Colorful leaves. Cooler temperatures. Earlier sunset. Fields of bright orange pumpkins. Fall is well underway in the Northern Hemisphere, and for those of us who live in the States, we are anticipating another Thanksgiving. Many people begin posting online things that they are most thankful for, and it’s a blessing to read those heartfelt sentiments.
By nature it’s fairly easy to be thankful when everything is going our way and the sun is shining. But what about when nothing seems to be going right and the sun is not shining? Has God suddenly withdrawn His blessings from us in those times? Of course not. Too often, though, our actions and our thoughts convey that we believe He has.
Recently I had a day when it felt like things were falling apart and my attempts to be cheerful sounded hollow. I was asking the Lord to please help me to trust Him and to have a better attitude, and I Thessalonians 5:18 came to mind: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” As I quoted the verse in my mind, the Holy Spirit impressed on me the thought that God hasn’t asked us to be thankful for everything but to be thankful in every thing. There’s a difference. I hadn’t ever seen it that way before, and it was encouraging. In a way it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I decided to study this a little further and found seven places (there may be more) where the phrase, “the sacrifice of thanksgiving” is found: Leviticus 7:12-13 (twice in these verses); Leviticus 22:29; Psalm 107:22; Psalm 116:17; Amos 4:5; Jonah 2:9. What does that mean? One definition of the word sacrifice is: the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim. Ahh…..exactly! The Lord Jesus Christ surely has a “higher or more pressing claim” on the lives of every one of us because He shed His blood on the cross of Calvary to pay for our sin. By nature, we are selfish, prideful creatures, and our self will and ego cause us many problems. When things in our life are not going the way we think they should, that pride and selfishness quickly surface.
A sacrifice of thanksgiving, then, is when we surrender our will to God’s, making a conscious choice to be thankful and to praise Him regardless of our current circumstances. It doesn’t happen easily or automatically. It takes discipline and a decision on our part that having the right attitude is more important than our own desires. It really is a liberating concept, in a sense. God has not asked us to be thankful for the trials and heartaches of life, but rather to be willing to be thankful in those things. In the midst of our tears, heartache and frustration, being thankful for who He is and for what He has done for us glorifies Him. When our attitude is right, suddenly the circumstances we’re facing seem a bit less daunting and overwhelming. The bills will probably still be there; the sickness may not be cured right away or at all; the family issues may not be resolved quickly; but our spirit is strengthened when we keep God in the place where He belongs as our focus.
I pray that this will be an encouragement to many and that you and your family will have a blessed Thanksgiving!