NOVEMBER! The month to be thankful! Really? November is the only month to be thankful? But you say, “Pastor, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of this month. Shouldn’t we be thankful on Thanksgiving?”
Yes, of course! We should be thankful on Thanksgiving. But here is a novel idea. How about being thankful every day of the year! Not just on Thanksgiving. Yes, I am talking about 365 days a year. When we say grace over the food we eat, aren’t we expressing thanks? When we pray our offertory prayer each Sunday upon the receiving of the tithes and offerings, aren’t we being thankful? Now you know, on and on I could go with the many ways we can and should express our thanks. I am just saying we should try our best to make it an every day “thing” to, not only be thankful in our hearts, but to thank God verbally for all the good things He brings into our lives.
But what does the Bible say about being thankful? One of my very favorite verses about being thankful comes from First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that? Give thanks in all circumstances. Thankfulness should be a way of life for us, naturally flowing from our hearts and our mouths.
Is that an easy task to accomplish? Not always! Maybe sometimes it’s easy. Especially when life is going good- when life isn’t throwing up roadblocks to hinder our journey. But not so easy when life jumps up and kicks us in the teeth, huh? Still, the Apostle Paul, writing to those in the Thessalonian church, doesn’t give much wiggle room, does he? Remember he said, “Give thanks in ALL circumstances.” It’s hard to give thanks when our loved are dying of some incurable disease- when the doctor has said, “There is nothing else we can do.” And that’s only one of the circumstances that can make it so difficult to be thankful.
So, I’m sure the next question, naturally, is “how can I be thankful in such a circumstance?” Please notice how I worded that last sentence. “How can I be thankful IN such a circumstance?” I think that is the key to thankfulness. There are going to be times in life when it gets exceedingly difficult to face another day. Aren’t you happy that God shows us grace? I realize that we throw that beautiful old Methodist word “grace” around willy-nilly sometimes. And I further know that it’s not really exclusively “an old Methodist word.’ But we Methodists put great stock in God’s grace- as we should. For it is grace that enables us to be thankful IN ALL circumstances, not necessarily FOR ALL circumstances.
What did our old friend John Wesley have to say about grace? Wesley said of grace, “This is the divine love of God that surrounds all humanity and precedes any and all of our conscious impulses and actions.” In other words, one of the ways God’s grace affects us is that, even when we do not feel very thankful, we still can be thankful IN our circumstances, even though we might not be thankful FOR our circumstances.
We also have many scriptural examples of being thankful in the midst of hard circumstances. Psalm 28, for instance, depicts David’s distress. It is a cry to God for mercy, protection, and justice. After David cries out to God, he writes, “Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to him in song” (Psalm 28:6-7). In the midst of hardship, David remembers who God is and, as a result of knowing and trusting God, gives thanks.
We have been preaching from the book of Job during the month of October. Our old friend Job had a similar attitude of praise, even in the face of death: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21). Surely few of us have suffered the circumstances in which Job found himself.
Let us remember that we should be thankful every day of the year- not just on Thanksgiving! And let us be thankful- even IN the midst of all our circumstances- both good and bad.
Your pastoral family wishes you a wonderful Thanksgiving! And, if you have no family or friends in the area to celebrate with, you are always welcome at the parsonage Thanksgiving table! All you have to do is let us know. We’ll put an extra potato in the pot!