A Thanksgiving Missive
Dr. Stan DeKoven
“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold on to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by spoken word or by our letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15.
I have always loved Thanksgiving. Even though not all memories of this festive holiday were warm and fussy while growing up, it was and remains for me a most important celebration; a must be, even more than Christmas or Easter (and I love those times too). I suppose when you move into the last third of your life, it is normal to be a bit nostalgic, and often we can have selective memory. But my memories of Thanksgiving, with mom and dad, with Karen and my girls, and now with my daughters and grandchildren…well, they are precious to me.
Of course, I would be lying if I said I did not like the meal…it is always sumptuous, but it is much more than the meal, and truly, we always have much more food than can be in good conscious consumed. It is the remembrance…remembering all we have to be truly thankful for, as members of a family, as residents of a great nation, and even more, as citizens in the Kingdom of God.
The Bible reminds us to remember 168 times (in the New American Standard Version)…and yes, there are things we need to forget, but first we have to remember what we are to forget. Anyway, remembering just a few things this Thanksgiving will no doubt make it a richer, fuller gathering…especially if we remember to be thankful.
In this passage of scripture, Paul, addressing the persecuted church in Thessalonica, reminds the believers that there are many things to be thankful for, in spite of their circumstances, as they patiently await the coming of the Lord. Here are four specifics:
Give thanks because God chose them, and subsequently all of us. He has saved us, and sanctified us by the truth and the Holy Spirit. For certain, the believers in Thessalonica were first fruits, and we are the continued fruit of God’s love and grace. Thus, before we sit down to eat our overstuffed Turkey, I will give thanks, and share again how the Lord saved me. I would encourage you to do the same.
For our family, our road to salvation began with the tragic and forever memorable assignation of President Kennedy, which drove my mom, eventually my dad and the rest of us kids to give our hearts to Christ at the little Evangelical Methodist church in San Diego, led by Pastor Lee Speakman. My walk continued as I dedicated myself to full time service at age 12, was filled with the Holy Spirit at 17, and on we go. From an early age, the Lord placed in me a hunger for the Word of God, to read, to hear and to preach/teach….and for this I am forever grateful.
This leads me to a question. What should we be thankful for? Who should we be thankful for? How do we express it?
Well, the Word states, in just a few instances,
It is good to give thanks…Ps. 92:1…in fact, mental health professionals state, and much research confirms that a good attitude, an attitude of gratitude is one component of both long life and a more productive one. Both in the natural and spiritual, giving thanks makes good sense. Further, once we start giving thanks, we need to…
Keep giving thanks…Eph. 1:16…regardless of circumstances, we are to give thanks…and we often do this best through…
Prayer & and Thanksgiving, which go together like peanut butter and jelly…or better yet, Turkey and dressing.
3. For me, much of my thankfulness comes as I remember that I, and all of us, have been called for glory, which the Lord defined for Moses as Goodness and Compassion…Ex. 33:18-22
In fact, it is God’s Compassion, demonstrated in the life and ministry of Jesus that is a key to expressing our gratefulness. (Mark 1)…we are eternally grateful for all the Lord has done for us, beginning and the cross and resurrection, and continuing until the Kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and his Christ…for he does reign. It would be good to remember compassion, love in action, this Thanksgiving, by some act of kindness and generosity to someone less materially blessed than we are.
And because of all that Christ has done, we can, in gratitude and strength, Stand Firm!
I was thinking about a book I read in the 70’s written by Watchman Nee, titled Sit, Walk and Stand. In a very brief summary, we are taught to:
- Sit…remember we have entered into our rest in Christ, as he is our Sabbath, and we are presently seated in the Heavenlies with Christ (Eph. 2:6). Thus, we can know that we are chosen, holy, beloved, and of infinite value to the Lord. Once we know our identity, and truly enter our rest in God, we can then…
- Walk in the Spirit (Ga. 5:16), which includes walking in Love (Eph. 5:2), walking in the Light (1Jn. 1:7) and walking in the Wisdom of God (Col 4:5), which leads us to…
- Stand…thus we need to…
“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Cor 16:13). Our faith, which is God and his Word, is what sustains us, and grows as we stand on the Word of God. Finally…
4. Paul reminds the church that there are traditions that have been passed on to the church, to remember and to remind each other with.
The traditions I am thinking of include the Eucharist, the weekly or more gathering of the saints together (church), giving thanks at meals, daily devotions and study of the Word, times of pray and even fasting’s. These are Traditions of the Kingdom, things that are tried and true (Matt. 13:51+)
All of these traditions, and others as summarized in Acts 2:42-46 are what sustains us in our walk…especially as we continue to devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.
This Thanksgiving, a uniquely American holiday, will be celebrated wherever Americans gather. Even if you are not from the United States, you might consider setting aside a day or days to focus on giving thanks. As you do, remind yourself of the many things you can be thankful to the Lord for. I will choose to remember:
My family (including my mom and grandparents and wives in heaven)
My friends (including the dedicate Vision staff and Leaders around the world)
My many, many blessings, bestowed on me simply because I am in Christ, and he is in me…all spiritual blessings, now and for eternity…Thanks be to God!