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Thanksgiving: In everything give thanks to God

Unsplash/Jed Owen
Unsplash/Jed Owen

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It was always a big holiday in my family of origin. We rehearsed the story of the first American Thanksgiving every year (my mother was from Boston and her roots go back to the Puritans). I was taught (and it was emphasized on Thanksgiving Day) that, as Americans, we were greatly blessed and that with great blessings come great responsibilities to defend freedom at home and abroad (my dad was a World War II U.S. Navy veteran who was involved in 13 battles in the Pacific).

Then, early in my ministry (I began preaching at age 16), I discovered the Apostle Paul’s admonition that “In everything give thanks, this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thes. 5:18). As I have allowed the Holy Spirit to apply that verse to my life, He has cultivated in me an ever-growing sense of gratitude for my Heavenly Father’s grace, mercy, and love.

I would urge everyone to exercise the spiritual discipline of “giving thanks.” When you start, you will be amazed at all the things the Holy Spirit will bring to your attention.

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Earlier this week, as I was preparing for Thanksgiving (the “honey-do” list seems to expand in the doing!), I started expressing thanksgiving for God’s manifold blessings (blessings by definition are undeserved and unmerited) in my life.

First, I am overwhelmingly grateful that our Heavenly Father is a God of mercy, lovingkindness, compassion and forgiveness. The first Bible verse I learned as a child was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have life everlasting.” In spite of man’s rebellious spirit and narcissism, God loves each of us so much that He sent His Son to die a cross kind of death to save each of us who accepts His sacrifice from eternal perdition.

Just over 49 years ago, I stood in the delivery room in Oxford, England, as my first child was born after a very difficult labor and delivery. As I looked down at that bright-eyed little bundle of wiggling and squirming miniature humanity, I contemplated, “I thought I really understood John 3:16, but I really didn’t.” As I looked at my new daughter, I was overwhelmed with a love deeper than anything I had ever experienced.

There are people for whom I would die. I would die for my family. I would die for my faith. I would die for my country. However, I could not imagine I would send my daughter to die for them. And yet, God, the perfect Father, who loves His Son more than any human father, sent His perfect Son to die for each of us. I cannot fathom such love. I can only humbly accept it and praise my Heavenly Father’s mercy.

I thank God that He takes a personal interest in each one of us. The Bible tells us that “all of our members are written in God’s book before any of them came to be (Psalm 139:13-16).

God never created a “nobody.” Everybody is a “somebody” to our Heavenly Father. He has a divinely designed plan for each of our lives.

And, of course, I am also extremely grateful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who was willing to leave His throne in glory and be obedient even to a cross kind of death (Phil. 2:5-11).

I am thankful to God for placing me in a Christian home with a loving mother and father who taught me to love God and to love my country.

I am thankful that in the providence of God, I was born in the United States of America, the only country in the world where a person from a blue-collar, working-class home like me could obtain a free public school education that allowed me to gain admission (with scholarship) to Princeton University and graduate magna cum laude and further, to be free to worship God according to the dictates of my own conscience without interference from government authorities.

I am grateful to God for His having given me a godly, devoted wife for now 52 years of marriage. She has been a far better wife than I have deserved and I could not have asked for a better mother for my three children.

I am thankful to God for having blessed me with three healthy children (2 daughters and a son). I am further thankful all three of my children love Jesus and are active in their faith lives. Furthermore, I am grateful for the fact that all three of my children are married and well-matched with their spouses.

I am thankful that God called me into Gospel ministry and gave me the privilege of preaching the Gospel of the transformative agape love of Jesus of Nazareth.

I am grateful for God’s infinite patience with me in spite of my many shortcomings and failures. 

I am grateful to God for 77 years of life (mostly in good health) and with the prospect of significant future years to serve Him.

I am thankful for the many friends and colleagues God has placed in my life. I am an infinitely better person as a consequence of God having sent them into my life.

I am thankful that God has provided my family with not only the basic material necessities of life but a standard of living I could not have imagined while growing up in a two-bedroom frame house in a blue-collar neighborhood in Houston, Texas.

I guess my profound gratitude for God’s blessing and mercy can perhaps be best summed up by a plaque my wife and I placed in our kitchen several years ago: “The things you take for granted, someone else is praying for.”

Do yourself a favor this Thanksgiving holiday. Give thanks to God and He will remind you of the many things for which you have to be thankful.

Have a happy and joyous Thanksgiving!

Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.

Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.

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