The Power of Thanksgiving

“…give thanks in all circumstances…” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

by Bryan Craig

 

Dear fellow Influencers:

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Most all of you will be gathering with those you love for a big feast and will at one time during the day, hold hands and give thanks to God, our Father.  Some families will go around the room and have individuals say something for which they are thankful.  This is the first Thanksgiving in this new era of COVID-19, which has ravaged our freedom, our health and safety, our places of worship, our economy and has taken the lives of 258,000 Americans, including the life of my own father.  This is also a year which has seen our country so divided politically, racially, spiritually.

Yet, our country has a tradition to Pause, and to give thanks to God.  This tradition started with the first colonists who survived the treacherous journey to this new land and held a feast of thanksgiving.  In a spirit of thankfulness and inclusiveness, they invited their Native American allies and neighbors.  From then on, annual days of Thanksgiving were common in the New England colonies.  In 1789, President George Washington declared a day of Thanksgiving, to celebrate the end of the war of independence and for the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Many states adopted an annual day of Thanksgiving until, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, made it a national holiday.

This was at a dark point in our country’s history, the Civil War.  Lincoln, in his Thanksgiving proclamation, entreated all Americans to:

“Ask God to commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife…and to heal the wounds of the nation.”

What an interesting concept.  In the midst of suffering, give thanks.  As I mentioned, my father, Jim Craig, died from COVID-19 on November 7th of this month.  He had just celebrated his 75th birthday, and he had never spent a night in the hospital his whole life.  He went into the hospital with shortness of breath and within 3 short weeks, he departed this life.  It was an emotional roller coaster of leaning on my Faith but preparing my heart for the possibility of great loss.  I can tell you that going through this difficult experience has helped me understand Abiding in Christ like at no other time in my life.  I have felt my Shepherd walking me through the valley of the shadow of death.

In the midst of the battle, I received SO many texts and emails and Facebook comments from YOU, my dear Influencers family.  Each one encouraged my heart and gave me a picture to see how my Dad’s affliction was drawing many to the feet of Christ.  My dear brother, Frank Khalil, sent me a short verse which really grabbed my attention. It was so simple, yet SO profound:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

In Paul’s teaching, he admonishes us to do 3 things:

  1. Rejoice always.
  2. Pray continually.
  3. Give thanks in all circumstances.

Keep in mind that I was in the middle of deep struggle when I received this verse, but it fully resonated within my spirit.  Regardless of my grim circumstances, I chose to:

Rejoice-Pray-Thank

I liked it because it was easy to remember, even with initials, R.P.T…which is like Rejoice, Pray, Thank, Repeat.  It reminded me of another verse I learned long ago:

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Hebrews 13:15

We are to praise God, even when it is a sacrifice for us to do so.  As Job said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job 2:10b It is times like these, when you are seeing a loved one die, seemingly prematurely, when everything within you wants to protest in anger, bitterness, rejection, denial, and yet, we can still rejoice, pray and thank Him.

Why?

I choose to rejoice, pray and give thanks in all circumstances because I know my Lord is good.  He is gracious.  He has my best interest in mind.  He is my Daddy, and He is working all things for good.  I may not understand everything He allows to come into my life, and sometimes, it does appear that evil is winning.  But when Jesus breathed His last breath on that cross, and He said, “It is finished,” He meant it.  Jesus accomplished our pathway to heaven where His followers will join him for eternity, where He will dwell with us, and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, and there will be no more mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things will have passed away. (Revelation 21:1-4)

So, as you gather with your family this Thanksgiving, remember the letters,  R.P.T.  I pray you can join me in rejoicing, praying and thanking God, NO MATTER your circumstances.  That is what will heal our wounded hearts and that is what will heal our wounded nation.