Thanksgiving is an American Holiday that began with giving thanks for all that God had provided. As Christians we are commanded to give thanks. Sincere thanks implies an understanding that God has provided and that we are satisfied. Are we?
Those pilgrims who gathered to give thanks were not thanking God for giving them what they deserved and definitely not for giving them the desires of their hearts. They had travelled to a foreign country in search of spiritual freedom. They had suffered months of sickness and death on an ocean of uncertainty. Worn and weary they stepped off the boat into a harsh wilderness.
In spite of their hard work to build homes and plant gardens, without any understanding of the weather or even the growing patterns, they were starving to death. God allowed their hardships in England and in America because He had set a plan in place that would touch eternity.
He sent them the most unlikely help, friendly locals on whose land they were trespassing. These refugees were welcomed and taught to cultivate and grow the very produce for which their hearts were moved to give thanks. He didn’t just give them spiritual freedom but brought them to share the truth so that the American Indians might experience that freedom as well. God uses all our difficulties to grow our faith, stretch our ability to love and give thanks, and to bring the Gospel across cultural and linguistic boundaries.
Christians in America fight regularly to keep the words “In God We Trust” on our money. What percentage of our trust is truly in Him? Just how satisfied are we with what He provides? A heart that is not satisfied, that does not have as much as it wants, will not truly be thankful.
When it comes to freedom of worship the worst prison is the prison of the ungrateful heart. True thankfulness can’t cohabitate with greed. It will not grow beside the feelings that we may have what we need but there is so much more we want and we can’t really be happy till we get it. We have a whole generation that believes Thanksgiving is more about over eating and shopping than giving thanks.
Ture worship has to be more than just lip service. Unless we intentionally teach ourselves and our children the humility of being satisfied with what God gives and truly trusting that He has supplied what it is we need we are in danger of a lip service Christianity. When speaking to the Pharisees who were much more concerned about the rituals than the heart Jesus replied “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.’ Having no regard for the command of God, you hold fast to human tradition.” Mark 7:6-8 The Net Bible
So how does one go about changing our thanks from just lip service to humble gratefulness? It is a continual process of checking the affections of our heart. It will mean learning to give our desires boundaries. It will mean reminding ourselves the difference between knowing and thankfully receiving what God provides verses striving to get things by our own power that we are convinced we can’t live without.
One really good way to teach the art of thankful living to our children is through the biographies of great saints who lived without excess yet had great joy, gratitude, and the power to change the world around them. Here are a few good suggestions.