The Anchor of Our Thanksgiving

You are here

The Anchor of Our Thanksgiving

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×
Downloads
MP3 Audio (12.28 MB)

Downloads

The Anchor of Our Thanksgiving

MP3 Audio (12.28 MB)
×

What is the essence of thanksgiving? The United States allocates Thanksgiving Day as a federal holiday to celebrate and give thanks. Thanksgiving provides a joyful opportunity to reflect on what we normally take for granted and express gratitude for it.

This includes things like an abundance of food, loving family and friends and the relative peace and stability we experience. In truth, there’s so much to be thankful for! You and I should feel humbled by these many blessings and give thanks for them.

Reflect on what you are truly thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Sadly, this isn’t always the case.

The biblical core of thanksgiving is anchored to something much deeper and more enduring than a vast amount of physical blessings. The Bible contains numerous godly examples of people giving thanks, not when they had everything, but when they had nothing . When they were suffering. When they were being tormented and on the worst days of their lives. What kept them going? How could they continue giving thanks?

First, let’s consider Jonah. Jonah failed to obey God and found himself trapped in the belly of a fish, deep in the middle of the ocean. He was tortured, filled with despair and near death. In his suffering, Jonah called out to God, and He heard him! (Jonah 2:1-2 Jonah 2:1-2 1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, 2 And said, I cried by reason of my affliction to the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and you heard my voice.
American King James Version×
). “The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever” (Jonah 2:5-6 Jonah 2:5-6 5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. 6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet have you brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
American King James Version×
).

But notice what Jonah did, even as close to his deathbed as he was: “I remembered the LORD; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple … I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:7-8 Jonah 2:7-8 7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in to you, into your holy temple. 8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
American King James Version×
). In spite of his misery and anguish, Jonah had humility and gave thanks to God in prayer. Afterwards, God delivered and saved Jonah: the fish “vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:10 Jonah 2:10And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah on the dry land.
American King James Version×
).

Thanks to God in spite of government oppression

Likewise, the prophet Daniel was in an environment hostile to God’s way. The Persian government established a new law that criminalized Daniel’s daily prayers. Death was the penalty for disobedience. With the threat against his life and the lives of his peers in mind, how did Daniel respond?

“In his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10 Daniel 6:10Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled on his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added). Daniel was still able to give thanks to God, even in the face of losing it all. And Daniel, like Jonah, was saved from danger.

Thanksgiving for no other purpose than God’s grace alone 

Today, we might think Thanksgiving Day would be nothing without the abundance of food we enjoy. Consider this passage: “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 Habakkuk 3:17-18 17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
American King James Version×
; New Living Translation). Even when food or other physical things are lacking, we should still give thanks and rejoice.

Of course, we should be thankful for the physical things, opportunities and people we do have in our lives. However, when those things go away, our thankfulness should persist. Our thanksgiving should not depend on how much stuff we have or how good our life is. We must struggle to “be thankful in all circumstances” as part of God’s will for us as Christians (1 Thessalonians 5:18 1 Thessalonians 5:18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
American King James Version×
, NLT).

You may have noticed a connection between joy and thanksgiving in the preceding passages. This connection is accentuated in Psalm 100. It opens by telling worshipers to “make a joyful shout” to God and serve Him with gladness, yet goes on to instruct them to enter His gates with thanksgiving and “be thankful to Him” (Psalms 100:1-4 Psalms 100:1-4 1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all you lands. 2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 3 Know you that the LORD he is God: it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful to him, and bless his name.
American King James Version×
). Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, an integral component of God’s character (Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
American King James Version×
). Just as Christians are called to be joyful in any situation, we must also learn to give thanks regardless of our condition (James 1:2 James 1:2My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;
American King James Version×
).

Spiritual salvation

What, then, should we be thankful for? In the examples above, God was praised for His saving power or salvation from physical dangers. What about spiritual dangers? God desires to work with us in overcoming temptation and mercifully forgives us our faults when we fall short. God’s mercy and work with us is a constant we can depend on when times are good and when times are bad. Upon humble repentance, God forgives our sins without wavering (1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×
). “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalms 118:1 Psalms 118:1O give thanks to the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endures for ever.
American King James Version×
).

In fact, all of God’s attributes are unchanging. His loving, joyful, and patient character has existed since before the beginning and will last through eternity. God is dependable and trustworthy; we can rely on Him as an anchor when we are tested. This reliable nature of God is known as His faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23 Lamentations 3:22-23 22 It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness.
American King James Version×
, Deuteronomy 7:9 Deuteronomy 7:9Know therefore that the LORD your God, he is God, the faithful God, which keeps covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
American King James Version×
). Through God’s Word His enduring character is revealed to us.

In the same way, God gives us a hope we can latch onto during the worst days. “This is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25 1 John 2:25And this is the promise that he has promised us, even eternal life.
American King James Version×
). God, who cannot lie, gives us the hope of living together with Him, as part of His family forever (Titus 1:2 Titus 1:2In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
American King James Version×
). By having this hope within us, we can endure tough times, looking ahead towards a bright future with God (Hebrews 11:25-27 Hebrews 11:25-27 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect to the recompense of the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
American King James Version×
).

As humans, we are incapable of fully replicating God’s perfect character. We cannot have true salvation apart from God (Ephesians 2:8-10 Ephesians 2:8-10 8 For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
American King James Version×
). And without Him, it’s impossible to step into the future He has for us. We should recognize our own frailty and be humbled. God wants humility to be part of our character (Micah 6:8 Micah 6:8He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
American King James Version×
).

Humbled must have been how Jonah, Daniel and Habakkuk felt as they cried out in their trials. And yet they expressed thanksgiving to God for everything He is, all He had done for them, and all He planned to do. They even found joy at that crossroads.

The biblical essence of thanksgiving is the union of joy and humility. It is realizing we cannot do it on our own, yet taking delight that God is there with us. God must be the anchor of our thanksgiving, as He is the anchor of our blessings, salvation and hope. This anchor does not drift as the tide of physical blessings rolls in and out but remains constant and immovable for us throughout all the ages.

Wherever you are and whatever you have this Thanksgiving Day, God’s faithful character and hope of eternal life can help keep you going. Reflect on what you are truly thankful for this Thanksgiving. And with joy and humility, continue giving thanks.