Sarah Josepha Hale – do you even recognize the name?  Sarah was an American writer who, through much campaigning, convinced Abraham Lincoln to declare a day in November 1863 to be designated a National Day of Thanksgiving for “general blessings.”  

What we think of as our country’s first Thanksgiving occurred in the fall of 1621 when the Native Americans and the pilgrims came together for a harvest meal of deer, shellfish, corn, and roasted meat – no green bean casserole. Although there might have been a prayer and a sense of thanksgiving, the first recorded religious Thanksgiving Day happened two years later in 1623, when the colonists gave God thanks for rain after a two-month drought.

These are events in our American history that point to thanksgiving, but actually thanksgiving has always been in the heart of God. He created us for gratitude. We are here to appreciate and honor Him by giving Him our thanks. But giving God our thanks is not because He needs the affirmation. Unlike most of us, who appreciate a word of affirmation here or there, God knows that a thankful heart is to our benefit. In fact, Paul tells us it’s God will for us to give thanks:

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

When God’s Word gives us a command, it is always for our benefit. And here are some of those benefits:

1 – Giving thanks helps you stay sharp in your prayer life!

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)

2 – Thanksgiving changes your perspective. I woke up one morning and wasn’t feeling very well, so I decided to thank God for all the parts of me that were healthy. Would you believe 95% of me was doing quite well!  My perspective changed from the one thing wrong to the many things right.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God. (Philippians 4:6)

3 – It’s just healthier! Whatever we focus on captures our mind and our heart. So, if we are continually finding things to thank God for, that will capture our focus – and we’ll soon find more things for which to give thanks. The familiar hymn does not tell us to “count your many traumas, name them one by one.” It tells us to name our blessings! And as we name them, we are energized!

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)

There are many more benefits to having a thankful heart – these are just a sample. Tomorrow as you come to worship – whether you’re worshipping here or somewhere on the road -- choose to walk in the door of that church bringing with you a heart of thanksgiving, just as the psalmist writes:

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His name. (Psalm 100:4)

by Judy Shrout






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