We are about to begin the 2016 holiday season here in the United States. This is either the “most wonderful time of the year”, as one of our popular holiday songs says, or a most difficult time of the year. Although holiday and family traditions make for warm feelings and joy, there are also more suicides during the holidays than at another other time of year.
There is tremendous pressure to buy things that we cannot afford and do things that we do not have the time for. There are parties and get-togethers in abundance. We have to decorate, bake, make candy, wrap presents and myriad other things that can cause this season to overwhelm even the most “Christmassy” of us. What can we do as Christians to make the holidays joyous and blessed instead of tedious and pressure packed? I believe this section of scripture can help us.
Let me point out something that I find very interesting. In our country, we celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. The most famous historical Thanksgiving celebration was that of the pilgrims of the Massachusetts Bay colony in the 1630’s however, setting aside a day to give thanks to God for his blessing and provision was a practice throughout the colonies. In 1863 during the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln established a national holiday on the fourth Thursday of November and that continues until today.
Thanksgiving Thursday marks the official beginning of the holiday season. I know that it is simply a coincidence of timing that the holidays officially begin with Thanksgiving, but I cannot help but think the Lord had something to do with it. I believe we can change our whole outlook on the holidays if we will really take to heart the idea of giving thanks. This is especially true if we call ourselves Christians.
This year we have been looking at a number of things related to the idea that God wants us to possess our land of promises, drive out the enemies that keep us from those promises and occupy that land until Jesus comes. I choose as one focus this thought from 2 Peter chapter 1.
2 Peter 1:2-4(NKJV) 2Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
God has given us exceedingly great and precious promises that enable us to partake of his divine nature. That divine nature is expressed in what we call his characteristics. God is all powerful, unchanging, all knowing and everywhere present. We must add to those characteristics things like absolutely loving, righteous and holy. If we take hold of the promises provided in the word of God, we can partake of these characteristics and their power in our lives. The key is understanding that the bible is a book of promises not theology or doctrine.
A promise is a personal word given to an individual by another individual. The promises in the bible were given to all who will read and believe them. We must realize that God the Father in his infinite wisdom and ability, somehow makes them personal statements to every person who chooses to receive them. The promise that God will meet my needs from Philippians 4:19 is not some general statement in an ancient book. It is my Father promising me that he will take care of me. It is a personal promise. It is neither doctrine nor theology. When I see it that way, faith rises in my heart because I know that my Father will not lie. He will not fail me because he has whatever power is needed to provide for my needs. I know he will do what he said and he will do it in a way that will bring the greatest blessing to my life. That may mean he will not do it the way I think he should, but I know he will do it. I have his personal promise.
In our study, we have looked at a number of things we must do in relation to the promise. When we believe the promise, we gain access to the power of the promise. When we speak in line with the promise, we activate them in our lives. This means speaking “to the mountain” we may be facing as well as speaking them to God in prayer. When we act on the promise, we release its power in our lives. (Mark 11:22-24) However, there is one more thing we must do in order to see the promise fulfilled. We must make our requests known to God with thanksgiving.
Mark 11:24 tells us that when we pray we must believe we receive what we ask for. In the world, we tend to think along the lines of “I will believe it when I see it.” When we are dealing with the world this is often a wise approach. When we are dealing with God, we must adjust our thinking. God cannot lie. When we approach the promises of God, we cannot do so based on “I will believe it when I see it.” We must approach he promises of God based on “When I believe it I will eventually see it.”
When I pray, I believe that God hears the request and since I base my prayer on his promise to me, I believe it is mine already. At some point, I will see the promise manifested in my life. The problem is that there is always an amount of time between when I pray and when I see the manifestation in the natural. It may be a few seconds or it may be years. What do I do while I am waiting? Philippians 4:6 tells us. We make our request with thanksgiving. We continue to thank God for the answer until we see it in the natural. Giving thanks to God for the answer is a key component in receiving it.
How does all this tie in with the holiday season? I believe we need to understand thanksgiving, the action not the holiday, in a new light. We see it as a response. Something good happens and we give thanks. It certainly is that. However, it is more than that for a Christian. If we understand thanksgiving properly, we see that it is not just a response to good things but also part of what causes good things to come to us.
There is no doubt that a thankful person is more enjoyable to be around than an unthankful person is. In the natural, thankfulness will give you a better disposition and a more positive outlook on life. This is something that makes developing thankfulness worthwhile. In the spirit, thankfulness does much more.
First, when we thank God for what he has done it reminds us of who God is and what he can do in our lives. Our hearts will be filled with joy and confidence when we remember how much God has really done for us. When we begin to thank God for what he will do according to the promise we prayed, our thanksgiving produces a draw in the spirit that will bring those good things to us. The more we thank God for his promise, the more real it becomes to us. There is less and less the devil can do to discourage us because we are conscious of God’s willingness to do what he said he would do. Doubt and unbelief cannot stand in the face of active thanksgiving.
I want to encourage you to make this holiday season a season that begins with the Thanksgiving holiday and continues to be a time of thanksgiving through the new year. Thank God for what he has done in your life this year. Thank him for family and friends. Thank him for all you have instead of thinking about what you do not have. Add to this equation thanking God for what he promises to do in your life. Make some requests to him this season and pledge to continue to thank him for the answer until you see it in the natural. If you will do that, I know you will see an increase in your faith and in your joy. You might even find that the Christmas season really is the most wonderful, blessed and thankful time of the year.