Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and you may be thinking, like I am, that it’s time for the obligatory post about giving thanks. But, is that the way we should look at this annual holiday? For some, Thanksgiving has always been and always will be about the three Fs: family, food, and football. For the more altruistic of us, this special day is about helping others. For many, it’s an excuse to stand in long lines–or glare at the screens of our smartphones and tablets–to score the best shopping deals of the year.
The Apostle Paul poignantly reminds us to “give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Let’s be honest here. Does the Bible really mean in everything? Doesn’t God know that to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) is virtually impossible? What was Paul thinking, anyway?
Evidently, Paul knew that life would be hard for believers. He writes, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) There are those two stinging words again: everything and thanksgiving.
Recently I memorized Phillippians 4:6-7 and prayed the words everyday, even though during those several consecutive weeks giving thanks was a chore. God reminded me that when we don’t feel thankful, we can still be grateful for God’s good gifts. Jesus Himself says, “If you then, who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:11)
What good gifts has God bestowed upon you in your ministry to kids and families? Take a moment to list them prayerfully in your mind, on a piece of paper, or on your mobile device. Start with the names of children and families. Give thanks for your church family, pastor, and other church leaders. Include life’s basic needs God provides you personally–food, clothing, lodging, and transportation–that equips you to minister effectively. Pause and reflect on your list. Did you leave out anything? Is God’s best gift at the top of your list? If not, put Jesus as number one on your list.
Consider tweaking your focus this Thanksgiving holiday by giving thanks to God for His good gifts of church, preschoolers, elementary kids, and families. However, thank God most of all for Jesus and the gift of salvation made possible through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Happy Thanksgiving!