This week, we begin the American celebration known as Thanksgiving. How many of you know where the first Thanksgiving was held?
In early March 1598, Juan Oñate’s expedition of 500 people, including soldiers, colonists, wives and children and 7,000 head of livestock, crossed the treacherous Chihuahuan Desert to find new lands. Almost from the beginning of the 50-day march, nature challenged the Spaniards. First, seven consecutive days of rain made travel miserable. Then the hardship was reversed, and the travelers suffered greatly from the dry weather. On one occasion, a chance rain shower saved the parched colonists.
Finally, for the last five days of the march before reaching the Rio Grande, the expedition ran out of both food and water, forcing the men, women and children to seek roots and other scarce desert vegetation to eat. Both animals and humans almost went mad with thirst before the party reached water. Two horses drank until their stomachs burst, and two others drowned in the river in their haste to consume as much water as possible.
The Rio Grande was the salvation of the expedition, however. After recuperating for 10 days, Oñate ordered a day of thanksgiving for the survival of the expedition. Included in the event was a feast, supplied with game by the Spaniards and with fish by the natives of the region. A mass was said by the Franciscan missionaries traveling with the expedition.
A member of the expedition wrote of the original celebration, “We built a great bonfire and roasted the meat and fish, and then all sat down to a repast the like of which we had never enjoyed before. . .We were happy that our trials were over; as happy as were the passengers in the Ark when they saw the dove returning with the olive branch in his beak, bringing tidings that the deluge had subsided.”
So, you see, the Thanksgiving celebration started in Texas!
Okay, Okay, I’m a Texan. To Texans, everything started here! Now, back to what is important!
Thanksgiving is actually one of my favorite holidays because its focus is upon God and what He has done. As a believer in Jesus, Thanksgiving is not a day for me; it is a lifestyle. We as disciples of Jesus are called to go beyond setting aside a day for giving thanks – we are called to a life of giving thanks. Our focus is not on Thanksgiving but upon Thanksliving.
Why are we called to a life of thanksgiving and how do we make it a reality in our lives?
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
This is a powerful scripture. It gives us some direction regarding the giving of thanks.
First of all, it tells us that we are to give thanks in everything that happens to us. Wait a minute! Not everything that happens to me is good, so why would I give thanks if it is not good? What kind of people would do such a thing? Sadists? Deniers of reality? Ignorant folk? Good question. Hold on and you’ll find out.
Let’s take a look at why the Christian makes a practice of thanksliving.
- Giving thanks is the true essence of worship.
The word “worship” comes from the old English word “worthscipe” meaning “worthiness”. It is very easy to ascribe glory and worship to something when we deem it is doing its job. But, what about when it appears it is not? It is then that we usually say, “I’ll reserve my worship until I deem you have performed adequately to be worthy of my praise!”
In the midst of a passage in which the writer of Hebrews was talking about bearing the reproach of Christ, we see these words written in chapter 13:15:
“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” Psa. 50:23 ESV
When you are swallowed by circumstances, that do not appear to warrant praise, how do you respond? When Jonah was in the belly of the whale he said in Jonah 2:9:
“But I with the voice of praise will sacrifice to you..”
Giving thanks in all circumstances is a sacrifice and sacrifice reveals the true nature of worship. When sacrificial worship is called for, all of those who are circumstantial worshipers will be weeded out and those who see the eternal, transcendent worthiness of God beyond the temporary nature of the immediate will be revealed.
Here’s my question:
What do you see? Do you see your troubles or do you see heaven? What you see will determine the nature of your worship.
- The giving of thanks is an offensive weapon.
Read the story of Paul and Silas in Acts 16. Paul and Silas had been whipped for their ministry and thrown in the dungeon. At midnight, the prisoners in the dungeon heard Paul and Silas praising God. It is apparent that Paul and Silas were not circumstantial worshipers. They were transcendent worshipers. It was during this time of sacrificial praise that God shook the prison so soundly that the doors opened and everyone’s chains fell off!
Psalm 149:5: “Let the saints be joyful in (circumstances?) glory; let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the written judgment—this honor have all His saints.”
We can release the judgments written against the enemies of God by choosing to praise His glory! The quickest way out of the fire is to learn to praise in the fire!
- Giving thanks opens the door for the entry of your peace.
Philippians 4:6: “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.”
You can pray and still stress…but when you choose to see God for who He is, you choose praise. The scripture tells us that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. The word “guard” used here literally means “to act as an umpire”. In other words, when we choose to focus on God, the resulting peace acts as an umpire getting rid of thoughts out of God’s will and declaring “safe” those which are His will.
Praise is the language of faith and trust and it is faith and trust which bring peace. Once again, what do you see? Do you see Jesus, high and lifted up or do you see gloom, despair, and agony on me? One produces praise and peace and the other produces deep, dark depression and excessive misery!
- A life of thanksgiving is an influential life.
Many believers choose a life of self-pity. They decide that they will bemoan their circumstances and their lot in life. When unbelievers hear this type of conversation, why would they ever want what we have? A grateful life is a happy life! If you ask people what they want most out of life, most will say they want to be happy. If we are grateful and thankful to God, we cannot be grumpy and live in self-pity at the same time! A happy life is a life that is attractive to the people of this world. Try praising God and being grumpy at the same time! You can’t! Gratefulness is like a magnet: it draws people. A magnet has two poles – one positive and one negative.
Which will you be?