By Jenni Walker
“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done.” ~Psalm 105:1
“Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.” ~Psalm 107:43
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If you missed Part 1, click here!
Psalm 100 demonstrates an attitude of sincere thanksgiving to the Lord, but also emphasizes the importance of responding to who we know God to be. To Whom are we giving thanks? It is the giving of thanks which stems from an ongoing state of being: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…and be thankful.” It is from this that our actions can genuinely be from a God-honoring thankful heart, and our lives become permeated with true thanksgiving.
When we understand to Whom we are thankful and that our lives are defined by Him and who He is, our lives take on a deeper sense of purpose because we grow more deeply rooted in our identity as “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) There is a work we are here to do – to know our Lord and to make Him known others!
On our Cape Cod honeymoon, Bryan and I visited the Pilgrim Memorial, which commemorates the harbor where the Pilgrims first landed. On August 20, 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt gave an address at its cornerstone-laying ceremony in which he observed this kind of attitude in the Pilgrims that came to fruition in the work that they did. He said of the Pilgrims that they laid “deep the immovable foundations of our whole American system of civil, political, and religious liberty achieved through the orderly process of law. This was the work allotted him to do; this is the work he did; and only a master spirit among men could have done it.”
He expounded, saying, “We have traveled far since his day. That liberty of conscience which he demanded for himself, we now realize must be freely accorded to others as it is resolutely insisted upon for ourselves. The splendid qualities which he left to his children…and which we can by no manner of means afford to lose. We have gained a joy of living which he had not, and which it is a good thing for every people to have and to develop. Let us see to it that we do not lose what is more important still: that we do not lose the Puritan’s iron sense of duty, his unbending, unflinching will to do the right as it was given him to see the right. It is a good thing that life should gain in sweetness, but only provided that it does not lose in strength. Ease and rest and pleasure are good things, but only if they come as the reward of work well done, of a good fight well won, of strong effort resolutely made, and crowned by high achievement.
“The life of mere men will pass by with contemptuous disdain alike the advisers who would seek to lead us into the paths of ignoble ease and those who teach us to admire successful wrongdoing. Our ideals should be high, and yet they should be capable of achievement in practical fashion; and we are as little to be excused if we permit our ideals to be tainted with what is sordid and mean and base, as if we allow our power of achievement to atrophy and become either incapable of effort or capable only of such fantastic effort as to accomplish nothing of permanent good. The true doctrine to preach to this nation, as to the individuals composing this nation, is not the life of ease, but the life of effort. If it were in my power to promise the people of this land anything, I would not promise them pleasure, I would promise them that stern happiness which comes from the sense of having done in practical fashion a difficult work which was worth doing.” (http://www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org/Research/Digital-Library/Record/ImageViewer?libID=o286435&imageNo=1)
Many people in our country today have come to believe today that work to do is not something to be thankful for. But true thankfulness to the Lord for who He is and all He has done will spur us to DO what He has called us to do! We are called to be a holy people of action, and doing the will of God is directly tied to a thankful heart: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
Thanksgiving became an officially-recognized holiday in our nation in 1789 at the request of Congress under George Washington’s presidency. In his Thanksgiving proclamation, Washington said, “Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation…”
Washington aptly points out that we give thanks to God in an ongoing manner for “all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” A day to commemorate is important, and I believe the ceremony of tradition and remembrance is honoring to the Lord. But we must not stop there but, rather, should cultivate a heart of thankfulness that is continues during the year and throughout the course of our time here on earth.
The Israelites throughout the Old Testament had feasts which were days of remembrance for what the Lord had done; they erected memorials to commemorate God’s faithfulness to them in specific locations. They also posted the laws of God over the doors of their homes, wore them on their clothing, talked about them at mealtime with their children, and “bound them around their neck” and “wrote them upon the table of their heart” throughout the course of their everyday lives (Deuteronomy 6:6-13).
A classic tale that has impressed this on my heart is that of Ebenezer Scrooge. This story has become Christmas folklore and has been shared by so many people over generations. Several years ago, I made my directorial debut as director of Ken Jones’ Scrooge’s Christmas, a condensed musical version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In this community theatre production, I had been eating, breathing, and sleeping this play, and I read the script more times than I could count. With each rehearsal, something about the story struck me in a new way. It was only natural around Thanksgiving last week that I gleaned some new insight into the true meaning of Thanksgiving from this Christmas-themed show.
Near the end of Scrooge’s story, he must face all of the choices and experiences of his upbringing, of the people currently in his life, and of the resulting bleakness in his future. As he pours out his heart in contrition and repentance, he finally exclaims, “I will live in the past, present, and the future!”
We can be thankful for the past because we see the faithfulness of God in guiding our steps, in leading us according to His will, in healing the broken places of our hearts. We can be thankful for the present because we know that what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal. It is a beautiful peak on a mountain on which to say, “Lord, I have so much higher to go. But thank you for how far I have come and for being with me right here, right now.” We can be thankful for the yet-to-come, “His mercy endures forever.” “He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” “All His promises are yes and amen.” We can be assured that God is at work and that He is making His plans and purposes come to pass in this earth! That when we pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” that He is already answering that prayer in so many ways not just for our time here on earth but for eternity.
This is the Will of God
We pray this article brings a deeper meaning to you of the holiday of Thanksgiving. That it is a reminder to give thanks every day with an attitude of gratitude, an action, and is ongoing. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This is not something done in our own strength. It comes to fruition from a heart of full surrender to the will of God and recognizing that thanksgiving is both commanded of us because it is His will, and it also produces great peace and blessing! We are reminded in Romans 8:6 that “to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.” This is why cultivating a thankful heart is so essential to the will of God: it lifts up the eyes of our heart to who our Lord is; it helps us to know Him, depend upon Him, and to experience Him as He truly is in our everyday lives; and it spurs us to action to see His kingdom come and His will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
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