Greg's Blog

The Real Purpose of Thanksgiving

by Greg Laurie on Nov 20, 2020

In a few days we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a uniquely American holiday, but it doesn’t commemorate a battle or anyone’s birthday. It’s a day that we set aside for the specific purpose of giving thanks to God Almighty.

Despite what the revisionists tell us, many of our founding fathers were very committed Christians—not all of them, but many of them. Even those who weren’t strong in their faith in Christ believed that the Bible was the Word of God.

They had a respect for God and understood that God gave us this great nation. So in 1789, our first president, George Washington, issued a proclamation to set apart a day to give thanks to the Lord.

Fast-forward to today, and our culture doesn’t seem to know what to do with a day called Thanksgiving. For many, it’s just something that happens between Halloween and Christmas, two days that we’ve managed to monetize.

But Thanksgiving is an altogether different kind of bird, no pun intended.

For many, it’s the day they stuff themselves before they shop ’til they drop, because it’s all about the next day, Black Friday. In fact, stores traditionally have been closed on Thanksgiving Day, but now many of them are open.

And many people don’t even call it Thanksgiving anymore; they simply call it Turkey Day. They’ve forgotten that Thanksgiving was originally about setting aside a day to give glory to God.

Why We Give Thanks

For the Christian, however, every day should be Thanksgiving, minus all the food. In fact, studies have revealed that when we have an attitude of gratitude, our health will be better and we’ll actually live longer.

Researchers discovered that people who gave more gratitude to God and gave thanks for what they had actually experienced fewer heart issues and fewer aches and pains. It also affected their outlook on life.

Dr. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at University of California, Davis, pointed out that “gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions such as envy, resentment, regret—emotions that can destroy our happiness.”

Here’s what the Bible says about giving thanks: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation” (Psalm 100:4–5 NLT).

When we’re in trouble, when we’re facing a crisis, we’ll call on the name of the Lord. But when things are going reasonably well and the bills are paid, when everyone is healthy and we have food in our stomachs, we can start to forget about God.

Psalm 100 is a reminder to give thanks, and it wasn’t addressed only to the people of Israel. Rather, it was addressed to all people and all generations: “Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!” (verse 1 NLT).

Interestingly, this psalm doesn’t mention a word about material things. In verse 1 we find the word Lord, as well as in verses 2, 3, and 5. So our rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day (and really, every day) shouldn’t be based on what we have materially. It should be based on God Himself.

Possessions come and go. Friends come and go. So does time. Yet God doesn’t come and go. He stays. I love what the writer of Hebrews says about this: “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you'” (13:5 NLT).

We Are His

There’s so much pressure at this time of year to find the perfect gift for someone else. Or maybe you’re hoping that someone else will get that perfect gift for you. But you probably can’t remember what you received last Christmas.

David wrote in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (verse 1 NKJV). This means that if the Lord is your shepherd, then you shall not want. And if you’re always wanting, wanting, wanting, then I would have to question whether the Lord is your shepherd.

It is God Almighty who made you. It is God Almighty who sustains you. Everything you have is a gift from God. Every breath and every beat of your heart are gifts from God. And the Bible says that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV).

The word workmanship originates from the Greek word poiēma, the same term that our English word poem comes from. So think of it this way: You are God’s painting. You are God’s song. And you are God’s sculpture. You’re also a work in progress.

Verse 3 of Psalm 100 tells us, “Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (NLT).

Maybe right now you’re in a situation where things aren’t making sense. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and it’s hard for you. But you can still give thanks. You can give thanks because God loves you.

Jesus said, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32 NKJV).

You can give thanks because God is in control of your life. You can give thanks because God is good. And you can give thanks because ultimately, He “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT).

I know that you don’t see the end yet, but you can still give thanks, because God does see the end. And ultimately it’s going to be good. You will thank Him then, of course, but you can also thank Him now. So give thanks to the Lord, because He is good. His mercy endures forever.

Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.

Join us online every week for Harvest at Home and experience worship, fellowship, and a powerful teaching from God’s Word.

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