November 26, 2015 • Life for Leaders
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.”
On this Thanksgiving Day, Americans are encouraged to pause and give thanks to God. In his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln wrote: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”
As you may recall, in 1863, the United States was in the Civil War, a terribly brutal and emotionally horrifying experience. Thousands of young Americans had died, while others faced the prospect of imminent death. Yet, in the midst of such a challenging time, President Lincoln called upon Americans to remember the richness of God’s blessings and to be thankful.
So it should be with us. In many ways, 2015 has not been an easy year for our nation. We struggle with economic challenges and inequities. Our political leaders are divided and ineffective. Racial prejudice rears its ugly head throughout our society. Senseless violence in our streets and campuses has taken hundreds of lives. The threat of terrorism continually confronts our nation, even as terrorist acts devastate the wider world.
Thus, we need to hear the encouragement of Abraham Lincoln again. In spite of our challenges, setbacks, and problems, we have been richly blessed by God. Thanksgiving is due just as much today as it was in 1863, perhaps much more.
When we give thanks, we bring to mind God’s gifts to us. This, in turn, reminds us of God’s gracious nature. We think, not just of what God has done, but also of who God is. Thus, giving thanks is a point of entry to praise. In the language of Psalm 100, we enter God’s gates with thanksgiving so that we might go into his courts with praise. There’s no biblical rule that states that thanks must always come before praise. But, for many of us, thanksgiving for what God has done leads us to praise God for who he is.
May you enter God’s gates with thanksgiving today, so that you might celebrate in his courts with praise! May God give you a rich and blessed Thanksgiving Day!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How is it possible to give thanks even in hard times?
Does thanking God lead to praising God in your life?
For what are you most grateful today?
Thank you, gracious God, for your abundant gifts to me. Thank you for giving me not what I deserve, but so very much more. Thank you for the ways you have blessed me throughout my life. Thank you for allowing me to live in a country where I am free and safe. Thank you, most of all, for the gift of life you have given me through Christ. Thanks for the incredible privilege of knowing you and living my life in relationship with you, both now and forever.
All praise be to you, O God, giver of all good gifts! All praise be to you, because your grace and mercy are without end! All praise be to you for the gift of life in this world, and life forever in the age to come! All praise to you, O God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!
An earlier version of this devotion appeared at The High Calling. It is used with permission under a Creative Commons license.
Image Credit: “Thanksgiving 1918” by Underwood & Underwood. (War Dept.) – NARA FILE #: 165-WW-427A-7 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 649HD-SN-99-02308 War And Conflict CD Collection. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.