By Pr Ay Nee Ng
Luci Swindoll writes:
The wisdom and doctrine of Scripture teach that the experience of celebrating God is the core of worship. It is the quintessence of praise and thanksgiving- the most perfect manifestation of a heart that gratefully fellowships with the One who provides life and all the gifts of living. In fact, a grateful heart is not only the greatest virtue, it is the seed bed for all other virtues. When we are caught up into the celebration of God, there is neither room nor time for the invasion of negative living. As we rejoice before the Lord, as we serve him in the area of our calling, as we enter joyfully into our daily journey, as we give thanks to him for his kindness and faithfulness, we celebrate God.
Church, today we are here to celebrate God in thanksgiving for 8 years He has faithfully carried us through some rocky passages and had His hand firmly on us. We have been blessed abundantly.
So why do we give thanks? Why is giving thanks to God important?
Many Americans think of thanksgiving as a wonderful time to celebrate getting out of school for a long weekend and eating a great dinner. Or maybe they think it is the start of the Christmas holiday season.
What is the real meaning behind thanksgiving?
Catherine Millard writes:
We can trace this historic American Christian tradition to the year 1623. After the harvest crops were gathered in November 1623, Governor William Bradford of the 1620 Pilgrim Colony, “Plymouth Plantation” in Plymouth, Massachusetts proclaimed: “All ye Pilgrims with your wives and little ones, do gather at the Meeting House, on the hill… there to listen to the pastor, and render Thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings.” This is the origin of our annual Thanksgiving Day celebration. The Congress of the United States has proclaimed National Days of Thanksgiving to Almighty God many times throughout the following years.
Many years later, on October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed, by Act of Congress, an annual National Day of Thanksgiving “on the last Thursday of November, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the heavens.” In this Thanksgiving proclamation, our 16th President says that it is… “…announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord… But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, by the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own… It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people…”
So, although thanksgiving was originally celebrated as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year, Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday and celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. (Read more at Christian Answers)
Why is giving thanks to our Lord so important then?
The Bible is filled with commands to give thanks to God (Psa. 106:1; 107:1; 118:1; 1 Chr. 16:34; 1 Thess. 5:18). We thank God because of His attributes, character, and nature such as “His love endures forever” (Psa. 136:3), “He is good” (Psa. 118:29), and “His mercy is everlasting” (Psa. 100:5). There are three main reasons why giving thanks to God is good.
1. Thanksgiving is the expression of our emotions in appreciation to everything God has done for us, acknowledging it is good for us.
a. Feeling and expressing appreciation is good for us.
b. God wants us to learn to be thankful for all the gifts He has given us (Jas. 1:17) just like any wise father. It is also in our best interest to be reminded that everything we have is a gift from Him.
c. We tend to become arrogant and self-centred without thanksgiving and begin to believe that we have achieved everything on our own.
d. Thanksgiving also reminds us of how much we do have. Human beings are prone to covetousness. We tend to focus on what we don’t have. By giving thanks continually, we are reminded of how much we do have. When we focus on our blessings rather than our wants, we are happier. We start thanking God for the things we usually take for granted. Our perspective changes, and we realize that we could not even exist without the merciful blessings of God.
e. Thanksgiving keeps our hearts in a right relationship with the Giver of all good gifts—our Lord Jesus Christ—and we need to express it and acknowledge the Lord of lords and the King of kings.
f. Thanksgiving and praise always go hand-in-hand. To adequately praise and worship God, we need to be thankful.
“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:20-22; NIV)
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18)
2. We are to be thankful not only for the things we like but also for the circumstances we don’t like.
a. Keep bitterness, anger, and self-pity at bay. When we purpose to thank God for everything that He allows to come into our lives, we can’t stay angry or bitter for long. We cannot be both thankful and bitter at the same time.
b. We do not thank Him for trouble or evil, but that He is sustaining us through it (Jas.1:12). We do not thank Him for harm He did not cause, but we thank Him when He gives us the strength to endure it (2 Cor. 12:9).
c. We thank Him for His promise that “all things will work together for the good, to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
3. We are to keep thankful hearts toward God even when we do not feel thankful for the circumstances.
a. If you are hurting, you can still be thankful.
b. If you are grieving, you can still be thankful.
c. If you are angry at sin, you can still be thankful toward God.
That is what the Bible calls a “sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15).
Church, giving thanks to God keeps our hearts in a right relationship with Him and saves us from a host of harmful emotions and attitudes that will rob us of the peace God wants us to experience (Phil. 4:6–7). We continue to give thanks to God not only because the Bible is filled with commands about it but also because it is good for us. Remember to:
1. Express your emotions to God in appreciation for everything He has done for you because it is good, and let thanksgiving change your perspective.
2. Be thankful not only for the things you like but also for the circumstances you don’t like because it keeps bitterness, anger, and self-pity at bay.
3. Keep a thankful heart toward God even when you don’t feel thankful for the circumstances. It keeps you on track with God.
Let us give thanks together with this prayer of thanksgiving:
Lord,Thank you for being the head of our Church and for Your abiding presence that will never leave us or forsake us. We come to You lovingly in dedicating our lives afresh to You together. We dedicate You SGC, our pastors, council, leaders and members, our altars every Sunday as we have services to honour You, our messages, our praise and worship, our sound system, our Life Groups (LG) and ministries, the children and toddlers ministry, the community out-reach, our prayers, Power House, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for releasing the power of Your Holy Spirit upon us and empowering us to impact lives, families, communities, and nations. We thank you that you see to our heart to continue to burn with compassion for the lost, poor, sick and needy. Thank you that many lives are set free from the works of darkness, witchcraft and the occult. We thank you for the gifts of healings and working of miracles released in our church and for people from many walks of life responding to Your loving favour by acknowledging and receiving You as their loving Saviour, friend, and Sovereign Lord.
Lord, thank you for loving us and receiving us as Your rightful children, bestowing Your goodness and kindness over us. Thank you, Lord, that we can change with Your help. In loving You and acknowledging You as our Lord and Saviour, teach us to reach out to others and serve You faithfully. Lord, thank you for Your continuous leading and guidance in our church and over our lives, granting us wisdom and discernment along the path.
In Jesus name we give thanks. Amen