By Tim Sullivan

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;
reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
(2 Timothy 4:2)


We recently concluded our Thanksgiving Day festivities here in the United States, a wonderful part of our American heritage. Of course, celebrations of thanksgiving began long before the Pilgrims settled colonial New England. Throughout the ages, God’s people have been exhorted to give thanks unto God.

Psalm 92:1:
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:

We magnify him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 69:30:
I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the key that opens the gates to God’s holy presence.

Psalm 100:4:
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Psalm 95:2:
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

For a truth, it is the absence of thanksgiving that is the first indication of a heart departed from God.

Romans 1:21-22:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools ...

For this reason God’s people are commanded (and not requested!) to give thanks in every thing.

1 Thessalonians 5:18:
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

You may ask, how can we maintain a thankful heart while living in a world that the Bible itself describes as “crooked and perverse” (Phil. 2:15)? How can we be thankful when, like Lot, we are vexed daily by the utter madness of the world around us? “For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” (2 Pet. 2:8). The answer is found in maintaining the perspective of eternity, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

2 Corinthians 4:18:
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

The eternal victory of Christ cannot be seen with carnal eyes. It cannot be grasped by the mind of the flesh.

1 Corinthians 2:9:
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

The secret to thankfulness is enlightenment. To be truly thankful, your eyes must be opened to and your heart filled with the hope and joyful expectation of the glory that awaits us in Christ.

Ephesians 1:18:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

It is the eternal realities, the “evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1) that enliven us and give us reason to be joyful even amid the trials and tribulations of life. For this reason, we can give thanks in every thing.

Now, we enter into that time of year known as the Christmas season. By the grace and mercy of our heavenly Father, you and I are allowed to celebrate the birth of our Saviour openly and without fear of retribution. I pray this is not something you take for granted. Do you imagine it has always been, and will always be this way? One need only open a book of history to realize that religious freedom has always come at a high cost. The Bible makes it plain for all who have eyes to see that our situation is going to get worse before it gets better.

2 Timothy 3:1:
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

1 Timothy 4:3-4:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

The bastardizing of the Christmas holiday into a orgy of fables and mindless consumption is evidence of a society that has rejected the message of Jesus Christ. It is a terrible irony that here in America, it is the day after Thanksgiving that is the commencement of the so-called Shopping Season. People rush to spend money they don’t really have to buy things people don’t really need. They fill their shopping carts with meaningless trifles that will be forgotten long before the last pine needle falls from the Christmas tree.

They are blind, but by the grace of God, you and I can see. Therefore, during this Christmas season, let us not permit the madness of society to deter us from celebrating the birth of Christ. There is perhaps no other time of year that so magnifies the words Paul first wrote to the Church at Philippi: “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Phil. 1:18). Let us rejoice that in every star on every Christmas tree and in every nativity scene on display, Christ is preached.

Luke 1:68-75:
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

This is the season of Thanksgiving, and the season for remembering Christ’s birth. Yet for spiritually vital Christians, these are more than annual events. These are our daily realities. Let us be instant, in season and out of season, to be thankful for the victory that is assuredly ours in Christ.



From the December 2002 issue of The Vine & Branches