Direct your heart towards God’s gifts so that thanksgiving may overflow to your visitors as you serve them with a thankful heart.
November is a month anticipated by many, as plans are made for family gatherings and feasting. Some would say that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday because the name of this celebration has a holy aspect. The wife of the pastor may be organizing a dinner where happy friends and family surround a table laden with foods that are only seen during the holidays. For many years, I hosted a “planned potluck” for our immediate family and for families in my church who had no relatives nearby. We expanded the invitation to singles and members of the military. Sometimes we met at the Fellowship Hall in the church or in my house. Some brought games, others brought sides, some brought only their appetite.
All the busy preparations can eclipse the real reason for celebrating—offering thanks to the Lord for His abundant blessings. Your table can become a vehicle to bless the Lord and bless your guests. Here are a few thoughts to direct your heart towards God’s gifts, taken from Psalm 118. Your own study of this psalm can then overflow to your visitors as you serve them with a thankful heart.
First, knowledge of the Lord causes you to praise Him. Psalm 118 begins with a call. “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.” Yahweh, the creator, is known to you as the one filled with goodness. He is good and does good. “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9). Rest in this reality. No matter how things turn out, even though your careful plans go awry, even though you experience a kitchen disaster, God is good.
Second, you are loved by the creator. “Oh give thanks to the LORD…for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:1). Not only do you have a good God, but you have a God who loves you personally and for all time. The reality of God’s love can shine through you as a motivation to love others. It will sustain you when your family members use unkind words with one another. God’s love will help you welcome the homeless man who accepts the broad invitation your husband offered to the church for “anyone who doesn’t have a place for Thanksgiving dinner, please come to our house!” (That happened to me one Thanksgiving, and it was a privilege to serve. I have to say, that year I didn’t need to worry about having too many leftovers!)
Third, the Lord will give you strength. In verse 14 of Psalm 118, we read, “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” The holiday season requires physical strength and endurance. You might be singing in the church choir, which has extra rehearsals this month to prepare for Christmas. You might be caring for elderly parents at the same time as you serve your own children and grandchildren. You may feel tired just thinking about all that needs to be done to get ready for Thanksgiving. You can draw emotional strength and stability from knowing the Lord is with you. You can even break out into singing, as Psalm 118:14 says!
Fourth, you are blessed to serve the Lord in the community of the saints. Verses 19 and 20 express this truth. “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.” These gates stood at the entrance to the temple, where God’s people worshipped. When we come to the church where we serve, thankfulness rises in our hearts. We are joined by fellow worshippers in holy praise. What a privilege to live in a place which allows believers to worship alongside one another.
Fifth, you have a God who listens and responds. Psalm 118:21 says, “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.” How special to realize that the great creator of the universe listens to His children. We read these comforting words in Psalm 34:17: “When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” You experience daily answers to prayer when you approach the throne of grace. Begin now to pray for your upcoming hospitality and ministry to your church. Ask Him to make you a thankful servant. The Lord has answered in the past, and He will answer you now.
Lastly, remember your salvation. Both Psalm 118:14 and verse 21 conclude with a reminder of the salvation we have been given. Your biggest need has been met by your Savior, who loves you and gave Himself up for you. This eternal salvation is a gift which makes you more thankful the more you consider it. In my house, for years we had the custom of asking each person to share something for which they are thankful. Everyone, from the youngest toddler who is learning to speak, to the grandpa at the head of the table offered a reason to give thanks. Inevitably a guest will thank the Lord for the gift of redemption. Think about the Savior who died for sins and offer Him your praise and thanksgiving.
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”Psalm 118:1, 29