In a few days Canadians will be celebrating Thanksgiving. This is the season where we give thanks to God for everything he has given us. We thank God for providing for our needs, and we especially give thanks for the gift of the harvest, whether it is from the land or the sea.
Giving thanks to God dates back to Old Testament times. In Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Moses commanded the Israelites to give thanks to God for delivering them from slavery in Egypt. They were to give thanks by giving God the first fruits of the harvest. They could not take anything for themselves until they gave the first fruits to God.
The concept of giving God the first fruits was rooted in divine property rights. All created beings of any kind belonged to God and were regarded as holy. Before the harvest could be eaten by humans, it had to be “redeemed” from profane use. If this was not done, divine justice demanded retribution. The only way to resolve this situation was to give back to God the first part of the taboo object-in this case, the harvest. This nullified God’s property rights.
The passage from Deuteronomy 26:1-11 deals with the concept of stewardship. Specifically, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, it refers to offering to God the first fruits of our labour as an act of worship, thanksgiving and dedication of ourselves and our possessions to God. By doing this, we commit ourselves to living in God’s way. We, like the Israelites, must remember and tell others how God has rescued us in the past. These remembrances strengthen our faith and give us the courage to endure in difficult times. God created us to be close to him, and rejoicing in God is a great and powerful way to draw close to him.
One of the greatest gifts God gives us is the peace that is beyond our understanding. We are encouraged to conduct ourselves in such a way that we bring that peace. Pausing to express gratitude for our blessings breathes life into our souls, especially in times of trial and heartache.
True thanksgiving means thanking God for our talents and abilities by accepting them as obligations to be invested in the common good. In other words, we are to use our talents and abilities to do God’s work in our world. True thanksgiving means thanking God for all that people have done for us by doing things for others. We must thank God for blessing us, and in return we must bless others.
Sometimes we have to wait until the fruits of God’s labour appear. Why? God might be preparing us to receive his blessings. He is often teaching us to have faith in him. Sometimes God will withhold blessings to protect us from harm that we can’t see.
We need to rejoice in that which is guaranteed-God. We need to give thanks for that which can never be taken away. God never fades, and for that we can rejoice. We are to tell God what we need. Praying about everything, including everything we need, shuts out worry. In the words of the famous song recorded a few years ago by Bobby McFerrin:
Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
When you worry your face will frown
That will bring everybody down
Prayer invites God to be involved in all areas of our lives. When he is involved in our lives, we have nothing to fear.
In order to have a right relationship with God, we need to have an attitude of gratefulness. We need to be thankful. For example, in Luke’s version of the Parable of the Ten Lepers, which is found in Luke 17:11-19, Jesus healed ten lepers when they cried out to him. He commanded them to go and show themselves to the priest in the temple, but only one of them came back to give Jesus thanks. We are to be like the one who returned and gave thanks, and not like the other nine who were ungrateful. We need to give to God out of the blessings that he has given us. This is where the concept of tithing, or giving God 10 percent of our income, comes from.
We must have an attitude of obedience to God and his word. We must not equate faith with our desired outcomes. To do so means that we do not trust in God’s greater plan and purpose. The mark of a Christian is joy, especially the joy that is expressed in giving thanks to God.
We need prayer and supplication. Paul’s offer of prayer in Philippians 4:4-9 is not an easy solution or a magic formula or a bedtime repetition of words that we have labeled prayer. Paul is talking about the serious business of bring our lives before God, examining our dependence on God, placing our lives in God’s hands to be used, remembering and celebrating what God has already done, confessing our needs and dedicating our gifts, and committing ourselves and all that we are to make our common cause God’s kingdom, not our own kingdom.
Prayer, supplication and requests are not to be separated. They include genuine thankfulness regardless of our circumstances. God loves us and provides for our needs, both here and through eternity. God loves to hear our prayers because he is always ready to give his grace to his children, but God gives with wisdom. He gives gifts that help us to learn and grow. He gives us the resources to deal with the issues we face.
The greatest gift God gives us is the gift of eternal life. To enjoy it, we must constantly feed on his word, which is the Bread of Life Jesus refers to in John 6:25-35. When he made this statement, Jesus identified himself as being completely with God. God offers this bread of life along with spiritual water to drink when we come to him in faith by prayer. When we eat the spiritual bread, we can be sure of our eternal salvation.
Jesus’ bread of life speech takes place just after the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. The people wanted more of the free physical food Jesus offered, but they did not want the spiritual food. They are like some of us. People want forgiveness, but they do not want to repent. They want to go to heaven and wear the crown, but they don’t want to bear the cross here on earth. Christianity is a package deal. We can’t pick and choose what we want. Christianity is not the same as going to a restaurant. It is like a meal our parents made for us. We had to eat what was on our plate or else! This does not mean that we do not have to make any effort to satisfy our physical needs. On the contrary, Paul states in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 that if a man doesn’t work, he shouldn’t eat. Jesus must be the primary focus of our labours.
Like the Israelites, we come to Jesus asking for bread too. Our prayers reveal our true opinions about Jesus. We can be just as near-sighted or selfish as the Israelites were. We are often consumed with our current needs and desires, but we don’t always see the eternal gifts Christ offers us. We ask him to help us through our needs and problems, but we don’t give any thought to his kingdom and the role he wants us to play in that kingdom.
Prayer has potential, but we use so little of it. We can use the word ACTS to learn prayer’s full potential. ACTS is an acrostic.
- A stands for Adoration. Our prayers should include adoration and praise for God.
- C stands for Confession. We should confess our sins before God.
- T stands for Thanksgiving. Who among us has nothing for which we can give thanks?
- S stands for Supplication or asking. It includes prayers for us and for others. We don’t have trouble asking, because often our prayers consist of nothing else.
It would be a good exercise for us to go through this checklist when we say our prayers.
Jesus invites us to take part in his feast for the soul. He urges us to eat until we are full. Only he can satisfy our deepest hunger-the quest for eternal fellowship with him. Our main purpose in life is to get spiritual nourishment and eternal life by listening to and obeying the word of God. Keeping eternal life in front of us and eating the bread of life won’t make us lazy, shoddy or gloomy workers. We will bring joy and excellence to our work because we know him, trust him, treasure him and aim to make much of him. Everything we do in his name and for his glory will be rewarded in heaven.
- John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, Thanksgiving Sunday in Canada, Oct. 10, 2010. Retrieved from http://lectionary.seemslikegod.org
- John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, 1st Sunday in Lent, Year C. Retrieved from http://lectionary.seemslikegod.org
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- Marvin Williams, “More than Loaves”. Retrieved from www.rbc.org
- John Piper, “Do Not Labour for the Food That Perishes”. Retrieved from www.desiringgod.org
- Exegesis for John 6:25-35. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- Rev. Wayne Palmer, “Short Sighted”. Retrieved from www.lhm.org
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- Jill Carattini, “The Weight of Hope”. Retrieved from www.sliceofinfinity.org