“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
A Debt of Gratitude, by Randall D. Kittle
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“Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

Of all the national holidays, Thanksgiving is by far my favorite and has been for a long time. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that to a vast extent it has escaped the commercialization of Christmas and Easter. It is so simple compared to Easter with its Easter bunnies, special dress clothes to buy, eggs to fill, and baskets to embellish. With all the lavish decorations, stockings, cards, shopping, wrapping, and more of Christmas, the contrast is even more glaring. For some blessed reason, Thanksgiving has managed to fly under the radar of retailer’s hype and cultural distortion. All that is left is family, food, and fun involving turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and a little football on TV (and then turkey sandwiches and more pie later in the day). For a man at least, it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s no wonder they call it Thanksgiving!

But Thanksgiving is both my favorite holiday and one of the most beneficial holidays for us to celebrate for a far greater reason than the food, football, and family time. Thanksgiving finds its singular splendor in the fact that it is a holiday in which our primary focus is not upon ourselves but upon others. Thanksgiving is not first and foremost about what we get or what we may attain. It is primarily about what we give as we express gratitude from thank-filled hearts towards others for what they have done.

This is both needful and healthy for us, for while most of us would desire to be debt free, none of us will ever repay the debt of gratitude we owe so many. All of us owe a debt of gratitude to innumerable people. As children, we owe a debt of gratitude to our parents, if for no other reason than that they chose to give us life. We owe our thanks to grandparents, teachers, and others who spent the time with us instilling values in us and also making us feel as if we had value. We owe our deep appreciation to those who have and do serve in the military, law enforcement, and fire protection for keeping us safe and secure. We should also appreciate those who have instructed us, believed in us, encouraged us, challenged us, and walked beside us as we have journeyed on this earth.

Spiritually, the debt of gratitude we owe is even more staggering. We should be thankful for those who in our childhood sparked the desire to know the Lord and be known by Him. What gratitude we should feel to those who were used by God as instruments of salvation, bringing us into God’s kingdom. Those who week in and week out labor to instruct us and more fully conform us into the very image of Christ certainly deserve our heartfelt thanks. Add to these the list of those who have prayed for us in times of need, comforted us in times of sorrow, rejoiced with us in times of victory and we begin to see just the beginning roster of those to whom we are debtors of thanksgiving.

Even this great debt of gratitude pales in comparison to the thanksgiving we owe the Lord. He paid a debt we could not pay, purchasing our lives for God because of His great love for us. His life was surrendered that we might have a new life. His body was broken that we might be made whole. His earthly life was forsaken that we might be the very sons of God who will never be forsaken. Every believer has been given not only more than they could ever deserve, but also more than they can possibly imagine, and the great news is that this wasn’t done for us reluctantly but with great delight. The Lord knows that none of us can ever repay Him for what He has done, and the great part is that He doesn’t expect us to! But He does expect that His beloved sons and daughters who were once far off but are now His very own would realize the riches of the mercy and grace that has been lavished on them and respond to Him from thank-filled hearts.

This thanksgiving season let us not take any of these blessings for granted. Let us begin to repay the debt of gratitude we owe so many by starting to live a lifestyle of thankfulness. If we
are truly thankful to God and to so many others, let us make certain we express it — first to God, and then to others who have been a blessing in our lives.

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