Of all our holidays, perhaps none retains spiritual meaning amid the secularization of society like Thanksgiving. Less spoiled by commercialism and selfishness, Thanksgiving brings out the best in our faltering national spirit. Families gather for a feast, often shared with those who have no families. It’s traditional to sit around the table and express thanks for favorite blessings.
As Thanksgiving 2014 approaches, which of God’s blessings are you particularly grateful for? Quite possibly Jesus Himself is at the top of your list, as the Gift of all gifts. Paul exclaimed, “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15, ESV).
Christ came to Earth as God’s Word made flesh, and now by His Spirit He brings to life God’s written Word. Therein heaven’s love is revealed, with divine promises to guide and care for us throughout earthly pilgrimage.
We all have favorite Bible verses that have become as friends to us, helping us navigate our darkest valleys. Such Scriptures become embroidered into our individual life-stories.
During my own journey, two passages have stood out among other beloved Scriptures, one from each Testament. I’ll share them, in case you are curious.
I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast toward You. Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
I love Psalm 73 because so often I find myself clueless and ignorant, not discerning what to do any more than a creature of the woods could. (Just like the cat resting on my lap, who has no idea what I’m typing to you.) Even when panicked in perplexities of our own making, we may be sure God is with us. He holds us by the hand like the affectionate, caring father some of us never had. Beyond that, He solves our ignorance problem by guiding us with His wisdom, through His indwelling Spirit.
And there’s more. After life on Earth has ended, He wants us to enjoy eternity with Him. I think you can see why I love Psalm 73.
By the way, that Psalm was not written by David, but by his worship leader, Asaph. We don’t know much about Asaph, except that he served David “by giving constant praise and thanks to the Lord” (1 Chron. 16:4–5). In other words, his occupation was praising God.
How would you like to have a job like that? Well, you do. All of us live unto the praise and glory of God. It’s in that context that He equips us in the Spirit for selfless service.
Now, here’s my favorite New Testament Scripture — the apostle Paul’s final testimony:
2 Tim. 4:16–18
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
I love this for several reasons. First, it keeps me from indulging in self-pity when feeling let down or abandoned because even when people desert us, God stands with us to strengthen us. Somehow He manages to communicate His grace and truth through us, despite all the pain and confusion we go through.
Not only that, He continually rescues us from the lion (meaning the devil — see 1 Peter 5:8) and from every evil deed (literally, every painful event). And once again, as with my favorite Psalm, we have God getting us safely into His heavenly kingdom.
That’s assurance of His salvation, for which we will glorify Him forever.
I love Psalm 73 and 2 Timothy 4 with their glorious assurances of a God who “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:4).
Amid whatever dilemmas and sorrows that may be yours this Thanksgiving season, I pray God will help you experience, and also communicate, the comfort of His loving presence. And if life is going great for you right now, please invite someone to share those blessings with you.