O Give Thanks unto the LORD!
by Jane L. Fryar
It was only a can of Coke. But it tasted like an elixir from heaven. Never had I felt so thankful for a beverage in my life—not even for my morning coffee.
Eight days into a mission trip to several countries in Eastern Europe during the days the Soviet Union was collapsing, I had been warned by fellow workers not to drink the tap water. A committed gym rat, used to drinking a gallon or so a day, I could not carry enough bottled water along with me as we traveled from one village to the next, and I had not yet developed a taste for the local varieties of mineral water my hosts freely offered in every setting, at every meal.
That evening, as I returned to my hotel room, I saw a snack kiosk in the lobby. Among the many bottles of mineral water and various alcoholic beverages sat one red Coke can. I recognized it from a distance of 30 feet and could scarcely believe my eyes.
Not good at calculating exchange rates, I still don't know how much I paid for it. But whatever the price, it was money well-spent. It relieved my thirst, to be sure, but for a few brief, blessed moments, it also took me home in my thoughts. And it reminded me of my Father's concern for me—not just as his servant on his mission, but as his daughter who needed to be refreshed in several different ways. Never had I felt more thankful, and for such a simple blessing!
True thankfulness is not a characteristic of our culture. The more we have, the more we seem to take for granted. We Christians shake our heads year by year when we see even our national day of Thanksgiving reduced to a way station on the road of greed and gluttony—those weeks at year's end we've come to call "the holidays." But too often our hearts grow as hard and coldly unthankful as those of the unbelievers around us.
Why Give Thanks?
Scripture commands thanksgiving—not the day, but the attitude and the accompanying actions. Why? Truth be told, Almighty God does not need our paltry praise! No egomaniac, he got along quite well without our worship for centuries, millenniums before our birth.
While we sometimes forget it, our Lord commands what he commands for our good, not his own. We ourselves and those we lead need to thank and praise him for many reasons, not the least of which are the three here:
Thankful hearts are contended, happy hearts. Even Oprah has discovered this. She encourages viewers to keep track of the blessings in their lives. When we do so, and when we return to our Lord's throne to thank him for them, our burdens grow lighter or even inconsequential.
Warm blankets to pull around ourselves on a cold winter's night. Hot, soapy showers morning by morning. The splendor of a starry night sky. The laughter of one close friend. All of us can imagine how impoverished life would feel without these simple luxuries. Noting them and thanking our Lord for them helps us realize how rich we truly are.
Thankful hearts are trusting hearts. The more we recognize our Savior's current blessings in our lives, the less we fear the future. The God who has forgiven our sins through the bloody death of his Son on Calvary's cross will not withhold from us any good thing we may need in the future:
Since [God] did not spare even his own Son
but gave him up for us all,
won't he also give us everything else?
Romans 8:32 NLT
Thankful hearts are humble, dependent hearts. When you get down to the nub of it, none of us can do anything to guarantee our lives. We cannot even guarantee our next breath. If our Creator were to withhold his preserving power, even for a second, our lungs would collapse and our lives would end. As we express the thankfulness of our hearts, we learn to rely less and less on ourselves and more and more on the generous compassion of our heavenly Father. In this way, we grow more and more like our Lord Jesus himself.
How will you help those you lead grow in thankfulness? Perhaps part of your answer to this question will involve helping the families of your congregation cultivate this attitude this Thanksgiving Day.
May the Holy Spirit fill your heart with thankfulness during the holidays this year. May these days be truly holy days for you and those you serve!
O give thanks unto the LORD;
for he is good:
for his mercy endureth for ever.
Psalm 136:1 KJV
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