This week, families across America will gather in homes overflowing with the welcoming aroma of abundance. But what is the purpose and why do we gather to give thanks? We give thanks for the abundant life Christ has provided. His definition of abundance differs from the world. Abundance is joy, love, grace and mercy. Abundance is a life lived from the overflow of His victory on the cross – the ultimate place of grace.
Thanksgiving is not about what we have accomplished for ourselves. Dr. Eugene Peterson’s The Message reminds us that a life committed to ‘thanks-living’ is one that remembers the truth of God’s faithfulness. Deu 8:11-18.
“Make sure you don’t forget God, make sure that when you eat and are satisfied, build pleasant houses and settle in, see your herds and flocks flourish and more and more money come in, watch your standard of living going up and up—make sure you don’t become so full of yourself and your things that you forget God, your God,
□ the God who delivered you from Egyptian slavery;
□ the God who led you through that huge and fearsome wilderness,
□ the God who gave you water gushing from hard rock;
□ the God who gave you manna to eat in the wilderness,
If you start thinking to yourselves, I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!”—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today.”
A grateful heart often grows from the fruit of adversity. In 1620, 102 pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. After a prayer service, the pilgrims hastily prepared for the harsh New England winter. Nearly half died that winter. The following harvest they gathered to thank God for provision and protection. In 1863, President Lincoln issued his original Thanksgiving Proclamation at a pivotal point in his and the nation’s life. More than 60,000 Americans had given their lives at Gettysburg. In November, Lincoln delivered his famous “Gettysburg Address.” It was while Lincoln was walking among the thousands of graves at Gettysburg that he committed his life to Christ. He told a friend this,”When I left Springfield [to assume the Presidency], I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ.”
Problems will always be a part of life. It is how we respond to problems that define our lives – individually and corporately. It is God’s mission to see us grow as Christians. He uses the storms of life to develop deep roots that withstand the winds of the world. We hear and see so much more on our knees. It is easy to persuade ourselves that life is better when we have more money. Life will be good when we have the perfect spouse, children, house or car. But just like the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock or a solitary president walking the cemeteries of war – a grateful heart is found in the place of adversity, sacrifice and hardship.