“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving… The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (Psalm 50:14, 23 ESV).
This month we celebrate Thanksgiving, so I would like to give you a word of encouragement that is rooted in the words of the psalmist above, as well as in a number of other places throughout sacred Scripture.
Now, at first glance, a “sacrifice of thanksgiving” seems to be incongruent. How could being thankful for receiving some blessing be a sacrifice? It seems like such a natural response. We receive a blessing, and we respond with thanksgiving. But clearly the psalmist has something more in view, and I think this is it — to be thankful continually, even when we would rather not be thankful. Let’s look at two things as it relates to a “sacrifice of thanksgiving” – what it means and how we live it out.
- A “sacrifice of thanksgiving” defined
When the sky is blue, the clouds are fleecy, and the sun is brightly shining, it is easy to be thankful to God. There really is no cost or sacrifice to be thankful when everything is going your way. Your boss has given you a raise, your medical check-up was outstanding, and there is harmony in the home. To be sure, thanksgiving just flows from our hearts to heaven when we are in these kinds of seasons.
But what about those days when the storm winds begin to blow and the waves of challenge crash over us? That’s when thanksgiving can be more like a sacrifice – something that is a bit more costly. Here are a few examples:
* The promotion you expected goes to someone else.
* There is too much month left at the end of your money.
* Your family relationships have become strained.
* The medical test comes back positive.
I am sure you can think of many more examples. Perhaps you are in the middle of one of them right now. This is what the psalmist is talking about in speaking of the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” to God. Heaven seems silent, God seems distant, and being thankful is going to take some work on your part. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we are to offer, through Jesus Christ, “a sacrifice of thanksgiving” continually to our God. There are no qualifications or stipulations. It is simply what the child of God is to be doing, regardless of the circumstances in life. But how do we live it out?
- A “sacrifice of thanksgiving” lived out
The only way to live out a “sacrifice of thanksgiving” is to keep in view the sacrifice of our Savior. When we lose sight of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we begin to live more and more according to our feelings, desires and expectations. At that level of living, praise and thanksgiving flows from us when we are feeling good, achieving our desires and having our expectations met. Yet, living as broken people in a broken world, more often than not, we feel bad, have not achieved our desires and find ourselves facing unmet expectations. This is why we must keep the sacrifice of our Savior in view.
The clearer our view of the cross work of Christ, the more we will live according to God’s perfect plan and purpose for our imperfect lives, which means often life will not go according to our plans. Because God is God and knows what is best for us, He often causes us to walk down unplanned paths and through painful providences for two simple reasons – our good and His glory. And it is in these times when thanksgiving is a sacrifice for the saints of God.
So, as you advance through the month of November on the way to Thanksgiving Day, meditate on all that Jesus has done for you, and you will find yourself offering to God a “sacrifice of thanksgiving” not only when the sky is blue, the clouds fleecy and the sun brightly shining, but also when the storm winds are blowing and the waves of challenge are crashing over you.
May you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that. . . Amen!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com