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Occasions for Giving Thanks

posted Nov 15, 2016, 12:54 PM by Kelly Griffin
A basic training recruit fell into bed one night after a grueling day. Suddenly, he heard a voice: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake – thank you, Lord.” That’s one thing to be thankful for – escape! But, in fact, there are many occasions for thanksgiving.The obvious one is in good times. Judah’s King Hezekiah forgot that after God spared him from a deadly illness. “But Hezekiah did not make return [give thanks] according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him” (II Chron 32:25).

He was like the woodpecker hammering away during a thunderstorm. A bolt of lightning hit his tree, splitting it from top to bottom. Brushing himself off, he exclaimed, “Boy, that was some peck!” That showed a human tendency to take credit for every success. But God reminds us, “Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). It’s important to give thanks in good times.

But how about when you’ve lost control? The captive Israelite, Daniel, was given a high position in Persian government. Jealous colleagues, knowing of his piety, appealed to King Darius’ vanity to pass a law that no one should petition or pray to anyone except the king.

Daniel got the memo and knew he’d lost control. Nevertheless he went home and opened his windows. Then, “He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God.” Gave thanks? Why? Because he knew that while he’d lost control – God hadn’t. That’s something to be thankful for.

An extreme challenge is to be thankful when there’s not enough. Say what?! Well, Jesus did. He had a crowd of over 5,000 one day. It got late. Dinner time. No food. Jesus asked, “What do we have?” Andrew found one boy with a lunch – five loaves and two fish. He gave it to Jesus. “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted” (John 6:11). He gave thanks for not nearly enough – and suddenly, it was. Perhaps there’s a lesson there!

Then, how about in tough times. Paul and Silas were beaten and jailed in Philippi for healing a demon-possessed girl. Cold, bleeding, and ridden with pain, what were they doing? “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). Amazed, no doubt! God released them all and saved the jailer.

But most amazing of all was Jesus. The night before His crucifixion, He dined with His disciples. “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:27-28). Gave thanks!? The disciples didn’t realize what was coming. But Jesus did. The wine represented His own death; yet He gave thanks! Why? Only one answer will do. He knew His death was the price for the forgiveness of their sins – and ours. We all have a lot for which to be thankful.

Winston Churchill once said of the RAF which staved off German invasion of England early in WWII, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” At the cross we see a correction: “Never in the field of human failure have so many owed so much to One.” There’s no better time than Thanksgiving to pay that debt. Happy Thanksgiving.

Dave McNeff is Pastor of Eaton Congregational Church (Conservative Congregational Christian Conference)

Published in The Tribune on November 12, 2016.