This Thanksgiving, Live in Freedom, Not Fear
This Thanksgiving, we can live like the world, or we can live like believers. We can live in fear or we can live in freedom. We can be grateful for things or we can be grateful to God. Many will celebrate Thanksgiving in a way they have never done before, foregoing their traditional family celebrations. Many (many of the same people) will celebrate Thanksgiving as they’ve always done, forgetting who they should be thanking and the really important things they should be thankful for.
Presumption and Freedom
First, let’s look at the argument “Skip this year and live so you can be at next year’s Thanksgiving.” What is the right thing to do in light of the pandemic? I don’t have the answer to that question for you, but I hope to give you some biblical encouragement in the decision you make. Trying to stay healthy so you can live another year sounds reasonable, but it’s wrong.
Why? Because it is presumptuous. It assumes you will have a next year. The Bible teaches us in James 4:13-14: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
It is the way of the world, and not of believers, to assume we’ll have one more day. The key to the whole passage is in verse 15: “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”
Use wisdom and caution, but don’t make decisions out of fear. Death has no hold on us; it has no sting. When we are confident God has numbered our days and He is for us, we can move forward with the mind of Christ, seeking and even knowing what God’s will in the matter is. Whatever we choose to do this Thanksgiving, a clear conscience, faith and the will of God should drive us in our decisions of how we celebrate and worship.
For me, today is the day to live, today is the day to love those around me, and today is the day to give thanks always. Tomorrow, if it comes, our family will enjoy a day of worshipful thanksgiving to the God who holds all of our days in His hands.
Ignorance and Blessing
Second, look at what most people feel thankful for. Worldly blessings, like the food we eat and the family we eat it with. And we should thank God for those! But much more importantly, thanksgiving is an act of worship for a life blessed by God, not solely for a season of that life. If we look to current events to drive our thankful heart, we have failed to understand what Thanksgiving is all about.
First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Paul does not give this instruction in the view of a life without trouble. Quite the contrary. He wrote it in the face of great hardship and pending doom. In many cases, the first-century believer was an enemy of the state and never knew when the sword would come–not just the physical sword, but the social and economic sword as well. They were pressed on every side.
He Made His Light Shine
In First Corinthians 4, Paul delivers an important reminder: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” That’s why so many people live in fear and not in freedom.
We who know Jesus can live in freedom. Therefore we can testify to God’s goodness and give thanks no matter what happens to us.
Paul explains: “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. … We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. … [W]e know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.
“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
A Word of Encouragement
Let me leave you with this word of encouragement. Whatever and however you choose to do anything, do it because the grace of God is working through you to save the lost, give hope to the hopeless, faith to the faithless, peace to those in chaos, joy to those in despair. There has never in your life been a better day or season to give thanks!
I pray God’s richest blessing on you as you set the day of Thanksgiving aside to worship the God who loves you and gave Himself for you. He will not withhold any good thing from you.
John Yeatts is the Campus Pastor of LIFE Outreach International and the National Coordinator of Churches for LIFE. He has served in full time ministry for 30 years, 15 of those years in the role of a pastor to the local church. He is a husband of 29 years and father of three children. John and his family recently planted TEXOMA Bible Fellowship in Whitesboro, Texas.