Thanksgiving is a uniquely Christian holiday with its focus on giving thanks.
In the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The first great characteristic of the true Christian is always a sense of thankfulness and gratitude to God. The world does not as we know, the world does not naturally give thanks for what they've been given.”
Jerry Bridges has said, “Thanksgiving is not a natural virtue. It is a fruit of the spirit given by him by our Lord.”
The world does not recognize God as the giver of good things, yet as Christians, we should fully recognize that God opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:16). There's no living creature that does not owe its existence to our Lord. He sustains this world and all that it contains by the word of His power.
I love Psalm 100, and not just at Thanksgiving. I love this Psalm because of its rich imagery of how God has blessed us.
Make a loud shout to Yahweh, all the earth.
Serve Yahweh with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that Yahweh, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
In our modern world we've learned an incredible amount about how we are made. Modern medicine has built up a vast store of knowledge about the human body. Yet David’s simple words, written over 3,000 years ago, are just as applicable today as the day that he wrote them. It is Yahweh who has made us, and not we ourselves. We owe our existence to Him! Consider the psalmist’s response to this great truth:
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For Yahweh is good;
His lovingkindness endures forever
And His faithfulness, generation unto generation.
From the youngest to the oldest saint – it doesn’t matter who you are – you ought to live in thanksgiving, knowing that Yahweh is good. His lovingkindness endures forever. The world around us may have changed in our lifetimes, yet Yahweh’s goodness has not. His loving kindness endures, and as Christians, every day should be a day of thanksgiving for Yahweh's goodness, His lovingkindness, and His faithfulness. And more than any of that, we should give thanks for our salvation.
God has saved His people from their sins. He has saved us by His grace through faith (Eph 2:8-10). He has granted us salvation in the name of His son, the Lord Jesus. As I said earlier, Thanksgiving is a uniquely Christian holiday. This is true because of how God has saved us; only the genuine Christian understands what God has done in giving us His only begotten Son. The Apostle John reminds us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).”
It is the gift of eternal life – dwelling with God forever. It is this reality that should cause the Christian to live in a constant state of thankfulness. Before Christ saved us, we were lost and faced a huge problem. We faced the prospect of God's eternal wrath. Yet in His kindness He has shown us grace and mercy (Eph 2:4-6). It is the gift of the cross, the free gift of salvation, that we ought to be eternally thankful for. As we consider these thoughts, we should keep the words of Martin Lloyd Jones at the forefront of our minds – “The measure of our spirituality is the amount of praise and thanksgiving in our prayer.”
How many of us pray as if God is some sort of cosmic genie who is here to give us what we want? But we must be Christians who know that God has given us everything we need, starting with eternal life. This incredible truth ought to be enough to cause us to praise Him and give thanks to Him in all we do!