Thanksgiving Wishes

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is my favorite holiday because it brings family together for food, fellowship, and thinking about all we have been given. It is a day set aside for taking note of the grace we have lavished with.

I don’t know about you, but I have been learning that being thankful takes work. It takes effort. One of the great symptoms of original sin is thanklessness. The truth is that you can say “thank you;” you can be religious about sending thank you cards; you can answer the question “What I am thankful for this year is…” at Thanksgiving dinner, and not be thankful, i.e., full of thanks. It is not natural to human nature to be thankful. Thanklessness is easy. To paraphrase Lady Gaga, we were born that way. Thankfulness is hard. It is hard because it is not natural. Thankfulness is supernatural. It is the fruit of receiving God’s grace.

Having a spirit of gratitude, being a thankful person, comes from being aware of God’s grace in your life. Unless that grace is seen, acknowledged, and appreciated for what it is—undeserved, unearned kindness and favor—being thankful is all but impossible. All we can do it offer it lip service.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Isaiah 43:1-7. God has used this passage to make me aware of the depth and breadth of His grace in my life.

But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.

As a son of Adam, I came into this world broken, selfish and self-centered, driven by pride and fear. I was unable to see the goodness of God, unwilling to even acknowledge Him. Yet He reminds me that He created me, He formed me, and He redeemed me, calling me by name, and proclaiming “Dan, you are Mine.” And because of that grace, I need fear nothing. All of that grace was undeserved, unearned, and—most amazingly—unasked for.

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

This I have experienced in a very real and personal way. Christmas day, 1984, I was sick in my bed on the third floor of our house. I was awakened by my sister and brother yelling and stamping on the second floor. My mother, who was in the bedroom across the hall, asked me to find out what all the commotion was about. It was 4:00am. I figured they were fighting over Christmas presents. But as I focused on what they were yelling it all became clear. They were yelling, “Fire! Fire! Get out of the house!”

Suddenly, whatever illness I had was eradicated from my system. I told my mother, the house was on fire. By the time I was dressed, (I was not going outside in my underwear at 4:00am in the dead of winter), I could no longer see anything. I met my mother in the hall and we ran down the stairs together, then she went right, I went left.

As I ran through the living room, I could see flames jumping from wall to wall. I ran through the kitchen, jumped down the stairs, and shot out of the house.

I ran to the pine tree at the corner of our property where we were supposed to meet in case of a fire. My dad was there. He asked if I was alright. I was. I was not burned or hurt at all. He said to me, “God must have something in store for you, because there was never a better time for Him to take you than now.”

Those words in verse 2 have deep meaning for me:

When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

That day I started realizing in a very real and deeply intimate way how God’s sovereign grace was being driven into my whole being—heart, soul, and mind.

For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.

God’s grace does not only cover my sins. By that same grace I have become precious and honored in my Father’s eyes. So precious that He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die for me. Jesus exchanged His life for mine, and now my life is wrapped up in His. Death has no power over me, because it has no power over Him! That is amazing grace!

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

Again, God reminds me that by His grace He created me for His glory, and that I bear His Name. And I am not just anyone by His grace, I am a son! I am His son! He is my Father. All these benefits of grace that are promised in this passage, God has bent all His sovereign power to bring to pass, leaving nothing undone. No son or daughter of His will be left behind. He will save them all! Including me. Therefore, I do not need to fear that the promises in this passage will come to not.

When you see that, when you see that grace—the greatness of it, the power of it, the love that drives it, the mercy that paid for it, the faithfulness that keeps it—when you see that grace, so freely and completely given to one who did nothing and could do nothing to get it; that grace, that live-giving, life changing grace, begins to work the miracle of thankfulness into your heart.

It is my hope this Thanksgiving that we take the time to discern and meditate on the immensity of God’s grace, the total dependency we have on it, the immeasurable cost of it, and the inexhaustible supply of it, when we do that work, when we consciously embrace the grace that God has so lovingly clothed us with, then we will not just act thankful, but we will be thankful.

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