Thanksgiving for the Thankworthy
By Pat Knight
In 1621, the first Thanksgiving in America joined culturally diverse Native Americans and newly arrived colonists for a feast of fresh produce, wild game, and simple baked goods to celebrate their first harvest in the New World. Since the 1800s, annual Thanksgiving feasts have been celebrated in the US. Congress passed a joint resolution establishing a permanent, annual, day of Thanksgiving, designated as the fourth Thursday in November, to commence in 1942. The legal holiday was founded as a religious observance for all citizens to express thanksgiving to God for His blessings during the previous year.
In centuries past, the Israelites observed mandatory thank offerings and specific feasts several times each year, commemorating the Lord’s gifts and blessings, a periodic reminder for worshippers to lavish their heavenly Father with thanksgiving for abundant harvests and consistent blessings.
Some people claim that a thank-you simply demonstrates good manners. For Christians, giving thanks exceeds etiquette and a yearly feast. Believers embrace a perpetually grateful attitude of the heart, a pattern as natural as breathing.
Thanksgiving emerges from a heart in tune with the heavenly Father.
Water surging headlong over a steep precipice reveals a picturesque waterfall as prisms of water droplets in sunlight produce scintillating rainbows; similar beauty cascades from a heart of thanksgiving.
In response to God’s miraculous rescue of His people following four centuries of slave labor in Egypt, Moses and the Israelites burst into songs of praise. During their escape, millions of Israelites traveling on foot stopped abruptly when confronted with the hopeless task of crossing the Red Sea.
“Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37), who rolled the water upward, exposing a path of dry land for the people to walk through. As soon as the last remnant of God’s people safely reached the opposite shore, the pursuing Egyptian army was swallowed by the returning walls of the sea. The Israeli song praised God’s power, majesty, and mercy during His spectacular deliverance (Exodus 15:1-21).
Hannah and Elkanah were married but childless in a culture where barren women were often harassed until their spirits were crushed with shame and reproach. At the tabernacle, Hannah poured out her heartbreak to God in a passionate prayer, pleading for a son. Sometime later Hannah gave birth to a boy. As she had promised God in her prayer, Hannah delivered Samuel to the priest for a lifetime of dedicated service at the temple (1 Samuel 2:1-10).
Hannah’s song of gratitude proclaims that life and death, prosperity and poverty, humility and exultation, are all determined by the power of a personal God. Hannah professed that God functions in supreme ways we neither predict nor fully understand, but He always answers believer’s prayers in unexpected, extraordinary ways. Hannah’s song is prophetic, the first announcement of the Lord’s anointed in the Bible. Centuries later, her inspired words found fulfillment in the birth of Christ, the Messiah.
The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), is one of the most familiar songs of thanksgiving in Scripture, which Mary composed following the angel’s announcement that she had been chosen as mother of the promised Messiah. Mary glorified God, affirming His mercy, might, and magnificence; His unfailing love and goodness. As words of praise spilled from her grateful heart, Mary acknowledged that God had chosen His humble servant for an exalted assignment.
Adoration praises God for who He is. “Call to God who is worthy of praise” (Psalm 18:3). Thanksgiving expresses gratitude for what God has done. Believers pray with confidence, assured our Lord will answer every petition. Since we attest to God’s faithfulness, anticipating responses to our prayers yields a spirit of thanksgiving, assured God’s replies will always reflect His perfect will for each of us. Trust then becomes a form of worship as we thank God in advance for his blessings. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT). Prayers of His people invite God’s extravagant blessings.
God’s plan of salvation and Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice His holy life for the redemption of our sins evoke prayers of thanksgiving. Praise is our method of offering heartfelt joy to the Father and Son. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57). It is important to recognize the myriad blessings our Lord bestows on us every day: maintaining wellness of body and mind, and provision of needs—restful sleep, reliable transportation, secure homes, family near and far, clean, plentiful drinking water. Gratitude naturally pours from a believer’s humble, joy-filled heart.
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).The word, “all” is tiny but inclusive, enveloping the whole of one’s possessions, resources, energy, and relationships. God desires our gratitude at all times, through the good and the bad; in delightful and challenging situations, for the purpose of maturing our faith and offering God glory and honor. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
Thanksgiving is the springboard to spiritual joy.
Worship consists of praise, adoration, song, and prayer, aspects of thanksgiving that convey love and reverence to the sovereign Father and Son. The contemporary use of worship is derived from the old English word, “worthship,” denoting the worthiness of God. Thankworthy reflects gratitude through worship. No one exemplifies worship of the heavenly Father more perfectly than Jesus, who offered the ultimate sacrifice of praise, the motivation for a life overflowing with thanksgiving. Jesus is the standard of worship to the Father, a heavenly portrait of goodness and grace.
The very essence of thanksgiving compels jubilation.
“Thank you! Everything in me says ‘Thank you!’ Angels listen as I sing my thanks…Thank you for your love, thank you for your faithfulness; Most holy is your name, most holy is your Word. The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength. When they hear what you have to say, God, all earth’s kings will say, ‘Thank you!’ They’ll sing of what you’ve done: ‘How great the glory of God!’ And here’s why: God, high above, sees far below; no matter the distance, he knows everything about us’” (Psalm 138:1-6,The Msg.).
Our Lord is the source of thankworthiness!