell them we are thankful. The same is true with God. He has given us the ultimate gift of salvation through Yeshua (Jesus). He has given us breath and supplies us with our earthly needs of food, water, and shelter. "Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name," 1 Chronicles 29:13. Many scriptures mention 'thanks' and 'praise' in the same breath. When we thank God, we are praising Him and glorifying His name with the sacrifice of our lips, and we should continue to do this daily.
Lip service is not enough, however. When we give thanks, it must come from a pure heart that is truly grateful lest we become like those spoken of in Matthew 15:8, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." God knows our hearts and our motives, and He wants us to thank and serve Him not out of obligation but out of love. If we aren't at that point in our walk with Him, then we should ask God to put that gratefulness and that love in our hearts so that we may serve him in fullness of truth. Then He will "remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh," Ezekiel 36:26. This is His will for all mankind.
The third way we can give thanks is with our actions. We may not think of this one quite as often, but it is just as important as any other method. 2 Corinthians 9:11-12 says, "You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God." By our generosity, we are not only expressing thanks ourselves, but we are opening a door for others to give glory and thanks to God through our deeds.
Thanksgiving is a perfect time for us to take a look in the mirror of God's word and see if we have truly been thankful. As the holiday season grows ever closer, it is easy to get caught up in the rush and forget what we are truly celebrating. But as followers of Yeshua (Jesus), we ought to be thankful not just once per year, but every day of our lives. Make a practice out of regularly showing gratitude towards God in all circumstances, both good and bad. Don't let pride and thanklessness puff up, but recognize God's authority over your life. Be a living sacrifice of thanksgiving as it is written, "offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God."