Thanksgiving 2012

With only four days left until Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for this year? Multi-colored leaves on a crisp afternoon? Football? Turkey, cranberry-sauce, and pumpkin pie? Friends, family and freedom?

I read about a young family this week that had always spent Thanksgiving at grandma’s house. But this year, the young mother wanted to try cooking Thanksgiving dinner all by herself. Before serving the dinner, she announced: “Now I know this is the first turkey I’ve ever cooked. If it isn’t right, I don’t want anybody to say a word. We’ll just get up from the table without comment, and go out to eat for dinner.” Then she disappeared into the kitchen. When she came back into the dining room, bearing the turkey, she found her husband and son seated at the table—wearing their hats and coats.

I love Thanksgiving. It’s too bad that we only have one day a year set aside for expressing our gratitude, though. It seems like we fill up all the other days with grumbling and complaining. People love to complain. Did you know that there are websites you can go to just to complain about life (and I’m not talking about Facebook)? One of them has the tagline: “Remember, it’s better to vent your complaints on some website than actually try to resolve them in real life.”

This reminds me of a story about a grumpy old man who spent two dollars on a lottery ticket. To his surprise, he actually won! So he goes to the local lottery office to have his ticket number verified and claim his winnings. The old man walks in and says, “I want my $20 million.” The clerk replied, “No, sir. It doesn’t work that way. We will give you a million today and then you’ll get the rest spread out for the next 20 years.” So the old man, starts complaining and demands to see the clerk’s supervisor. Again, the supervisor explains that he would only get a million that day and the rest over the next 20 years. The old man, furious with them both, throws down his ticket and shouts, “Look, I want my money! If you’re not going to give me my $20 million right now, then I want my two dollars back!”

Maybe we could just start a new holiday called Grumbling Day. We could air all our complaints in one day, and then have 364 days to be thankful!

Thanksgiving really is a wonderful holiday because it does remind us to be thankful. Gratitude is a mark of godliness! As someone once said, “When we consider all God’s gifts and all that we possess, a grumbling mood of discontent gives way to thankfulness!”

The truth is—we all have something to be thankful for; most of us have more than we realize. The Bible has a lot to say about thankfulness. In fact, the word “thank/s” appears in the Bible in over 130 verses (NIV). One of those places is 1 Corinthians 1, where Paul is writing to the church in Corinth. Here’s what he says:


I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4-8 NIV)


In this brief paragraph, Paul highlights three blessing for which all Christians can be thankful.  The first blessing that he highlights is God’s people.


When you count your blessing this Thanksgiving, I hope that a loving church family is near the top of that list. Writing to a church that he helped plant, Paul says, “I always thank my God for you” (1 Corinthians 1:4 NIV).

I’ve said many times—all of us need a place to belong. All of us need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. All of us need to experience family and fellowship. That’s the way we’re made. Not to be isolated. Not to be alone. But to be together—experiencing life with others.

Pepper Rogers, coach of UCLA’s football team suffered through a poor season back in the 1970’s. He came under intense criticism and pressure from alumni and fans. Things got so bad that he felt as if all his friends were gone. “My dog was my only true friend,” he said. “I told my wife that every man needs at least two good friends–and she bought me another dog.”

Pepper Rogers was right, though. We all need a sense of friendship, fellowship, and family. People long to be connected. Solomon knew a little something about that. In his matchless wisdom, King Solomon describes some of the benefits of belonging: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble… A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT).

And when you are a member of a loving church family, you’re part of a triple braided cord. You’ll find acceptance, encouragement, teamwork, sincere love, and all the other “one another” commands in the Bible. Life is meant to be shared. Being a member of God’s eternal family, gives us people with whom to share.

When it really comes down to it, life is all about who you love and who loves you back. If you are a member of a loving church family—if there is a pew cushion worn in the shape of your behind—then you have something to be thankful for. First, be thankful for God’s people. Furthermore, you can be thankful for God’s provision.


After expressing his gratitude for the Christians there in Corinth, Paul also mentions all the gifts that God has given to them. He writes: “I thank God because in Christ you have been made rich in every way… so you have every gift from God while you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to come again” (1 Corinthians 1:5,7 NCV).

We’ve been made rich in every way too, haven’t we?

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If you own your own computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who has that opportunity. According to the Global Rich List even at the US poverty level, you still make more money than 89% of the world.

We have so much to be thankful for—so many gifts from God in our lives. Often, we just don’t take the time to recognize God’s gifts.

A Sunday School teacher once asked her class what they were thankful for. One little boy said, “My glasses.” When she asked why he was thankful for his glasses, he said, “Because they keep the boys from punching me and the girls from kissing me.” Now, there’s a little boy who knows how to recognize God’s gift!

The Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17 NIV). Some of these gifts come wrapped in newspaper and smelling like old fish. They may not look like blessings at first, but be thankful for them anyway.

  • Be thankful for the taxes you pay because it means you’re employed.
  • Be thankful for the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means you have enough to eat.
  • Be thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing, because it means you have a home.
  • Be thankful for your huge heating bill because it means you’re warm.
  • Be thankful for all the complaining you hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.
  • Be thankful for the lady behind you in church who sings off key, because it means that you can hear.
  • Be thankful for the piles of laundry and dishes because it means loved ones are nearby.

God has provided for us in so many ways. Like a loving father, he showers us with gifts. Every breath I breathe, incorporating oxygen into my body, it’s a gift from God. Every time I open my eyes and see the beauty that surrounds me, it’s a gift from God. Every time I hug and kiss my children, it’s a gift from God. Every time I take a morsel of food, taste it, swallow it and turn it into energy, it’s a gift from God!

So, first be thankful for God’s people. Next, be thankful for God’s provision.


And finally, be thankful for God’s power. God’s power is the last blessing Paul mentions in this paragraph of Scripture. He says, “Jesus will keep you strong until the end” (1 Corinthians 1:8 NCV). Another translation puts it this way: “He will continue to give you strength” (1 Corinthians 1:8 GWT).

Let’s be honest—life can be difficult and draining, especially around the holidays. Life is full of bills you can’t pay, grades you can’t make, deadlines you can’t meet, and people you can’t please. There are meals to make, parties to plan, and in-laws to endure.

Have you ever read the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Alexander could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. He went to sleep with gum in his mouth and woke up with gum in his hair. When he got out of bed, he tripped over his skateboard and by mistake dropped his sweater in the sink while the water was running. And it got worse. His best friend ditched him. There was no dessert in his lunch bag. And, on top of all that, there were lima beans for dinner and kissing on TV!

What do you do on a day like that?

Here’s my suggestion—be thankful that you have an endless source of strength. When you’re weary and worn-out, God invites you to rely on his power, not your own. The Bible says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1 NIV). God is our strength.

Life has a way of shrinking God down in our minds.  We get beat-down or tuckered-out and we forget that we have an unrivaled, uncontested God of infinite might and power and glory and awe! There is no one like him! He placed the stars in the sky by the breath of his mouth. He’s big enough to create the cosmos, but intricate enough to fashion together the trillions of cell that make you who you are.

When life gets difficult, draining, or depressing we can lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus and discover solace and strength. Be thankful for God’s power.


I don’t know what your Thanksgiving Day plans are—maybe you’re planning to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or fall asleep on the couch watching foot—but if you’re like us, you’ll probably gather around the table for turkey, gravy and pumpkin pie. You might even take turns around the table sharing what you’re thankful for this year. Even if this has been a hard year, I’m sure you’ll still have many things to be thankful for. As you’re giving thanks, remember to thank God for his people, his provision, and his power.

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