Summary: Give thanks because God’s love for us is eternal. It didn’t have a beginning and it will not have an end.
Two attitudes toward thanksgiving:
• Blessings are seen as coming from US, not GOD.
Bart Simpson’s Thanksgiving prayer: “Dear God, we paid for this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.”
Prayer by the character Charlie Anderson (Jimmy Stewart) in the movie Shenandoah: “Lord, we cleared this land by the sweat of our brow. We tilled and prepared the land. We planted and weeded and harvested by our own hard work. We have taken no charity from anyone, and if we hadn’t done it ourselves it wouldn’t have been done…but we are thankful to you anyway, Lord. Amen.”
“You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord you God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:17).
Governor William Bradford of Massachusetts is believed to have made the first Thanksgiving proclamation three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth:
Inasmuch as the Great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at yet meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of nine and twelve in the daytime, on Thursday, November 29th, in the year of our Lord One Thousand Six Hundred and Twenty-Three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.
Those early Pilgrims recognized that the blessings they experienced came from God.
• MATERIAL blessings are valued more than SPIRITUAL blessings.
People make Christmas lists, but we should also make Thanksgiving lists—a list of things we are thankful for. When people are asked on Thanksgiving what they are thankful for, the most common answers are their family, their home, their job, health, etc. That list is good, but it’s incomplete. We who are Christians should also thank God for all of the spiritual blessings we have because of Christ.
Some have started to call Thanksgiving “Turkey Day.” Why? Some don’t want to give thanks to God. Others focus only on the turkey dinner and family gatherings.
What is the best reason to give thanks?
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34).
In the original Hebrew, there is no word for “endures.” It has been added by the translators. The Hebrew really reads, “His love forever” (see here).
THE BIG IDEA: Give thanks because God’s love for us is ETERNAL. It didn’t have a BEGINNING and it will not have an END.
1. God’s Love in the Past
“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:22-24).
The CRUCIFIXION was planned before the creation of the world.
The entrance of sin into the world through Adam and Eve was not an event that somehow caught God by surprise. It didn’t cause God to begin to ponder what He should do to correct it. God knew everything from the beginning. So before He even set the universe in motion, He determined to send Jesus Christ to die for the salvation of our race.
2. God’s Love in the Present
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
ETERNAL LIFE is given to whoever will receive it.
Eternal life can be offered to us because of the death of Jesus Christ.
• Jesus is the “only begotten” (KJV) Son.
In the fourth century, a misunderstanding of “only begotten” caused a disagreement in the church called the Arian Controversy. It began with a man named Arius, who reasoned, “If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence: and from this it is evident, that there was a time when the Son was not.”