In the United States, today is Thanksgiving Day. It’s a day to stop and think about our lives and what we have and be thankful. When I look at my own life I am thankful for a God who loves me and saved me. I am thankful for a wonderful family – my wife Kimberly and our three children. I am thankful for a job that provides enough money for all of our needs and the challenge I’m looking for mentally and professionally. I am thankful for a wonderful church and the opportunity to serve God in ministry there working with junior high youth. I am thankful for our loving friends, our extended family, a warm house, plenty of food, and all the creature comforts my family could possibly want (and that’s definitely want, not need). But most of all I come back to being thankful for God’s amazing love.
I walked twenty years in darkness, rejecting Christ for much of the last five years of those two decades, trying to live life without Him. And the more and more I came to realize that He was real, that He had a purpose for me, and that He loved me despite my flaws and my sins and those things I couldn’t stand about myself, the more miserable I grew as I struggled to keep from surrendering to His calling. When I finally yielded my life to Him, when I accepted His Son, I knew I had made the right choice. All those days of fighting Him vanished as I understood what it meant to be loved by God. Physically I was a wreck. My shoulder had popped back out as I was doing pull-ups for a physical training (PT) test. I completed that test, but I knew the damage was near catastrophic and my future as a USAF officer was very much in doubt. Ironically, the original separation was at officer training. This time was the third time in just over six months my shoulder separated, each time worse than before. It would be months of tremendous physical pain and exhaustion before my shoulder would be right again. A third time through physical therapy. And in the end it wasn’t modern medicine or science that fixed my shoulder, but literally a miracle after a group of believers prayed over me for the specific purpose of asking God to heal my shoulder. The only other option was surgery that would limit my shoulder’s mobility and put a sure end to any hopes of a military career. So we prayed and God delivered. And in hindsight I’ve come to realize those months were my time in the desert where I had to learn to rely on God. I had to learn He would provide. It wasn’t up to me. It was all about Him.
Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.” – Genesis 22:13-14, NASB
Abraham called the place where he found the ram “the LORD Will Provide” and with good reason. God had originally called Abraham to offer his own son, Isaac, up as a sacrifice. But throughout it all, Abraham knew that what ever happened, God would preserve Isaac. After all, God had made a promise of many descendants from Isaac. God wasn’t interested in human sacrifice in the traditional sense like we see with cultures like the Aztecs. But He was interested in human sacrifice – whether or not Abraham was willing to give up someone he loved so much in response to God’s command. It was a test for Abraham. Who did he love more, God or Isaac? And Abraham passed with flying colors. But if there had been any doubt, I don’t think God would have placed Abraham in that situation. After all, God wanted to use that event to show us exactly what He would do. He would hand over His own Son, Jesus, to be killed. Jesus would be the provided sacrifice for all of us.
Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” – Genesis 22:15-18, NASB
The seed of blessing promised to Abraham is Christ. Without Him we have no redemption for our sins. Without Him there is no salvation. Without Him we cannot reconcile with the Father. We cannot restore the relationship with God that was intended from the beginning but which sin broke. Without Him there is no real hope or joy. We can chase after material things and the things of the world, but ultimately, they won’t satisfy us. Without Christ there is no Holy Spirit. There is no guidance from God. There is no power. Without Jesus, there isn’t anything of real and lasting value to be thankful for.
As you pause this day, or as you reflect back on Thanksgiving if you’ve read this afterwards, please stop a moment and offer thanks to God for sending His Son. Offer thanks to Jesus for sticking to the plan, though it led Him to the Cross. At His arrest, he told Peter that if He had wanted to scrap with the mob, angels stood at the ready. And yet He didn’t call them down. He knew His death on the Cross was necessary to pay for our sins. Jesus Christ is our reason for thanksgiving, not only on a day set apart once a year, but literally every day. Give thanks to Him today.