We non-Americans will never fully understand why the Americans celebrate thanksgiving. Sure we can know its history and how it is being celebrated, but for us it is totally an American holiday just like Loi Khratong is a Thai festival. We may know about it and participate in it but we it would not be meaningful if we are not a Thai.
Charles Dickens once said that they are somewhat mixed up in America. He told an audience that “instead of having one Thanksgiving Day each year we should have 364 “days of thanksgiving.” Use that one day just for complaining and griping,” he said. “Use the other 364 days to thank God for the many blessings He has showered upon you.”
As Dickens suggested, we should not wait for a special holiday to express our gratitude to God. Instead, thanksgiving should be a part of our daily lives. In fact the bible is very clear that thanksgiving is perhaps one of the most vital characteristics of any child of God. And there’s good reason for that.
As a Christian, God expects us to have a thankful spirit. We should be the example of what it means to be a thankful person.
Let us look at Philippians 4:4-7 to know how we show to people that we have a thankful spirit.
A thankful spirit is a joyful spirit (v. 4)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice.
A thankful person is always rejoicing in the Lord. As you may already know, when Paul was writing this letter he was not in a comfortable position. He was actually in prison. The reason we have a joyful spirit is because we know God through our personal relationship with Jesus.
The joy we have inside our hearts should not be affected by the bad circumstances that are happening around us. Paul shows this truth to us. He is full of joy because he knows that no matter what happened to him, he has Jesus Christ in his life. We can be joyful because we know for sure that God will provide for us and takes care of us.
And God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)
Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always. Whether we like it or not, we are commanded to do so not because we could not do it but because it is something that a true Christian should be doing. It is our testimony of how faithful God is to us.
We rejoice because he makes us happy. We rejoice because he gives us exceeding joy. In this passage Paul are trying to resolve some problems in the church, but in spite of that Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always!
To rejoice means to be exceedingly glad The ability to rejoice or to have a joyful spirit is built on our relationship with God, not with what is happening around us.
A thankful spirit is a gentle spirit (v. 5)
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Joy is not always evident but the way we relate to other people is. A thankful person will treat people as Jesus would treat them.
The word “gentle” is very difficult word to translate in English. One word is not sufficient to get the full meaning of it. Different translations translate it as gentle, moderate, kind, reasonable, considerate.
The word refers to a spirit that is reasonable, fair-minded, and charitable. It describes someone willing to yield his or her own right to show consideration and gentleness to others. We may find it easy to be gentle with some people but it is hard to be gentle to the people who makes our life difficult.
Paul is saying that “gentleness” towards all people should characterise the people of God. He is calling the Christians in Philippi and us for that matter to have the gentle forbearance and meekness of Jesus. It should be one of the most prominent attitude that Christians should show to all people.
The sudden inclusion of the sentence, “the Lord is near” is ambiguous. Paul could have intended it to be like that. First, it may mean that Paul is saying “Rejoice in the Lord always, and let your gentleness be evident to all for the coming of the Lord is near. On the other he may mean to say that the Lord is always near. Or he says it to mean both.
In the light of the persecution the Christians are experiencing in the hands of those who proclaim that the emperor is Lord and God. These words, I believe, serve as encouragement and affirmation. That they can do all these commands because the Lord’s second coming is very near and while he is not yet coming…the Lord is near in a very real way to those who are praying to him.
And because of these truths, we are motivated to be gentle to the people who live around us. First, to our brothers and sisters in Christ and second to those who are lost. A thankful person will treat other with love and respect.
A thankful spirit is a trusting spirit (6)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.Circumstances will not shake us. A thankful person will have full trust in God. This verse literally is saying to us that we should stop being anxious! We should stop worrying. This is the scope of our trust. We are to trust God in every situation.
Three words are use for prayer here: prayer, petition and requests. I looked at the definition of these words. Petition is a formal written request, typically one signed by many people, appealing to authority with respect to a particular cause. A request is an act of asking politely or formally for something.
So this verse clearly tells us that if something is making us anxious we have to pray to God and we have to pray together to God and trust him that he will take care of it.
We cannot let circumstances shake our faith. Anxiety can cause to be irritable and defensive. It is like a fertiliser that make little problems grow bigger. The church at Philippi are having internal problems and it is causing disagreement among the Christians there. It might have been easy for the church to just stop carrying out their ministry that they are called to do.
I had seen the enemy use anxiety to keep us from serving God. If he can get you to focus on problem and be anxious, then we lost our focus on God.
Here Paul says that prayer is our first line of defence. The cure for anxiety is not inaction but prayer with action. Sometimes preparing a message can give like this gives me anxiety. I may get extremely anxious to the point that I can not do anything.
On the other hand, I cannot just pray to God that he will prepare the message for me. I have to read and study the Bible, study other resources and pray for guidance that I can write this message.
Do not let our anxieties stop us from doing our best. Do not let it stop us from serving God instead trust that God will take care of our problems and then we will be empowered to do God’s works.
A thankful spirit is a peaceful spirit (7)
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds as we live for Him. When i read this passage the first image that comes to my mind is the image of secret service guarding the president of the America. And I believe Paul has the same imagery in his mind when he wrote this passage. The image of Roman soldiers standing guard all over the city. Peace is guarding our hearts and minds against the attack of anxieties and many other negative influences.
When things are falling apart around us, we have peace within us that we ourselves could not fully understand. All we know is that God gives us the wonderful gift of peace. This peace gives us clear mind and correct judgement when bad things happened around us.
People might see it as indifference. Sometimes we ourselves thought we should be more worried than we should be. But we need to realise, it is not us. It is the peace that guards our hearts and minds.
Jesus said that he will give us a unique peace that the world will not understand. It is hard to explain, we may not be able to explain it to others or even to ourselves but we just praise God for it.
If we don have a peaceful spirit, we will have a hard time being thankful. If we are worried and afraid all the time, we will not be able to thank God for what He has done because we will be distracted on the problems before us. Being thankful help us to focus on God more and more.
During a harvest festival in India, an old widow arrived at her church with an extraordinarily large offering of rice – far more than the poor woman could be expected to afford. The itinerant pastor of the church did not know the widow well.
For Christians, every moment is an opportunity to give thanks to God. Everyday is thanksgiving day.
The image is from wikimedia.org