Herald Journal Columns
Nov. 8, 2004 Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Thanksgiving is more than speaking the right words

By Rev. Michael Nirva, St. James Lutheran Church, Howard Lake

The Word of the Lord, I Thessalonians 5:18: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

The famous English writer Rudyard Kipling was once approached by a newspaper reporter who said, “Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over $100 a word.”

Kipling raised his eyebrows and said, “Really, I certainly was not aware of that.”

The young reporter reached into his pocket and pulled out a 100 dollar bill and gave it to Kipling and said, “Here’s $100, Mr. Kipling. Now you give me one of your $100 words.”

Kipling looked at the money for a moment, put it in his wallet, and said, “Thanks.”

The word “thanks” is certainly a $100 word. In fact, I would say that in that word is a world of wealth. Thanks is one word that is too seldom heard, too rarely spoken, and too often forgotten.

If any nation should be thankful to God and grateful for His goodness, it should be America.

And if any people in America should be thankful to God and grateful for his goodness, it should be Christians. Christians recognize that God is the source of all good gifts.

In this month of November, we celebrate the festival of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day is usually set aside as a special day to thank God for our material blessings.

Our text, however, reflects the attitude of God’s people, who not only thank Him for food, clothing, and shelter, but also for spiritual blessings. When we remember our spiritual blessings, we remember King David saying, “Who forgiveth all mine iniquities.”

Forgiveness of all our sins is not just sweeping our sins under the rug. Scripture reminds us that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

It is through the prophet Ezekiel that God shows us the consequences of sin when He says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” God’s punishment for sin is temporal and eternal death.

Every single sin that had ever been committed had to be dealt with by the Almighty. Therefore, God sent His Son into the world to keep the entire law of God perfectly, and Jesus suffered death on the cross for those sins; for yours and for mine.

Now, through faith alone in what Christ has done, we find the forgiveness of sins and salvation. In this season of thanksgiving, we remember that “we were bought with a price,” a price that only the Son of God could pay. So, with all our being, we lift our voice and say, “Thank you, Jesus.”

Our thanksgiving to God is more than speaking the right words. Our thanks for God’s spiritual blessings are expressed in action.

We show our gratitude to God as we thoughtfully read and study His word, share the gospel with others, worship regularly in God’s house with other members of God’s family, and frequently desire and receive the assurance of forgiveness as we receive Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper.

God wants us to be thankful people. When we reflect on who our Savior is and that we are part of His kingdom, we can be thankful, even if our outward circumstances leave much to be desired.

A Christian who has a grateful heart will enjoy spiritual health and be able to thank God, even in the face of death. A pastor learned this lesson from a woman who helped care for him when he was a little boy.

She told him, “Looking for good things is something an old pastor taught me years ago. Take this morning. I woke up and thought, ‘What’s there to praise God for today?’ You know what? I couldn’t think of a thing! Then, from the kitchen came the most delicious odor that ever tickled my nose. Coffee! ‘Thank you, Lord, for the coffee,’ I said, ‘and much obliged, too, for the smell of it.’”

Several years later, this same pastor knelt at the feet of that woman as she lay dying of cancer. Seeing her in much pain, he wondered if she could still find something to be thankful for.

Just then, she opened her eyes, looked at the others gathered around her bedside, and quietly said, with a smile, “Thank you, Lord, for such fine friends.”

I cannot think of a better time than today to begin looking for things to be thankful for. It doesn’t matter what words you use, whether you say, “Thank you, Father” or “Thank you, Lord.” The important thing is to praise God. And the more you do, the more you’ll improve your outlook on life.

Let us, at this special time of the year, then, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God concerning you.”


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