This Thanksgiving, 21 out of my 27 family members who came together to “celebrate” ended up with the stomach flu. My house turned into an infirmary and Thanksgiving weekend looked slightly different than we all anticipated. As I did my best to help out with the grandkids (while trying to avoid catching this nasty bug), I reflected on a few reasons for thankfulness we don’t often think about—perhaps the ultimate reason for thankfulness.
It comes down to this: We are included in God’s unshakable kingdom. If we can act on this truth, we can find thanksgiving in any circumstance. And Jesus gives us some specific commands to help us set our minds on the kingdom.
1. Ask for the kingdom. When Jesus gave his disciples the model for prayer, the first thing he instructed them to ask for was God’s will to be done, God’s kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven. That’s an amazing request. Before any other request—before food, forgiveness, or protection from evil and temptation—we are to ask for God’s kingdom to be firmly established on earth, exactly like it is in heaven now.
There is a present sense to that prayer—that God would work through his church to proclaim the gospel and serve others in the name of Christ. There is also a future sense of God’s kingdom. Someday Jesus will return to restore and recreate the earth and make it perfect. He will completely reverse the effects of sin. Believers are to long for the kingdom now…to make it so important in our lives that it’s the first thing we ask for. Because we know, according to Romans 8, that the sufferings of this present time are not even comparable to the glory that is to be revealed to us.
2. Be thankful for God’s kingdom. There are infinitely good reasons to long for God’s kingdom, but perhaps the greatest is that it can’t be shaken. These are difficult times. Many are out of work; many are concerned about their jobs. God knows we have needs on this earth and can’t wait for heaven. That’s why Jesus’ model prayer starts with a call for God’s kingdom but moves immediately to our immediate need, daily bread. That’s also why Jesus was so careful to emphasize that God knows our every need. He knows the needs of the sparrows and counts the very hairs of our heads. But our cry for daily care must be grounded in our hope and anticipation of the kingdom to come. And in our commitment to live out God’s kingdom now on this earth, as the church, lives in the likeness of Christ in all that we do as we await his coming. So choose to live there—now. Hebrews 12 tells us that someday God will remove the “things that have been made.” Everything material will be removed, the earth will burn, but God’s kingdom is eternal and perfect and indestructible. Nothing can even shake it: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).
3. Worship God for including us in his kingdom. God bought us and brought us into his kingdom through the sacrifice of his Son. Thankfully, living in God’s kingdom results in deep, often spontaneous, worship. “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12: 28 -29)
Acceptable worship is thankful worship.
Jesus reminds us that while the world around us may be shaken, he has brought us into his unshakable kingdom. Because of this profound truth, we have every reason to rejoice and be glad even in the midst of our deepest valleys—and Thanksgiving-day flu bugs.