Your God made all that, when he made you.
In the past God created us, then redeemed us. He made us, and then he bought us.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Now, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (v. 9).
One of the first stories I ever heard in a sermon was about the boy who built himself a little red toy sailboat. He loved it, and played with it every day. Until the day the string broke and it sailed down the river and out of his sight. He was crushed.
A few days later he saw his boat in the window of a pawn shop. He went to get it back, but the owner told him he’d have to buy it. So he saved every nickel until he had enough money. He took it to the shop and retrieved his boat. As he left the store he said to the boat in his hands, “Now you’re mine twice. I made you the first time, and I bought you the second.”
Be thankful for all that God has done for you in the past. Next, be thankful for what he does in the present: “we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (v. 3).
“We are his,” for he made us. He “owns the patent.” He is our owner and master.
And so we are “his people, the sheep of his pasture.” This means that he knows us intimately and personally, as a shepherd knows his sheep. The shepherd lives with his sheep. He sleeps in their field, and walks at their side. He weathers their storms, faces their enemies, comforts their fears. He knows his sheep intimately.
In John 10 Jesus says of himself, “the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (v. 3). Jesus knows your name. He knows every detail of your life. And he loves you intimately. Nothing shall ever separate you from his love (Romans 8:35-39).
We think we have earned what we have today, but we’re wrong.
If we were to shrink the world’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, that village would contain the following: 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western hemisphere, and 8 Africans. 52 would be female, 48 male. 6 would possess 59% of the world’s wealth. 80 would live in substandard housing; 70 would be unable to read; 50 would suffer from malnutrition. Do you know how many would have a college education? One. How many would own a computer? One.
Did you deserve to have physical abilities and not challenges? To be born in America and not Iraq? To have parents who would love you and not abuse you? To have the privileges and opportunities you enjoy today?
Be thankful for what God has done in the past, and what he does in the present. Now be thankful for what he will do in the future: “his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (v. 5).
Here’s a glimpse of our future: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away'” (Revelation 21:3-4).
Our finite and fallen minds cannot begin to comprehend the future God has in store for us: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Give thanks because of who God is, and what he does. When we do, our thanksgiving ushers us into the presence of God: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (v. 4). The “gates” of the Temple were the first entry point; the “courts” were the area where worship was given.
When we worship the Lord, giving thanks to him, we are able to enter past the gates and into the courts of the Almighty. This is how we enter his presence, and experience his power. This is how we meet with God. In this way and no other. Thanksgiving unlocks the gates of heaven. It is their only key.
Is Thanksgiving a holiday or a holy day for you? Is it an annual event or a daily experience? When you see who God is, and what he does in the past, present, and future, can you hold back your thanks and praise? Does he not deserve our attitude of gratitude, thanksgiving as a daily experience and lifestyle? This is how you experience God, in all his holiness and power, grace and glory. This is the one holiday God requires.
I found this poem this week, and it has lifted my spirits every day:
My heart is overflowing with gratitude and praise,
To Him whose loving kindness has followed all my days;
To Him who gently leads me by cool and quiet rills
And with their balm of comfort my thirsty spirit fills.
Within the vale of blessing, I walk beneath the light
Reflected from His glory, that shines forever bright.
I feel His constant presence wherever I may be;
How manifold His goodness, how rich His grace to me!
My heart is overflowing with love and joy and song,
As if it heard an echo from yonder ransomed throng.
Its every chord is vocal with music’s sweetest lay,
And to its home of sunshine it longs to fly away.
I feign would tell the story, and yet I know full well
The half was never, never told—the half I cannot tell.