This month’s posts will focus on what it means to be thankful. Our first post is written by Michael Johnson, Director of Ethnic Ministries at Global University.
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
The Thanksgiving holiday is a rich American tradition that is both historically and relationally steeped in gratitude and community. The first Europeans and Indigenous Americans celebrated life and survival together and in turn gave thanks to God for preserving their lives during unsettling times. Fast forward to the year 2014 and we can see the vast changes this festive celebration has evolved into. Here are some of its new characteristics: Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys, Black Friday sales, carbs, sugar, and lots of butter. Although different from the first Thanksgiving, the holiday still carries the spirit of gratitude where friends and family still gather to give thanks for a productive year.
On the other hand, here are some ideas from Ephesians 1:15-16 that could bring the holiday a more redemptive outlook. In the text, Paul is rejoicing over the church in Ephesus who gave their lives to Christ and received the promises and blessings of God. This group of believers were once steeped in the cultural and religious darkness of Gentile traditions, but at this point their new experience entailed something else: spiritual blessing, predestination, adoption, grace, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom, understanding, the gospel, and the Holy Spirit.
Paul took it upon himself to nurture, guide, and help the Ephesian church to live the Christian life. His heart burst with joy because he knew firsthand the challenges this group had to live with in regards to spiritual darkness, maturity level, and human resources. The bottom line is that Paul was thinking of others and putting their needs before his own. He was excited about the intentional growth and unison this church family was practicing, and as a spiritual father he could not help but GIVE THANKS and PRAY.
The imagery of Paul locked up behind bars in a Roman prison, with a pen and paper, writing these words while feeling the pain of not being present with his spiritual children compels any reader to consider the sincerity of these words: “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”
In this month of November, let everyone take the initiative to imitate Paul and consider others more than oneself. To transform a holiday of feasting and relaxation to one that is truly:
THANKFUL – for people that God places in our lives
PRAYERFUL – for people’s faith in Christ and love for his church
Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.