Giving Thanks by Larry W. Peebles December 2, 2016 16.46
Our whole family was together this Thanksgiving, and we had a wonderful time. Our children and their spouses are doing well, and the grandchildren are growing up fast. Everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy the others’ company, and of course, there was plenty of food and laughter. When the grandchildren were younger taking family pictures was trying, but even that went well. This year the grandchildren were more patient in keeping hair and clothes straight, and cooperative in smiling for the camera. Though older we are all in reasonably good health. We have so much for which to be thankful. The more I thought about the Thanksgiving Holiday, the more I wondered about being able to be more thankful year-round.
Taking it a step further, I wondered how it would be possible to not only be thankful every day, but on all occasions, good or bad. I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 says- “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” How can I do this? It is good to be thankful one holiday a year, but better to be thankful year-round. What is the key to unlock this potential?
The answer came as I spent time with the Lord, and meditated on His Word. Colossians 2:7 says we are to be “rooted and built up in Him [Jesus], and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” Faith therefore is the key to our being able to express thanksgiving. This verse indicates three clear steps. Our faith must first be rooted, then built up, and finally established in order for us to function from a platform that is continually thankful. Let me illustrate with the following example.
My father-in-law Roy was a very outgoing and likable man with a green thumb. He could grow anything. He farmed peanuts for a while, but even after leaving the farm to work elsewhere, he never lost his love for growing things. He kept a very productive vegetable garden, and was more than generous in giving away the excess produce beyond what his own family needed to eat. He had pepper bushes, peach trees, pecan trees, and many different vegetables that kept the family, friends and neighbors supplied.
He helped me plant trees at the first three homes my wife and I owned, as all three homes were built on bare lots. I will never forget the day we planted trees at the first home. We got up early and rented a flat-bed trailer, then drove to a two-acre property Roy owned that had never been cleared. Roy picked out four young oak trees in the 8-10 ft. high range. For each tree we dug as large a root ball as we could bag up and carry. We watered the bag and root ball to protect the roots from drying, then loaded and secured the trees on the trailer for the two-hour drive to my house.
Fortunately, I had already dug four holes on my property before leaving to visit Roy that weekend, so we were ready to plant upon arrival. Root stimulator, a mild liquid fertilizer especially formulated to help root growth, was mixed with water and poured on the root ball of each tree and into the hole before planting the tree. The loose soil was carefully and lovingly worked around each root ball until the hole was full. Each tree was watered- in to be sure there were no voids or air pockets in the hole where the roots might be exposed to dry or freeze. Each tree was then staked into position with ropes to prevent the wind from blowing the tree over and loosening the roots. If those trees were going to survive, every attention had to be given to protecting the roots, including stimulating them to grow, and keeping them firmly in place in the new soil. It is no different concerning faith in the new believer. We must pay similar care and attention that our faith is well rooted, stimulated and not allowed to go dry. This is the first step in that Colossians 2 verse. One might liken this to attending worship with the fellowship of believers, and beginning to develop daily prayer habits.
For months after those trees were planted, I continued to monitor them. Regular watering included additional root stimulator for a mild fertilizer. The trees had to be gently built-up so that they had the essential nutrients to live and grow. They could not tolerate strong fertilizer as it would have burned them up. The trees were also pruned so that the roots did not have to support the entire canopy that had existed before transplanting. Only the essential limbs were left. After the tree was more built-up, the full canopy would grow back. The focus at this point was leaving enough branches and leaves on the tree to support life without placing undue burden on the roots. By spring these efforts were rewarded with the appearance of new leaves on all the trees. All four trees had survived the winter transplant. Again, this is no different when building up faith in the new believer. Without trying to stretch too far too fast, faith must be watered and stimulated. It must be monitored to see if it is producing new growth –leaves and fruit. In this second stage, faith must be tested and encouraged to crawl, then to walk, then when it is built up, it can run. Developing consistent time to read and digest the Word of God might occur in this second stage, as this is where one learns the heart of God, and applies the Word of God to his own life. This builds up the inner spiritual person.
In the third and final stage, faith is established. From time to time over the years, my wife and I have had the opportunity to drive by those three homes we owned 30 to 40 plus years ago. I see magnificent giant oaks at those homes, and think back to the days with Roy when those trees were planted. They seemed so fragile and vulnerable at the time. It is hard to imagine those trees in that initial condition when today they stand so tall and strong.
Anyone would look at those trees today and say they were established, but it took considerable initial care, protection and stimulation to achieve the results. The experience from a life well lived before the Lord over a long period of time will similarly produce big strong faith. By this I mean literally before the Lord, as in time spent in His presence, where one is quiet and still before the Lord. One is actively waiting before the Lord, expecting that the Lord will speak into their life, touch their body, give direction, encourage, correct, provide hope, or do any other of a myriad of things any loving Father would do for their child. This establishes enduring faith over a period of time, but requires a commitment of time spent with Him.
From this platform of an established faith, strong as an established oak tree, we can give thanks on all occasions. We know we are loved and protected by our Heavenly Father. We know we are forgiven when we stumble. We know He will give us His best, and has our well-being in mind. We know that in spite of dark times, our joy will come in the morning. We know help is a prayer away, and the enemy cannot touch us. We know we “can do everything through Him [Jesus Christ] who gives me [us] strength.” Philippians 4:13. [Insert mine]. From this platform, we see thanksgiving at a whole new level. Additionally, once we are established strong like an oak tree, we can give back to others. We can provide shade and shelter for the weary, a nesting place for others in the storm, and be a part of the spiritual rain cycle that brings refreshing to a thirsty soul. Thanks giving will become thanks living, a habit and a way of life. Happy Thanksgiving.