Ah yes, it’s upon us once again, that most organic of American holidays where in the tradition of our ancestors and the spirit of the Pilgrims, we set ourselves apart unto a day of wanton and self-abusive engorgement of massive quantities of everything we can haul home from the grocery store in the back of our SUV, to be followed by self-indulgent entertainment provided by dozens of premium sports channels before retiring early in preparation for a day of unrivaled, frantic, frenzied mass retail consumerism as we compete to feed our greed for more stuff to fill our already overflowing houses with. Ah yes, the Pilgrims would be amazed at what we’ve done with their day of thanksgiving. I’m sure that if the good and Godly Governor Bradford who issued that first thanksgiving proclamation were here today, he would give us all a swift kick in the behind.
Okay, so the observance of the holiday has degenerated a bit, but there’s no sin in families getting together to enjoy a good meal, have some fun and fellowship. Nevertheless, I have wished that someone would organize a community-wide Thanksgiving event where there would be songs of thanksgiving and praise, sermons by various pastors, testimonies from those who want to give thanks for what God has done in their lives. I envision a day-long event with several ministry teams trading off during the day as people come and go, participating in the festival of thanks for a time, then going to spend the remainder of the day with family and friends. Perhaps I should take it on myself to organize such an event. My only concern is that I may be the only one to show up, especially since I can’t afford any plasma screen TV’s as door prizes.
I don’t mean to be critical and certainly am not turning cynical. However, I do mean to confront us with our own spiritual condition and force us to honestly consider where we are at. Besides, the real issue is not what we do on Thanksgiving Day, but what we do the other 364 days of the year. Are we living lives of gratitude and thanks, or are we complaining about how bad things are? Thanksgiving Day is only one day out of the year – a day when, if on no other, we should stir ourselves up to remember that our Creator is worthy of our gratitude, thanksgiving and praise all day long, every day and in every circumstance.
1Chronicles 16:34 states “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that God does not simply require us to give thanks and praise Him just because He is almighty and can demand it of us if He wants, but He gives us a reason to thank Him – because “He is good.” Think about it, He’s the Almighty, He doesn’t have to be good if He doesn’t want to. Who’s going to make Him be good? Who can come up to Him and tell Him, “hey, you ought’a be good.” No one can tell Him what to do, nor do we have a right to. But God, the Almighty, the Sovereign, who can do whatever He wants, wants to be good and have mercy that endures forever – now that’s reason to be thankful.
It’s nice to thank God for the good things in our lives, but ultimately, that isn’t the reason to thank Him. The reason to thank Him is that He is good – pure good – totally good and nothing but good. That is why 1Thessalonians 5:18 says “In every thing give thanks.” Notice, it doesn’t say “for” everything give thanks, but “in” everything give thanks. We don’t thank God for our circumstances – good or bad – we thank God in spite of our circumstances because no matter what the circumstances are, God is still good and is worthy of our praise.
Too often we blame God for our circumstances, or even mistakenly think that we are supposed to thank Him for the bad circumstances that we find ourselves in. The fact is that if we’re in bad circumstances, then we got there on our own, not by God’s doing. We might have gotten in those circumstances simply because our grandfather Adam let Satan, sin and death into the earth. We might have gotten their corporately as a society or nation, or we might have gotten there through individual choices that we made. Ultimately, we got there because we, or someone along the way, chose to cooperate with Satan and follow his promptings, urgings and twisted wisdom that he ministers to the inhabitants of this planet, but no way, no how, did God cause your problems or get you in them. He is looking for ways to get you out of your problems and is busy making plans “of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV).
Don’t ever blame God for your problems. Remember, “He is good,” “His mercy endures forever,” His “tender mercies and lovingkindnesses have been ever of old” (Psalm 25:6). “Ever of old” means that God has never ever been anything but good, merciful and kind. If there’s a problem, it’s with us, not with Him and He has the answer and is wanting to show it to us if we will seek Him and walk with Him in the plan that He has for delivering us out of trouble.
As one who is active in and observing the political landscape, one of the serious problems that I see among the “Christian-conservative-right,” is that we’re so fixated on the bad that we can’t see the good. We dwell on “oh the liberals this, or Obama that, oh doom, gloom and despair, the big bad Democrats are going to get us.” We’re inundated with it on so called “conservative” talk radio all day long. We read articles about how bad it is. We even reinforce it to each other when we pass in the hall at church – “Oh brother, did you hear what the liberals are doing? Do you know how bad it is? I think we’ve about all had it.” It’s pretty hard to muster a spirit of thanksgiving when you’re submerged in that kind of atmosphere all day, every day.
To be honest, I’ve pretty much quit listening to the so-called “conservative” talk radio shows and it’s really done a lot for my peace of mind and ability to get a better and more Godly perspective on matters. And in case you’re wondering, I quit the TV news and local newspaper long before. I’m not advocating a life of complete ignorance, just one of insulating yourself from the negative lest it get through to you and steal your peace and joy. Besides, you’d be surprised how little information about the evil deeds and evil doers you really need in order to figure out what is right, what is good, what honors God and what therefore you should be taking a stand for.
Stop feeding yourself with news about all the stuff that is wrong in America. Start seeking the knowledge of what is good, what is right, what is Biblical and what is Constitutional. Start seeking God and asking Him, “What’s the plan? I know you’re good and I know you have a plan to fix what’s wrong down here, so I’m seeking you to find out your plan because that’s the only plan that will ever bear any good fruit.”
It also bothers me that I see Christians fixated on things getting worse and worse, believing that everything has to get worse so that the end can come, “thank God the end is almost here and everything is so bad that we’ll all be dead soon.” Wow, no wonder no one wants to join your church. Yes, evil in and of itself is growing worse, but the Kingdom of God is on the rise and is about to break onto the scene to replace the kingdom that has been running this planet for the last 6,000 years. The fact is that the gospel is being preached in places that have never heard the good news before. Revivals are breaking out in places we didn’t even know existed a hundred years ago. Thirty years ago, the Iron Curtain prevented the gospel from reaching eastern Europe and all of northwestern Asia. Today that region is totally open. Communist China was closed to the gospel, but today I know people right here in Spokane, Washington who have ministered there and I have relations from Wisconsin who are in that region of the world discipling new converts right now.
While we sit around dwelling on things like “oh my, the Muslims are going to get us,” the gospel is penetrating the previously Muslim regions of the world like never before. Christian television programing is being broadcast into many Muslim regions, including Iran where some say the greatest Christian revival on the planet is currently taking place. Yet some in the Christian-conservative-right, whether through fear or some other agenda, have been advocating for military hostilities with Iran. I’m persuaded that God has a better plan, a good plan, a plan of hope that He would like us to get on board with and be a part of through prayer, faith and financing missionary outreaches rather than sitting in doom, gloom and anticipating war.
I realize that in certain ways, America is currently in a form of spiritual recession and that makes it hard for us to see the good that is going on. However, even in America it isn’t all bad. There is actually more light and knowledge of God, His kingdom, His ways, His power and His glory available in America in this day than in any other generation. The church in general may not be seeking or embracing a lot of that knowledge and has a great need to return to its first love, but the knowledge is there, you just have to look for it. Not only is knowledge there, but it’s accessible. Just turn on your computer and you can look up dozens of ministries and download thousands of hours of teaching, or even attend a Bible college online and obtain training previously accessible only to the rare few who sought a career in the clergy.
I’m not denying the bad things that are going on, I’m just saying we ought not get fixated on them. We ought to get fixated on God, the good things He is doing and the good things He wants to do if we will seek him, let Him reveal His plans to us, then walk with Him in those plans.
So today, and every day, GIVE THANKS! Give thanks that God is good. Give thanks that His mercy endures forever. Give thanks that He even has a plan to turn around the bad things going on in your life or in your country. Then start seeking Him for His plan for turning it around and start believing what he says to believe, start saying what He says to say and start doing what He says to do, then start thanking Him for what He has promised, for what He has planned and for what He will do.
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.