This year as we observe our season of thanksgiving, let us be grateful not only in word but also in deed. Let our gratitude find expression in a resolve to live a life more unselfish and more consecrated to Jesus Christ.
When we sit around our tables laden with sumptuous delicacies, let us not forget that nearly a billion people around the world will go to bed hungry. As we enjoy the comforts of our cozy homes, let us not forget that great numbers have no homes to go to. When we step into our modern cars, let us not forget that many people in the world cannot afford even a bicycle.
As we go to our churches to thank God for material and spiritual blessings, let us remember that millions have never heard the Gospel of salvation. Let us remember the servants of God in many parts of the world who deprive themselves in order to take the Gospel to the multitudes who have not yet been reached with the message of Christ.
In the Lord’s Prayer as recorded in the sixth chapter of Matthew we read, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11, NKJV). Scripture teaches that the good things of this life are the gifts of God, and that He is the provider of all our blessings. James declares that “every good gift … is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17, NKJV). Isaiah says that wisdom is the gift of God. The knowledge that builds our great scientific instruments is a gift from heaven.
Some people have asked, “Why should those who have plenty pray, ‘Give us our daily bread’?” Even those favored with plenty should pray this way in order to have a blessing upon their provisions and to teach them their continued dependence upon God.
Christ said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, NKJV). That is a word of blessing. Although the bread be in our hand, yet the blessing is in God’s hand, and it is obtained from His hand only by prayer. If God withheld His blessing, nothing we have would do us any good. Our food would not nourish us and our clothes would not warm us.
One of the frightening passages in the Bible is found in Psalm 106:15. It reads, “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” (NKJV). Many people have riches today as a result of greed and covetousness; but their souls are lean, their hearts are cold toward God, their consciences are dulled and their minds are blinded. They know spiritual poverty here, and the moment they die they will know material poverty as well.
The very prosperity that we know should lead us to repentance, and we should give humble thanks to God. Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24, NKJV).
Christ taught also that from everyone who is given much, much shall be required. Some day God will ask for an accounting of our stewardship. A great percentage of the wealth of the nations of the world is being expended on alcohol, gambling, entertainment, cosmetics and overeating. A very small percentage of the national income goes to churches. We are enjoying the bounty that God has bestowed upon us, but often we are biting the hand that feeds us.
The Bible teaches that God delights in giving and that He gives even to His enemies. Men and women spread nets and snares for their enemies, but God spreads a table. The dew forms on the thistle as well as on the rose. The rain of God’s mercy falls upon the worst of people. God puts bread in the mouths that are opened against Him. God feeds millions, and they fight against Him. He gives them bread, and they give Him rebellion. Not only do the ungrateful millions forget His mercies, they abuse Him. The Lord said to Jeremiah, “When I had fed them to the full, then they committed adultery” (Jeremiah 5:7, NKJV).
God gives people wisdom, and they serve the devil with it. He gives them strength, and they waste it in fornication. He gives them food to eat, and they lift up their heel against Him. They are like Absalom who, as soon as David his father had kissed him, plotted treason against him.
However, the Bible warns that a day is coming when those who sin against their Giver and abuse God’s royal favors will face a terrifying judgment. They will scream for mercy and call for the rocks to fall on them and hide them, but they will not escape the wrath of God. All of God’s giving ought to drive us to thanksgiving. He is the founder and provider of all our blessings and is entitled to all our acknowledgments. The Bible says that all the rivers come from the sea and there they return again. So all our gifts come from God, and to Him must all our praises return.
We are told in Psalm 119:165 that peace is also the gift of God. He has a formula for peace. His formula is in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, whom He has designated as Prince of Peace. The nations of this world have rejected the peace that God offers. They plan and build for war. Yet there are millions of people around the world who do have peace at this moment, because they have found the secret of peace. They have peace in their hearts, as the Bible teaches: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1, NKJV).
The real war in which men and women are engaged is a war of rebellion against God. This rebellion has brought about destruction, suffering, misery, frustration and a thousand and one ills to the population of the world. God longs to see this rebellion cease. He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to the cross as a demonstration of His love and mercy. He asks us to come to that cross in repentance of our sins and submission of our will to Him. He promises a peace treaty for all who will come by faith.
Several years ago I received a letter from a man who said that he had been on the verge of alcoholism. His home had broken up, and twice he had been on the brink of committing suicide. With this deep need in his soul, he came to one of our Crusade meetings. As he sat among the thousands of people, he felt lonely and miserable. He hated himself and despised God. He made fun of Cliff Barrows as he led the singing. When the offering was taken he thought, “What a racket!” When I stood to preach, he sneered.
This man was a University of California graduate who had taken several speech courses. He said that during the first five minutes I broke every law of speech he had ever learned. Yet even as I spoke, another Voice began speaking to his soul. That night I preached on the text, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36, NKJV). At the invitation, this man who had cursed God and made fun of his wife’s churchgoing felt himself pulled out of his seat by an irresistible power. Tearfully he made his way to the front of the auditorium to stand with the others, indicating his need for repentance and asking to receive Christ as Savior.
He wrote, “That night I made my peace with God. I never dreamed what a transformation would take place in my life. I lost all taste for alcohol. My business is prospering. I am back with my family, and we are enjoying daily Bible readings and prayers. I have joined the church and was recently asked to teach a Sunday school class. I wish to thank you, but most of all I want to give thanks to Him who died on the cross to make it all possible.”
Thanksgiving? Yes. Let us get on our knees humbly and thank God for the blessings He has given us, both material and spiritual. They have come from His hand. Let us not neglect to thank Him.
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