“What are you thankful for?” Answering this simple question may be the only price you’ll pay to partake in an amazing assortment of mouth-watering foods called thanksgiving dinner. This right-of-passage question often generates equally simplistic spur-of-the-moment responses such as family, friendship or favorite “fill-in-the-blank” type answers… in a somewhat vain attempt to ignore the tempting food aromas engulfing every inch of the room.
Until at last, a hearty Amen! signals to all that the long-awaited “food train” is finally underway, carrying platters piled high with turkey slices followed by dishes either heavy or hot. Hopefully, each one pulls out of the “train station” in the same direction, becoming lighter and cooler with each destination stop: plate or spillage elsewhere.
But thoughts of thankfulness expressed just minutes earlier can quickly melt away as all attention turns toward the food itself, and since nothing now stands in the way of diving in, sharing it with some of the aforementioned family and friends assembled together. Understandable, yet what if the question had been, “What do you value most?”
Pondering this potentially deeper question may require the meal to be reheated; however, it would be worth the inconvenience if it produces a more lasting appreciation for God and all that is eternally valuable. That is, not just within your own heart, but also for any unbelievers who have been invited to the same table of thanksgiving.
Therein lies an opportunity for you to speak boldly—yet with gentleness and love—about thankfulness and valued priorities from the perspective of a Christ-impacted life. Unbelievers too, can speak of thankfulness and priority but only for the temporal joys of this world. An unbeliever’s spiritual blindness helps promote a false sense of contentment when believers they know are not living a life consistent with their profession of faith in Christ. Nobody expects perfection, yet actions definitely speak louder than words to people who know you well.
David said, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24).
The need for Old Testament sacrifices has been fulfilled by Christ; including those King David refused to offer to God without cost. David valued what he gave to God. Therefore, should New Testament believers have any less desire, than David did, for worshipping God three centuries later? God is timeless. Thank God for His grace!
Such grace has replaced the need for ongoing sacrifices. Instead, Hebrews 13:15-16 says this about Christ,
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
Worshipping God is more than being thankful. It’s a call to action, as well. Unlike Old Testament sacrifices, Paul writes of believers being “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1). Jesus spoke bluntly about the cost of beingHis disciple… denying oneself, taking up one’s cross daily and following Him (Luke 9:23). It’s not about getting closer to heaven. Jesus has already paid salvation’s entry fee for those who trust in Him for their eternal destination. Instead, it’s about getting closer to Jesus Himself.
The Holy Spirit provides all the daily strength needed to live out Jesus’ call to a fully-engaged discipleship. So then, it comes down to willingness of heart. In other words, having a deep desire to “fall in love with the Savior” as Dr. John G. Mitchell delighted in telling his students and who exemplified it so well over the years. Oh, what memories.
By now, the laughter and stories swapped around the Thanksgiving table begin showing signs of slowing down. Such momentary silences help echo the painful sound of forks and knives scraping against the surfaces of nearly-empty plates. Finally, the call to “save that fork!” rings out from the kitchen depths. And with it, a joyous sound erupts from those who have viewed this entire meal so far, as just a foretaste of the main event: dessert! As good as anything can be here on earth, how much better is heaven!
But tradition calls for one more pause before dessert arrives. The carcass of the turkey reveals among its skeletal remains a “wishbone” to be ceremoniously broken into two pieces. What’s a believer to do? Sit idly by and say nothing or see it as another open door conversation starter with unbelievers at the table who see no difference between their temporal wishes and a believer’s prayers to the Father about things of eternal value. Hmmm, eternally valuable? Haven’t we heard this before? Yes, something to do with “What do you value most?”
“Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:14).
Paul is referring here to the gospel, literally the good deposit, as treasure. Guarding this most precious treasure doesn’t mean locking it away like worldly possessions. Instead, just the opposite: sharing it with a lost world of unbelievers. Paul reminds believers to not be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 1:8, 12). Jesus Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). And nobody else knows more about blessing and giving, than does Jesus by willingly enduring the cross, doing so “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).
Thanksgiving holidays offer other treasures, as well. For example, memories tucked deeply within one’s heart and brought to the surface by old photographs from past joyous occasions… before distance and time faded them into history. But, even greater treasures await believers in heaven—including old reunions and new acquaintances—topping any Thanksgiving gathering that this present world can dish up.
Your Thanksgiving meal may only cost you a simple prayer of gratitude to God for who He is and for all that He is doing… if you’re willing to trust Him for the reaction of unbelieving family and friends who are eagerly waiting to lunge their forks into those turkey slices. And, if the people seated at the table include some who have neither family nor friends, then you may come to appreciate and value even more, Jesus’ parable about a special dinner (Luke 14:16-24). Jesus invites all to come to Him and His table… there is plenty of room for all who believe.
Is there room at your table? Finally, is there a place in your prayers for those in need of the Savior?
“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).
All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
Alan Summers, GBC Elder