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Tuesday
January 19th, 2021
L&T Opinions Page

gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron

 

Thanksgiving this year seems different from any in our past. This week we’ll take a break from the study of Revelation, and repeat an article that ran last year, November 27, 2019. A blessed Happy Thanksgiving to all.

 Each of us could make a list of things we’re thankful for – past, present and even future. An attitude of gratitude changes lives and brings fulfillment. So, where does an awareness of blessing come from? 

Most of our lists would include family, friends, a life full of experiences. But thoughts about Thanksgiving brought me to the idea of contentment. Many people, even though we possess much, are not contented. There’s a natural tendency to want more, and a sense of entitlement causes us to be a dissatisfied people. 

Even in churches, some folks seek a feeling or a sign or “more” of God, and happiness is elusive. Traveling to other countries, we’ve encountered people who lack all but basic necessities, yet are happy. One of Jesus’ brothers wrote, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). 

The apostle Paul wrote from prison, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity” (Philippians 4:12-13). We may not have control over circumstances, but the ability to manage our response to each situation comes from quiet assurance that God has everything in hand. 

Though the Old Testament is full of promises to God’s people, blessings, not curses, there are no guarantees that life will be free of pain, loss, or defeat. John, the beloved disciple, told us twice in his first letter, “God is love” (1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16). Could it be that, instead of pouring out “good things” on us, the Father somehow makes all things good? 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus illustrated God’s care of nature – birds of the air and flowers of the field – and how we can trust the One who knows all we need. The key is knowing him, rather than the specifics of what he may do or give. Consequently, an attitude of gratitude comes from our relationship of trust, which leads to thanksgiving. 

God visited Abraham (Genesis, chapter 18), wrestled with Jacob (Genesis, chapter 32), and his nearness continued through the patriarchs. The image of God’s presence traveling with the children of Israel in the cloud by day and fire by night (Exodus, chapter 13) threads throughout Scripture. His words through the prophet were, “‘“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you’” (Isaiah 43:2). 

This week is the Thanksgiving holiday, but the premise of thanksgiving will work all year long. Soon it will be Christmas, when we celebrate the reason for our hope and contentment. Jesus told his disciple Philip, “‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’” (John 14:9). This echoes the angel’s message to Joseph, that the baby Mary was carrying would be called Emmanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). 

At the Last Supper, Jesus promised his disciples, “‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth’” (John 14:16-17). After the resurrection, his last words were, “‘lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:20). The fulfillment of those words came when the Holy Spirit descended in Acts, chapter 2, and continues to live with us. 

I can look back over the years and be thankful that God was in every part of my life. When I was eleven, I was invited to and got involved in a church. As a teen-ager I found a personal relationship with God. He initiated that bond through Jesus and continues it as I live each day with the Holy Spirit. 

In Christ we see the nature of God manifest in the flesh. He gives us an example of who we’re to be - created in the image of God, fallen because of sin, but redeemed by Jesus who wants to be with us always. Thanksgiving comes from contentment, and contentment comes through a relationship with Emmanuel, God with us.

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