What’s To Be Thankful For? Part 1

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Safety: Psalm 16:1

           It is Thanksgiving in Canada. For most, that means a day off school, a day off work with pay, or a day with double-time-pay for those who must work. For many, it means family time. For some, it’s a time to appreciate all the good things in our lives. Those aren’t bad things. But isn’t it more than that? Are those without family, without holiday, or without many of this world’s material blessings exempt from giving thanks?

Here’s a little history lesson: Thanksgiving did not start with the pilgrims in America or with Frobisher or Champlain in Canada. It didn’t even begin with harvest festivals in old world Europe. It began several thousand years earlier among a tribal people, a minority group living in the Middle East, who had been the recipients of God’s loving intervention in their lives. And not only in theirs. Many other people groups with whom they interacted contained individuals who also experienced God’s intervention and found their lives transformed. We have the recorded and preserved ancient writings from that time. Thanksgiving was practiced even then. But it was not a general, miscellaneous thanksgiving. The act of gratitude did not stand alone, divested of its object. Thanksgiving was always focused upon God – it was gratitude for things only He can provide, and gratitude for His gracious character.

The Hebrew psalmist king David wrote a beautiful psalm of thankfulness in the 10th century B.C. that is worth considering. It can be used as a pattern for directing our thoughts today toward thankfulness for God’s provisions for us.

“Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge,” (Psa. 16:1) begins the psalmist in what appears to be more request than thanksgiving. As David’s psalm unfolds, he has something foremost on his mind. He begins by invoking safety. He has come to God, his only source of refuge for the troubles he faces. From this perspective of placing God foremost in his thoughts, all of David’s expressions of gratitude are directed to God. It’s a great place to begin, and for us it is no different. We need a place of refuge from the storms and challenges of life, and there is no refuge like God. Yet in appealing to the refuge God provides, those who come to Him find a great surprise. Our fears are replaced by gratitude. Not general gratitude, but very specifically toward the One who has ceaselessly striven for our ultimate good. In Him we are finally safe.

We are safe from the chaos of an unknown identity. He calls us His children and Himself our Father. He explains we are made in His image and are of inestimable value. Though we have been prodigal sons and daughters, we see Him running toward us, arms outstretched, the moment we turn from our rebellion to Him. That’s safety in a Father’s arms.

We are safe from the just consequences of that rebellion because another paid the price with His own life on a cross. Life after death is the gift we receive instead of death after life. We yearn for immortality and Jesus was willing to move heaven, hell and earth to offer it to us. That’s safety in a Saviour’s name.

We are safe from powerlessness to temptations. God has provided His presence in our lives, strengthening us and providing “a way out, so that (we) can stand up under it” (I Cor. 10:13). And we are safe from stagnancy and from an ineffective life. God Himself works in and through us to accomplish works of eternal value (Phil 1:6; 2:13). That’s safety from defeat.

As we begin the exploration of thankfulness we are drawn to realize that the central object and figure in our gratitude is God. Without God, our gratitude is nothing more than wishful optimism. If there were no One to thank, to whom would we be grateful? But there is One, and so many do thank Him. So let’s “give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done” (Psa. 105:1).

(Photo Credit: DimiTalen [[File:Pompoenen.jpg|thumb|Pompoenen]])

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