Commentaries / Commentary
Happy Thanksgiving 2011!
I hope this holiday finds all of you well - living an abundant life and full of thankfulness for all that God has bestowed upon you during this season. However, it would be unrealistic to assume that this is the case for all of us! Chances are that life is not going smoothly for each one; we live in a broken world and life is most definitely not a fairy tale.
This fall I participated in a Bible study on Jonah. At first I thought it might not be incredibly relevant seeing as there’s not a particular area of my life where I’m “running from God” or in flagrant disobedience about something to which He has called me. But what I came to see is that, like Jonah, whenever my plans, agenda, or goals seem to have been interrupted, it is tempting to grumble and complain in my heart. Jonah did the same. It was not his plan or desire to head to Ninevah and watch God pour out His mercy on a hated people – much less be the vessel that God used to accomplish His purpose! He didn’t want to partner with God in what was clearly God’s plan and God’s call on his life for that particular time. Upon reflection, I realized that this time in my life is an “interruption” in my hopes for what might be happening in my world: my father’s death was unexpected and I certainly never foresaw bearing the mantle of responsibility for a ministry not my own; our newly re-designed website should have been up and running months ago; and I can’t see how all of this fits together with my own spiritual passions for breaking down denominational barriers, participating in international missions, walking in signs and wonders, and being a part of global revival.
All of that said, what I learned through Jonah’s story is that instead of seeing “bumps in the road” as interruptions, I am better off viewing them as Divine Interventions.1 They are opportunities to partner with the Lord in HIS business and He has every right to ask me to go along with the plan. In fact, the bigger the bump, the greater the adventure! If He has allowed something to come my way for which I feel ill-equipped or which I find particularly unpleasant, there is an altogether greater space in which He gets to be God – for His strength is made perfect in my weakness and there is no doubt about who has accomplished the victory in the situation. And I can rest assured that the victory has already been won, for He never sets His own up for failure; He has prepared me for such a time as this (see Ephesians 2:10).
So what does all of this have to do with Thanksgiving? How does it relate to the miraculous story of Squanto’s interactions with the Pilgrims, time with family and friends, apple pie and football games? Simply this: I can’t imagine that when the Pilgrims and Indians gathered to feast and enjoy each other’s company on that first “Thanksgiving” that each and every Pilgrim was feeling particularly thankful to God or rejoicing over good times. Remember that for some, he or she was the last remaining member of a family; for others, they had watched the majority of their family and friends die over the course of that first year at Plymouth. Talk about an interruption! While none was naïve in acknowledging the unknown and the dangers to which they might be exposed in the New World, and while each moved forward in faith and confidence that he or she had been called to a new life, there were a multitude of hardships and blows that came as a result of establishing themselves despite the fact that they were being obedient to God’s direction. So what was that first Thanksgiving all about? I believe that many of the survivors offered up a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
For many of us this Thanksgiving, giving thanks will be a sacrifice – our feelings may be disconnected, but that is what sacrifice is all about; there’s an element of pain involved. So, why do it? Well, we do it because our God asks it of us (Psalm 50:14). We do it because in so doing we are reminded that He is still on His throne despite our circumstances. We do it because His character has not changed; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. We do it because it honors and glorifies Him (Psalm 50:23) and puts us back in right relationship with Him. We do it because it gives room for His redemptive power to be at work as our hearts come to expect and be assured of His goodness, mercy and absolute control over all that happens in our lives. We do it because it is the path to peace, joy and freedom. We do it most of all because the God of the universe has seen fit to come knocking at our doors – offering a tailor-made, personal invitation to partner with Him in the work of the Kingdom – for such a time as this and in such a manner that, if we accept the invitation, we might become more like Him and have eternal significance in the carrying out of His eternal plan.
This Thanksgiving, wherever and in whatever state we may find ourselves, let us make the choice to, “through Christ, constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)
Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!
Mary E. Marshall
President, Peter Marshall Ministries
1 See Jonah: Navigating A Life Interrupted (Priscilla Shirer, 2010)
The late Rev. Peter Marshall (1940-2010) was a Presbyterian minister who for over forty years gained national recognition as a preacher on Christian growth and discipleship.
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