Find The Joy

When I was much younger (a long time ago) I had two experiences at Christmas time that now remind me of the importance of thanksgiving. First, there was a certain winter jacket I wanted with the great big pockets that boys love. The loving relative buying the present decided another jacket fit better. I said thank you, of course, but in my heart I really wasn’t thankful. On another occasion, later, I wanted a particular musical instrument. It was nobody’s fault that it wasn’t available at Christmas, but I was crushed. Though I received many wonderful gifts, in the face of my disappointment, I could not be thankful in my heart. The common factor in these experiences is that I had much to be thankful for, but I was looking only at what I did not get. I had a wonderful warm jacket while others were without one. I had many caring gifts that others did not receive. I had the warmth and love of my family.

Let me ask you this: “What do you want?” How do you feel when you don’t get it? Of course, I now know that disappointment is God’s appointment. But there is more to be learned. James says we should receive it joyfully when we are experiencing various trials because they bring maturity. Hebrews 10:34 tells us that our first century brethren joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property, because they knew that they had better and lasting possessions.” They found the joy because they were looking at what they had rather than at what they didn’t have.  Now that’s thanksgiving. I asked the question, “What do you want?” It might help us all to be more thankful if we realized that the reason we are here on earth, our destiny, is not about what we want, but about what God wants. Those who are focused on what God wants can be joyful in every circumstance, good or bad, and they are thankful.

Every Thanksgiving, as a Pastor, I have pondered the self-centeredness of much of our celebration of Thanksgiving in this country. For many it is an opportunity to say thanks because they got what they wanted. It is an exuberant celebration of the abundance of much that the rest of the world neither has, nor can imagine having. Every Thanksgiving I have reminded people, as I remind you now; that when Christians give thanks it should be because of spiritual blessings. Material blessings come and go. They can easily fly away. Of course we should be thankful for everything God gives, but the joy we experience over having our wants satisfied can be short lived. It is a fragile joy: a joy that can grow wings and fly away leaving an empty hand. But empty hands are good too, if they are what God wants. I remind you that Jesus said that he gives his children joy, not as the world gives. And He said your joy no man can take from you. This Thanksgiving, let us be truly thankful with the joy of the Lord because we are looking at our possessions in Christ. Rich or poor, hungry or full, we are joint heirs with Him.