Giving Thanks, But Once a Year?1
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
Thanksgiving week is upon us and Advent begins this coming Sunday. At my house we have Thanksgiving decorations throughout the house next to the decorated Christmas tree. We find ourselves in a memorable and often lonely year of social distancing entering a special season that focuses on the act of giving thanks. Many will spend the week posting things on social media for which they are grateful. The cute decorations that read “give thanks” will be up for another week before being stored away until next November. But Thanksgiving is more than a day or a month, it is something we are called to do every day. During our good days and bad, the ups and the downs. Our natural response should be that of gratitude and thanks to our Heavenly Father.
As a proud father of 4 boys a character trait that my wife and I have tried to instill in our children is that of thankfulness. I can recall countless times teaching them to say “thank you” after receiving something, or in our prayers, or our daily family conversations around the dinner table, sharing what they were thankful for from the day. Creating and teaching an attitude of gratitude is counter-cultural to the world’s consumer message of “you deserve it” or “have it your way.” At the heart of the world’s message is that of individualism and selfishness. My hope is for my children to understand that the gospel message of “I am thankful for (fill in the blank) is because of Jesus’ love for me” and not “I am thankful for (fill in the blank) because I deserve it.”
While on earth Jesus gave us examples recorded in the Bible of when he gave thanks. Jesus gave praise and thanks to the Father in many ways. In Mark 8:1-10 as he was surrounded by thousands of hungry people Jesus gave thanks and multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed them all and have extra in the end. In John 11 he weeps and gives thanks to God for hearing his prayer for the raising of his friend Lazarus, before Lazarus is to rise from the grave. Then in Luke 22:17-20 Jesus is having the last supper with his disciples knowing that he was about to be crucified and he gave thanks to the Father as he broke bread and drank the cup.
Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life and has taught us how and when we are to give praise and thanksgiving. In all three of these instances Jesus is in the middle of tense and difficult circumstances. The pressure to feed thousands, raise a friend from the grave, and face death on a cross would be intense for any of us. Jesus’ response was never to panic, make excuses, or run to people, but rather to turn to the Father. God is worthy of our praise and thanksgiving and is calling on us to focus our heart and mind to have an eternal perspective with thanksgiving for what he has done for us.
I encourage you to make Colossians 3:17 your prayer today. That in all that you do or say (and think) that your heart would be on Jesus and not in trying to please people so that God may be given the praise and thanksgiving. Then ask yourself what might you do to cultivate a natural response in your life of thanksgiving and gratitude? Living a life of Thanksgiving is not just for a day or month, as the decorations are put away, but all year long.