What are your favorite memories surrounding the holiday of Thanksgiving? I will wager they don’t immediately center around the idea of “self-sacrifice.” Mine sure don’t. Mine center around the fragrant smells of yummy foods in the oven, selfish gluttony around the dinner table (as large quantities of those foods are consumed), and the inevitable selfish snooze in my rocking chair. Talk about self-indulgence.
This year I plan to pause for a moment before taking that snooze, as the foods reach my belly and begin to digest. I am going to pause and consider another belly, a now-famous belly: the belly of a great fish, which once attempted to digest a Prophet of the LORD.
I have learned a secret of thanksgiving that I am passing along to you.
Really? A secret lesson from inside the belly—of a great fish? Yes.
Have you ever prayed a prayer from inside the belly of a great fish?
I think we should listen to him:
“While I was fainting away, I REMEMBERED THE LORD; and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple; I will sacrifice to You, WITH THE VOICE OF THANKSGIVING” (Jonah 2: 7, 9).
You might not be sitting inside the belly of great fish right now like Jonah was, but there is a parallel here. Any hard trial you are facing, any difficult circumstance, or feelings of personal insecurity, loneliness, ingratitude, or failure—can be likened to this dark moment of Jonah’s life. He was feeling those things, too.
Yet he suddenly responds by opening his heart to seek the LORD.
He “REMEMBERS” the faithfulness of God. God provided that great fish to swallow him. That belly experience was his salvation from the waters of the deep that would have drowned him.
No wonder he could say, “Salvation is from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9).
He brings the only sacrifice he can muster at the moment: THE VOICE OF THANKSGIVING.
Let me be honest. You have to train yourself, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to remember the faithfulness of God when you are in the middle of the belly (I mean, your own individual moment of trial).
Jonah managed to keep his focus on the GOODNESS of God, and to THANK HIM and PRAISE HIM in the midst of his trial.
So Jonah goes to battle against this self-reliance and self-centeredness by the simple sacrifice of THANKSGIVING.
You must train yourself, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to THANK HIM and remember HIS FAITHFULNESS in spite of any pain or situation you are in.
Try it! It works! The focus changes from YOU to HIM!
Begin right now to consciously thank the LORD for every possible blessing in your life. Out loud. Like he did. “Remember” the LORD and bring forth a sacrifice of praise from your own lips.
Just as many of you are, I am personally in the middle of a “trial” as I write this blog. Yet if I pause right now, and consider the many ways that God has been faithful to me in the past years, months, weeks, days and even hours, I am suddenly transformed from self-centeredness to prayerful praising!
The focus of my heart goes off of me (and my circumstance and trial) and goes to praising HIM.
And the list goes on. He HAS been faithful to you. He IS FAITHFUL now. And HE WILL BE faithful to you in the future.
So remember the lesson of Jonah from inside the belly of the great fish. Especially on Thanksgiving Day, but more importantly as you choose to make EVERYDAY a Thanksgiving Day of sacrifice and praise from your lips.
“Enter into his gates with THANKSGIVING, and His courts with praise! GIVE THANKS TO HIM, bless His name” (Psalm 100:4)!
So go ahead, trade your own self-indulgence of that Thanksgiving turkey for a new daily habit of self-sacrifice: THANKSGIVING that can resound from your lips—every moment of this upcoming year.
“In all circumstances, GIVE THANKS, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18).