For most people, a long prayer of, “I need,” is easier than a long one of, “thank you for.” But it was thanksgiving and thankfulness that marked the explosive growth of the early church. Paul wrote from prison, “Keep on rejoicing in the Lord at all times. I will say it again: Keep on rejoicing!” (Phil 4:4 isv) This attitude sustained him through the most difficult times.
Pastor Jack Hayford wrote a book called The Key to Everything. When Pastor Jack says something is the “key,” we listen. He wrote, “At Thanksgiving, the imagery of harvest frames our own nation’s history, inspiring us with things reflective of Early America. Yet Thanksgiving is about more than that. It is a call for us to celebrate not only God’s provision and restoration, but also His promise and presence—even amid delays, restricting circumstances, or tears. Thanksgiving also calls us to constancy, for the journey to harvest will usually be harder than we think, longer than we expect, and more rewarding than we can ever imagine.”
What defeats a thankful heart is focusing on what you don’t have, rather than on what you do have. One of Israel’s biggest issues was envy. They wanted what others had—a king, or to worship the gods of Ba’al. “There is a new way of thinking,” Paul wrote. “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Romans 12:1-2 msg).
Thankfulness is the response of a mature heart. Thankfulness confirms relationships. Thankfulness opens our hearts. Thankfulness makes the world brighter—even in the midst of difficult times. Thankfulness releases blessing.
The early settlers of the United States were people marked by problems and challenges, yet they practiced thankfulness. Jamestown, the first successful colony and where John Rolfe married Pocahontas, the colonists’ first act, after landing at Cape Henry, April 27, 1607, was to erect a large wooden cross and hold a prayer meeting. Thankfulness gave them strength to endure. “For many of us, it’s been a demanding year. But as you and I come to Thanksgiving, the joy of celebration makes everything else incidental,” Pastor Jack continued. “When we finally see the harvest, it no longer matters how tough things were, how much time they took, or how heavy the pressures were—what’s important is that we have answered the call to faith. The joy is there. The Bible likens this joy after travail to a woman who has delivered a child. After the difficult months of pregnancy and the pain of labor, the baby is born, and what it took for that to happen doesn’t matter anymore—there is only rejoicing.”
I am thankful for your friendship, thankful for family, thankful for the blessing of God on this ministry and our lives, thankful for God’s provision and thankful for the thousands of families who have been reached for Christ this year. Thankful. I’ve always loved the song of Psalm 136, read it. It will lift your heart, here’s an excerpt.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to him who led his people through the wilderness. His faithful love endures forever. He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever. He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.