Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner. There will be tables loaded with all kinds of delicious food. Many of us will probably eat more rich foods than we should. Afterward, perhaps we can go Black Friday shopping. Small wonder that we are such thankful people. Wait, what? Are we really? Do you feel thankful? If so, what are you thankful for?

Many Americans seem to be living under the delusion that acquiring more things is going to make them happy. Of course, we can console ourselves that it’s not entirely our fault, when those tricky ad people spend millions of dollars to make us believe that particular lie. Why do we want to acquire more things to make us happy if those things repeatedly fail to make us happy?

What if I told you that all the things that you possess don’t really help to make you more thankful? Why is it, that as well-to-do Americans we more often than not have the attitude that “just a little more” is how much it would take to make us happy?

    By nature, we are never satisfied with what we have.

Do you have a house?

“Yes, but my neighbor has a nicer one.”

Do you enjoy good health?

“Yes, but I wish I was as good looking and attractive as he is.”

And the list could go on creatively and infinitely. Sadly, we must face the selfishness of our nature.

Our first impulse is not gratitude, but greed.

God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the middle of paradise. He gave them every good thing they needed and could possibly dream of. Yet they chose to disobey and listen instead to the seductive voice that told them they needed something more to be really happy. They chose to leave everything good for that uncertain thing that might bring them happiness.

Let’s take a look at an interesting little passage from Philippians 4. The Apostle Paul is winding down his letter, when in verse 6 he says,

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (emphasis added). From a consumer’s standpoint, that sentence makes no sense. How can we be thankful when we are making requests? Making requests means that I have unmet needs. Strangely, Paul seems unconcerned about whether those needs will be met.

    Later in the same passage, he says:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13, emphasis added)

What is Paul saying here? Paul, of all people, knew that his circumstances and life situation could change in an instant. More importantly though, he knew he would always have something to be thankful for. His contentment was found in Jesus Christ. Not his status as a lead apostle, not his heritage. No matter what happened, Christ could not be taken from him.

But I scarcely need to tell you that it’s good to be thankful. Most people, including those who don’t believe in any deity, agree with that. If you’re like me though, you often fall short of practicing thankfulness in your everyday life. We need to be reminded of  things we can do that encourage us to give thanks.

Cultivate awareness of what God has done for me.

God sacrificed the most precious gift, Jesus, to give life to humanity. When I realize what all God has gone through to pursue me, I am thankful. I can be nothing else. When I recognize my own depravity and how I have repeatedly spit in his face (even while claiming to serve him) I am humbled and grateful that he does not cast me out forever. This really is central to being Christ followers. If we don’t find gratitude in our hearts, we don’t understand salvation. Strong statement? Yes, but I think it’s true. Find ways to remind yourself every day of this truth. Sing it, pray it, write poetry about it.

Recognize that thankfulness is not dependent on any of your possessions, social position, or abilities.

I can be thankful without any of those things, which are oh-so-nice to have. As long as our identity is in Christ, we have reason to be thankful. When Christ is everything to us, these other things may seem like added blessings, but they will seem small compared to the blessing of God’s love.

Reach out to those who have less to be thankful for than you do.

These people fall into two basic groups: Those who don’t know the gift of God’s salvation and those who do know him, but are in some way less fortunate than you. I don’t think I need to tell you which of these groups has less to be thankful for. Keep that in mind as you try to prioritize your time and effort.

It would be nice if I could tell you that I’m perfect and all my actions and thoughts reflect this undistorted view of reality. But I can’t. However, I am grateful that God has given me his love and the opportunity to seek to return that love every day. This Thanksgiving Day, let your heart be filled with Christ, the one “in [whom] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

All scripture references ESV

Daniel Daniel Yutzy lives in Huntsville, Arkansas with his wife. For fun, he teaches music at a local church school, conducts choirs or ensembles, and dabbles in finger-style guitar and choral composition. He is as passionate about learning as he is about teaching. He enjoys being with people who know what is important and act accordingly. Alternately, a well written biography, novel, or history will keep him occupied for hours. He loves soft rain and beautiful corners of this marvelous world. God has blessed him beyond necessity.

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