The apostle Paul wrote, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Our nation will pause to give thanks this week, remembering the many ways we have been blessed. But Paul taught that those of us who belong to Jesus are to give thanks in ALL circumstances. Obedience to that verse requires extra thought.

There are so many things to be thankful for. We live in a country that allows us to speak our minds, worship as we choose and vote our beliefs. We enjoy freedoms that so many in the rest of the world can only imagine. Most of our country will sit down in warm homes, with family, friends and a lot of GREAT food. It won’t be hard to look around and give thanks.

The holidays are just around the corner. The Christmas trees are being lit, the parties are being planned and the stores are offering the best bargains of the year. (I personally wish they would not offer those bargains on Thanksgiving Day – but I blogged about THAT last year.) There is so much to look forward to in the coming weeks, it is easy to thank God for this season.

Each year we look back on all God has done through the year, and remember to give thanks. Ryan, my oldest son, is cancer-free and he and his wife are expecting a baby girl in January. Craig and his wife serve our ministry and lead worship for a Dallas area church. Jim and I are celebrating our 33rd Thanksgiving together. God has given our family a lot to be grateful for.

But, this is my first Thanksgiving without my dad. When we bow our heads to pray for our meal on Thursday, I will have to focus my thoughts and try to give thanks to God. It still seems like my dad should be the one to pray the blessing this Thursday, but it will be someone else instead. Paul encourages us to be thankful in all circumstances so I will work hard to remember that God’s ways are perfect. While there will be an empty spot at our table, I can rejoice that my dad is enjoying a banquet in heaven. Those of us who belong to Jesus can look forward to enjoying that banquet someday as well.

Gratitude is a powerful witness. We should remember to give thanks and we should celebrate Thanksgiving every day of the year. People who are lost will want to know the source of our joy, and we will be able to tell them about Jesus. We should live aware of those around us and notice the people who don’t have joy. Could it be an indicator that they don’t “belong to Jesus” in the way Paul spoke of?

Christians can give thanks to God in all circumstances because we worship the God who transcends circumstance. We can remember to be thankful every time we remember all God has done for us. We belong to Christ Jesus, so we have eternity to offer our thanks to God.

But while we will give thanks to God in all circumstances, let’s not forget that God has also called us to be his disciples in all circumstances as well. There will probably be people in your family that don’t belong to Jesus yet, or don’t live as if they do. How will your gratitude impact them this week?

And while we live in a great country, most of our fellow citizens don’t belong to Christ Jesus. We need to give thanks, but we also need to give our attention to our neighbors. I ran across an interesting quote that I wanted to share with my readers.

Maybe we can think about these words, and the author of these words, this week. The quote:

“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, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”
Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

May this be a week of Thanksgiving for our circumstances, whatever they might be. May we remember God and humbly pray to our Creator. And may we humbly submit our lives to his superior wisdom and virtue. Then we who belong to Christ Jesus can give thanks for his redeeming and preserving grace.

I pray that each of you will have a blessed week of Thanksgiving.

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