Nine-year-old Charlie was asked to say the blessing for the Thanksgiving meal. Charlie was always the polite one of the boys. Billy was the mischievous one. Charlie began his prayer by thanking God for his family and his friends, naming them one by one. Then he began to pray for the food. He called every item by name: the green beans, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, corn, bread pudding, the apple sauce, dinner rolls, the pecan pie, and the chocolate cake.
Then he began to pray about the turkey. He prayed, “That turkey looks so juicy and good. Thank you, mom, for preparing it. Thanks for the car that brought the turkey home from the grocery store. And for the man at the market who bagged the groceries and put them in the car. And thanks for the meat department worker that put the turkey on the shelf, for the worker who took the turkey off the truck, the driver of the truck who brought the turkey from the meat packaging company, for the ones who cleaned the bird and wrapped it up, for the farmer who raised the turkey.”
Charlie paused. “Have I left anyone out?” he said to himself. By now, the whole family was wondering when his prayer would end. They were hungry and ready to eat.
Just then Billy, Charlie’s mischievous brother, blurted out sarcastically, “Well, you’ve thanked everyone but God!”
Without missing a beat, Charlie said, “I was getting to him.”
It seems that at Thanksgiving we thank everyone and so we should. We wish everyone a happy “Turkey Day.” We should thank the people that have contributed to our lives, we should consider our forefathers, and we should praise our family and friends. But let’s not forget God. He is the source of all blessings.
Someone once remarked that the worst of all possible moments for an atheist is to feel truly thankful and have no one there to thank. Most of us are not actual atheists, but sometimes we may be practical atheists. An actual atheist has no God to thank. A practical atheist has a God to thank, but never thinks of doing it. We never get around to God.
Thanksgiving became a national holiday at a time in American history when Americans were prone to see their rich country – and their good fortune to be born in it – as a direct gift from God. They spoke of the heritage of the Pilgrims who gathered after the first harvest to thank God for the bounty that was theirs. According to tradition, their good friends the Indians brought turkeys and venison and together they enjoyed a great feast in primitive Massachusetts.
Turkeys by the millions now die in November and pudgy Americans (at least 76% of us are overweight) will snore with the television remote control rocking on their stomachs, having fallen asleep watching the gridiron gods wrangle out their contests in noisy bowls of Astroturf. But who received thanks for the good life?
Will we ever get around to God? Or have we simply forgotten him?
America is proof that the blessings of God can wean us from remembering the necessity of God. Will we remember God this Thanksgiving? Will we thank him for who he is, what he has done, and what he has given us?
Consider God’s name. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth” (
Consider God’s glory. “You have set your glory above the heavens” (
Consider God’s heavens. “When I consider your heavens . . . the moon and the stars, which you have set in place” (
Consider God’s fingers. “. . . the work of your fingers . . .” (
Consider God’s care. “. . . what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (
For all these things we should be thankful.
Because of God’s name, we should be thankful that we are invited into a relationship with God. When God revealed his name, he made himself known to us. He no longer was a distant deity separated from his creation. He chose to move into the neighbor, take up residence with us, and allow himself to be known. And in being known we take on his name, his character. Like an old printing press that rolled over the characters, imprinting the paper, God has impressed his character, his likeness, onto our very nature. In knowing God we take his name, Christian, and have his character rubbed off on us.
Jim Elliot, the martyred missionary, wrote in his personal journal: “I walked out on the hill just now. It is exalting, delicious, to stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coattail and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and give oneself again to God – what more could a man ask? Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth! I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him . . . If only I may see Him, touch His garments, and smile into His eyes.” Here was a man thankful for his relationship with God. Here was a man who was known by God and knew God. He shared his name and his character.
Are you thankful for your relationship with God? Or has it grown stale and common place? Do you take it for granted?
Because of God’s glory, we should be thankful that he has allowed us to share in his likeness. We don’t possess that glory, we radiate it. Like Moses returning from Mount Sinai whose face was radiant after meeting God, our faces shine like a glow-in-the-dark figure, too. Paul wrote, “But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him” (
As believers we have been given the awesome privilege and responsibility to reflect God’s glory. A poem given to me by a friend says: “We, like the moon have no light, no energy, no power. Yet, we, like the moon when touched by the Son – cast his brilliance on the blackest of nights.”
A little girl was on the way home from church when she turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, the preacher’s sermon this morning confused me.” The mother said, “Oh! Why is that?” The girl replied, “Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?” “Yes, that’s true,” the mother replied. “He also said that God lives within us. Is that true, too?” Again the mother replied, “Yes.” “Well,” said the girl. “If God is bigger than us and he lives in us, wouldn’t he show through?”
God wants to show through our lives so we can cast his light on the dark world. That is an important role that we play. Do you thank God for the role he has given you to play?
Because of God’s heaven, we should be thankful that God is preparing a special place for us. Life is more than the here and now. Life has a future focus, and for believers, an eternal home. Heaven is a prepared place for those who chose to call God their Father.
We have Jesus’ word on that. He told his disciples not to worry about death, not to worry about their heavenly residence, and then gave them a reason, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you” (
Sometimes it is good to thank God in advance for our heavenly home.
Because of God’s fingers, we should be thankful for the creation that we enjoy. Sometimes we get so busy, so complacent, and so selfish, that we forget to see the beauty of God’s creation as a gift to us. That why, in my opinion, we should visit from time to time the mountains and the ocean. Those places remind us of God’s creation and the overwhelming beauty that are ours because of the work of his fingers.
Oftentimes I’m afraid we overlook the simple gift of creation and fail to thank God for the beauty around us.
Bob Edens was blind. He couldn’t see a thing. His world was a black hall of sounds and smells. He felt his way through five decades of darkness. And then, he could see. A skilled surgeon performed a complicated operation and, for the first time, Bob Edens had sight. He found it overwhelming.
“I never would have dreamed that yellow is so . . . yellow,” he exclaimed. “I don’t have the words. I am amazed by yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can’t believe red. I can see the shape of the moon – and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail. And of course, sunrises and sunsets. And at night I look at the stars in the sky and the flashing light. You could never know how wonderful everything is.”
The next time you step out at night see the stars and thank the One who put them in space. The next you catch a sunrise or a sunset, say a prayer of thanks to the one who created it. Or for that matter when you see a rose, or a babbly brook, or a rainbow, or that first blanket of snow, don’t forget to thank the One who gave it to you and me, no strings attached. Just a simple gift so we can enjoy.
Because of God’s care, we should be thankful for his presence. It has been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Do you realize how much God cares for you? Do you grasp that you are always on his mind? You are constantly under his watchful eye? The word translated “care” in the NIV is sometimes translated “visit” in other translations. It means “to attend to, to observe.” God, like a caring friend, a good doctor, and a loving pastor all rolled up in one, focuses on our needs. Sometimes we don’t see him, and other times we don’t feel him. But God is there. He quietly intersects our lives meeting our needs when we need him most.
Remember the footprints story? A man looks back on his life and sees two sets of footprints. One is his; the other is God’s. As the man observes his life, when things are going well there are two distinct sets of footprints. But, interestingly, when life is difficult and the times are trying there is only one set of footprints. He questions God, as to why he leaves him when life is hard. God responds by saying, “My son, you don’t understand. When there is only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
God is a caring God. Like Hallmark cards, “He cared enough to send the very best.” When he saw our need for forgiveness he sent his one and only Son to die for our sins. He did for us on the cross what we could not do ourselves. For that we should be eternally grateful.
We truly have much to be thankful for, don’t we? Giving thanks to God for all he has done should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. Is that true of you? Or has the spirit of ingratitude hardened your heart and chilled your relationship with God and with others? Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true sprit of thankfulness.
To be grateful, after all, is to see God, the world, and ourselves aright – to recognize that all of life is a gracious gift from his hand. We are all God’s debtors. It is truly to believe in a God. This Thanksgiving I hope you don’t forget God. Make sure he is first and last on your thanksgiving list.
Rick Ezell is a pastor and writer in Naperville, Illinois.