Today is Thanksgiving Day to many of us, and it’s a day that’s designated to celebrate all the things we’re thankful for in our lives. For some of us it’s easy because we have so much wealth that surrounds us, but for others it’s hurtful because they have so little or they’ve lost what they had through a disaster such as Hurricane Sandy. Perhaps it’s time for us to give thanks for the love in our lives and not just the things.
It’s great to have material possessions because they make us happy, make our lives more rewarding and more desirable, but tangible things can become a stumbling block for real gratitude and true thanksgiving toward God. In Matthew 6:19 Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”
These earthly treasures might help to make our lives a little more comfortable and they may give us a sense of accomplishment, but Jesus warns us that it’s these treasures that the enemy will attack because he knows that losing them will get us down – maybe even tear us away from God. That’s why in John 10:10 Jesus tells us that the thief – the devil – comes to steal, kill and destroy, and he knows what our treasures are and how much they mean to us.
Does that mean it’s wrong to have nice possessions? Not at all, as long as we don’t put their value above God, above our love for God or above our love for other Christians.
We need to remember that even greater than material possessions is the love that God has for us, and it’s this love that should be the reason we live each day – and the reason we give thanks. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
There was so much more accomplished on the cross than most of us know. We were not only brought back to God so that we could talk with Him and walk with Him like Adam and Eve did before the fall, but He also gave us victory over the things that would come against us in life.
Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”
Not only were we forgiven and set free from the sin that separated us from God, but Jesus suffered the punishment for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to. We now have eternity with God instead of eternity in hell. He bore the penalty so that we could have peace – His peace – and we are free from the clutches of the devil and his hurtful strikes against us. He will attack us, but we have peace and confidence in God, and we know that He will give us the victory over the attacks.
With the 39 strikes from the cat of nine tails, a harsh whip filled with ground glass, Jesus set us free from sickness and illness and gave us back the right to be healed and to have a healthy body. Sometimes He performs miracles and sometimes He expects us to change what we’re doing and what we’re eating so that we become responsible for our bodies. He gives us wisdom to know the truth about the food and medications we take and when we adhere to the truth, our bodies line up because Jesus has already made healing possible for us.
Some of us have lost loved ones this year and the hurt is still so great that it’s hard to be thankful for anything. But we must remember that this life is short compared to eternity with God, and when someone we love moves on to Heaven we need to keep our eyes on God and on the fact that very soon we will be there, too. It’s lonely here now and the memories and family traditions can be painful, but we have to carry on anyway because even though the one we love is not with us, there are others still here who need us and who need our love.
What can we be thankful for when there is so much hurt and pain in our lives and all around us? We’re thankful that God has redeemed us from the control of the devil; we’re thankful that we have His Spirit in us to give us strength and wisdom to live every day in victory; we’re thankful that any illness or disease that has come against us will fall away because we are healed; we’re thankful that we are surrounded with family and friends who love us for who we are and not for what we have; and we’re thankful that we have a home in Heaven where Jesus has prepared a place for us and where the ones who have already moved on are waiting for us!
We have much to be thankful for, and much to live and hope for because Jesus is alive and has given us life.