Life for Leaders on Thanksgiving Day

By Mark D. Roberts

November 26, 2020

Scripture – Psalm 100:1-5 (NRSV)

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
+++come into his presence with singing.
Know that the LORD is God.
+++It is he that made us, and we are his;
+++we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
+++and his courts with praise.
+++Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the LORD is good;
+++his steadfast love endures forever,
+++and his faithfulness to all generations.


On this Thanksgiving Day, we are reminded to give thanks to God even as we face such difficult times and painful losses. We’re encouraged to thank the Lord both by Scripture and by Abraham Lincoln in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863. In the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln called upon the nations to remember “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies,” and to offer thanks for God’s many gifts. Let it be so with us today!


It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Today, Americans are encouraged to pause and give thanks to God. Even if you’re not a resident of the U.S., you might still join us in thanksgiving. After all, this day is really about acknowledging God’s gracious gifts, not any particular country.

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.” Now, it might be easy to assume that Lincoln proclaimed a day of thanksgiving because things were going so well in the United States. In fact, however, the U.S. was in the midst of the Civil War, a terribly brutal and emotionally horrifying experience for the nation. Thousands of young Americans had died, while others faced the prospect of imminent death. Yet, in the middle 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, 2020 has not been an easy year for our nation. We have endured one of the most divisive political campaigns in our history. Racial prejudice has reared its ugly head in our society, both in human hearts and in social and economic systems. And then, of course, there is the coronavirus, with all of the devastation it has brought on the United States and, indeed, the entire world. Most of us will be keenly aware of the impact of COVID-19 on our lives today as our Thanksgiving celebrations won’t be like usual. It would be tempting to think that this really isn’t a good time for giving thanks.

Thus, we need to hear the encouragement of Abraham Lincoln again. In spite of our challenges, setbacks, and problems, God has richly blessed us. 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! No matter your circumstance, may God give you a rich and blessed Thanksgiving Day!


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?


Even if your day is quite full, set aside some time to give thanks to God. Plus, if it is possible, share with others the things you are thankful for today while also listening to their reasons for gratitude.


Gracious God, thank you 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 that aspires to justice, freedom, and prosperity. 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!

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Refleciton on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: You Belong to God

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

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,...

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