(Friends: during the next few weeks, as we approach the observance of thanksgiving in the United States, many (perhaps all) of the messages will address the theme of thanksgiving and gratitude. Thanks, Glen)
Part 7 - "Thanksgiving and Fellowship"
Thanksgiving involves one of the most personal expressions of relationship and communication between human beings. Whether between those close to us, or perhaps a "Thank you" offered to a stranger for some act of kindness, gratitude provides a connection between ourselves and other human beings. This is even more true in our relationship with God.
"Enter into His gates with thanksgiving" (Psalm 100:4).
Consider, for example, that we hold a door open at a public place for someone we do not know. If the person responds with gratitude, a smile usually accompanies the grateful offering. For a moment, admittedly brief in such a circumstance, two people have acted in fellowship with one another. We may never see each other again, and will likely within seconds forget the moment even happened. Still, for that moment, a kind act and responsive gratitude united two souls in at least some form and measure for the primary reason God made human beings. We exist to know Him in loving relationship and fellowship, and the love Him and others as the fruit of His devotion to us, and our devotion to Him. "We love Him because He first loved us… Love one another" (I John 4:7; 19). Thanksgiving supplies one of the chief expressions of our bond with both God and people.
It is literally impossible to walk in the Spirit of Christ without consistently offering thanks to God. "Be filled with the Spirit… giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:18; 20). Again, gratitude provides one of the most personally unifying aspects of fellowship in any relationship. The words "Thank You" may often seem like mere words. Spoken from sincerity, however, far more happens in both the heart of God and our own heart when we expression our appreciation for His gracious generosity. Indeed, expressing thanks for our lunch today may prepare us to trust the Lord when we face some challenge this afternoon. We probably won't realize the preparatory nature of "saying grace" for our meal. Nevertheless, the Spirit of God who inspires us to give thanks may well strengthen us for further steps of faith when we bow heart and head over our meal. Relating to God in one moment prepares us for the next.
Born again believers in the Lord Jesus are spiritually hard-wired for relationship, and thus, for the gratitude that infuses personal intimacy into our walk with the Lord (John 17:3). We do well to consider such a gift formed in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit, and to freely and willingly exercise the capacity as often as opportunity allows. Indeed, thanksgiving does not just happen in many cases. We rather choose to realize God's lovingkindness, and to respond accordingly. Thereby we walk with Him in a real fellowship of love whereby His giving and our thankful response draw our hearts ever closer together.
"Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving."
"And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will."
Weekly Memory Verse
"For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10).