Long before America created an overflowing and beautifully sophisticated Thanksgiving table, thanksgiving was a thing. Before pilgrims gathered around a rough wood hewn table, or a sweet row of little hands clasped in prayer at my own table, thanksgiving was a thing.
The Israelites in the wilderness didn’t do so well with the concept of thanksgiving being “a thing.” They had issues with gratefulness. Because you see, a grateful heart connects to faith. It’s tied to trust, and permeated with belief in a God who is Sovereign, whether in lack or abundance. It deems Him good in every circumstance.
We might bow our heads at an abundant table or at one with just enough manna for dinner, regardless, our understanding of thanks can benefit from a look at the apostles. For thanksgiving was a really big thing for the early church.
So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:41NKJV)
The apostles, bloodied and beaten for preaching Christ left the unjust courtroom with joy. They were grateful. They felt chosen and worthy of something marvelous. Disgrace, ridicule, and shame in a culture and society which opposed them brought true thanksgiving.
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, (Colossians 1:24 NKJV).
Paul and his many sufferings intertwined thanksgiving as one of his themes in his writings. He understood not only God’s Sovereignty in suffering, but also its purifying impact within the body of Christ. His sufferings enabled others in the family of God to be encouraged, grow, and continue in faith. Sufferings were worthy of thanksgiving.
for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. (Hebrews 10:34 NKJV)
“It’s mine,” that childish not-gonna-let go hold, grows up with us. As the toys and stakes get bigger, the losses more painful, injustices become much harder to let go. The early Christians had lands and possessions taken from them. The author of Hebrews put it into eternal perspective, looked farther ahead, and saw something much more valuable for which to be grateful. Thanksgiving happened even in unfair financial loss.Look beyond your own table. Click To Tweet
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (James 1:2-3 NKJV)
James, half brother of Jesus, leader of the Jerusalem church, and martyred for his faith, begins the book of James with this next to impossible admonishment. “Count it all joy…” Wouldn’t life be so bright without all the bad stuff? Unenjoyable trials are part of thanksgiving because they produce results which grow our faith. James recognized trials brought greater spiritual maturity, and so trusted Jesus in the process.
All of these looked beyond their own table.
They peered into greater blessings ahead and found thanksgiving within each difficult situation.
This month, challenge your thanksgiving to go deep. Look beyond your your own table. Dig into gratefulness. Proclaim trust and confidence in a Sovereign God, worthy, faithful and always good. This is Thanksgiving.
You might be interested in a recent article of mine on Crosswalk.com
*Feature Photo by Virginia Simionato on Unsplash