Giving Thanks for God’s Blessings

Stephen Kurtzahn
November 22, 2022

 Ephesians 5:20 ...Always giv[e] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

At Thanksgiving it’s traditional to review many of the blessings God has given us over the past year. As Americans, we’ve been accused at times by others around the world that we have rather short historical attention spans. That could be because our nation is relatively young compared to other countries around the world. It could also be due to our need for instant gratification. It’s always good to have a longer and broader perspective on things, and that’s especially true when it comes to appreciating all of God’s blessings. So as we celebrate Thanksgiving 2022, let’s think back not just to the past year, but let’s think about all the years of our lives and before the time of our births, and praise God for all he’s provided us!

Years ago, there were actually two different kinds of “Thanksgiving.” It seems like there’s always been the one we’re celebrating on Thursday, started by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. President George Washington declared a Thanksgiving Day, but it really didn’t become a regular national holiday until the time of the Civil War, by proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln.

But when our nation had primarily an agricultural economy and most families lived on a farm, churches also held what were called “harvest festivals.” The harvest festival was conducted after most of the crops were in. Pastors reminded their people they could only have a harvest if the Lord granted it. If the harvest was good, it was easy to urge folks to thank God. Warnings would be spoken not to abuse the Lord’s goodness. If the harvest was poor, folks would be urged to submit to the Lord’s chastening and to depend on him to see them through.

But nowadays, we’re limited to our national Day of Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, this day has degenerated for many only into an opportunity to gorge themselves on turkey and to spend the day watching parades and football, stretched out in front of the TV. As God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus, not only should we give thanks for the food God has so richly provided, but we also thank him for every other blessing that comes from his bountiful hand. Those blessings are many. He’s blessed us as individuals and as families. He’s showered his riches upon us as a nation.

As we mentioned earlier, we should take this opportunity to review for ourselves some of the blessings God has so richly provided for us. In any such list, a person is bound to forget a number of things, so please excuse me if I forget to mention a blessing you feel is especially important. In considering the distant past up to the present—from the Dark Ages through the Renaissance and the Reformation, through the Industrial Revolution and into our own Age of Technology—we cannot help but marvel at the advances God has granted humanity. From our point of view as Christians, probably the most important blessing the Lord has granted us was the invention of the printing press in  Century. God’s Word, the Bible, could be printed in large quantities instead of being slowly written out by hand. Bibles are no longer expensive books only libraries can afford, but every Christian can now own his own copy. Bibles can be printed and distributed to every man, woman and child so they can read for themselves about “the wonders of God,” Acts 2:11. You can even read the Bible for free on the Internet or on your smartphone! And then during the 16 Century Reformation, the Lord used Martin Luther to bring the clear gospel back to light, so lost sinners could be comforted in knowing that Christ has forgiven us all our sins!

And what about the blessings of the more recent past? We’ve gone from horses and buggies to trains, trucks and cars on the interstate. From the Wright brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk we’ve gone to fast, safe and comfortable airline travel, not to mention space travel by our astronauts. Tremendous strides have been made in medicine. Many diseases and physical problems that meant a death sentence just a couple generations ago are now treated with ease. Look at the plenty our American farmers produce—look at the plenty you may grow in your own garden. Look at how technology has advanced. When my parents were kids, there were no such things as computers, much less electricity and running water in every house. Today many of us have laptops and even phones that are faster than the supercomputers of the 1980’s. How the Lord has blessed us!

I’m personally convinced that God has blessed us with such technological advances as we’ve just mentioned primarily so more and more people have the opportunity to hear his Word and be saved! God’s Word can be shared over the Internet. Missionaries have a much easier time traveling to far off places all over the globe. People have a longer “time of grace” so they have more opportunities to hear the gospel! For all of this, we’re moved to say with David in the Psalms, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever,” Psalm 136:1.

But why has the Lord blessed us so? It’s not because we’ve been good and deserve such kindness. If we want to talk about deserving anything, we deserve God’s punishment. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy” sent his Son to be our Savior, Ephesians 2:4. Jesus has delivered us from God’s punishment by enduring it himself upon the cross. Not only has God blessed us by reconciling the world to himself in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19), but he’s also blessed us with every other necessary blessing. Our Father in heaven “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” Matthew 5:45. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,” James 1:17. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32.

In view of all this goodness, the apostle Paul encourages us (Ephesians 5:20) to always be giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to our Lord not only with our words and our lips, but also with our hearts and our lives. Paul tells us in another place: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship,” Romans 12:1. We show our gratitude to our heavenly Father as we approach him in the merits of Christ and we endeavor to live our lives as he wants us to—according to his Word.

In a few short weeks we’ll be opening our Christmas presents. We’ll say “thank you” to mom and dad, to our grandparents, our children and grandchildren, our relatives and friends. If the gift-givers live far away we might call them on the phone and say “thank you,” or we may send a note in the mail. Some of us might send an e-mail or a text message or post a general “thank you” on our Facebook page. But the best way we can thank those who have given us gifts is to use what they’ve given us! A child may say “thank you” for a new toy, but we know what she really thinks when she never plays with it. Dad or grandpa might say “thank you” for the new tie or power tool, but we know what he really thinks when he refuses to wear it or use it.

In the same way, we show our true gratefulness to God by using his blessings to his glory. We especially show our thankfulness by living his Word. This means we thank God by praising him for the food he gives us to eat, rather than by sticking our noses up at what’s on our plates. This means we treat others with kindness and compassion, loving others as Christ has loved us. This means we work hard and conscientiously at our jobs, as if we’re working for the Lord himself. This means we make every effort to come to church regularly and receive the Sacrament often. How can we appreciate the saving Word of God and the comforting gospel of Christ if we hardly make use of it, or if it’s dead last on our list of priorities? We also show our thankfulness to God by approaching his throne of grace daily in prayer, pouring out before our Savior all our cares and concerns—as well as our praises!

Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have a great deal to be thankful for on our national Day of Thanksgiving 2022. As we look back upon the past many, many years, our heavenly Father has been more than gracious and loving toward us! Let’s thank him not only by our words and voices, but also by our thoughts and actions. May we thank God by making regular use of his Word. May we thank him by living lives pleasing to him. 

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