The smell of turkey fills the air as activity bustles within the house. Family and friends are gathered around the table with laughter all around. Stories of times past, hopes for the future, and joy in the moment are each shared with one another. Loved ones whom you may not normally see have taken the trek to join you on this day. Such is the blessing of Thanksgiving. It is a day set aside to be grateful in our hearts for the blessings God has given. Intriguingly, the famed preacher of the 20th century Martyn Lloyd-Jones stated:
“Nothing is more important, therefore, than that we should be delivered from a condition which gives other people, looking at us, the impression that to be a Christian means to be unhappy, to be sad, to be morbid, and that the Christian is one who ‘scorns delights and lives laborious days’. There are many indeed who give this as a reason for not being Christian, and for giving up all interest they may ever have had in the Christian faith. They say: Look at Christian people, look at the impression they give! And they are very fond of contrasting us with people out in the world, people who seem to be so thrilled by the things they believe in, whatever they may be. They shout at their football matches, they talk about the films they have seen, they are full of excitement and want everybody to know it; but Christian people too often seem to be perpetually in the doldrums and too often give this appearance of unhappiness and of lack of freedom and of absence of joy.”1
Lloyd-Jones is not arguing for a superficial Christianity which has this fleeting happiness of the world dependent upon circumstances. He has in mind a depth of profound joy that even manifests itself in life’s difficult moments:
“We must so live that they will be compelled to say: Would to God I could be like that, would to God I could live in this world and go through this world as that person does. Obviously, if we are cast down ourselves we are never going to be able to function in that way.”
The Doctor, as Lloyd-Jones was known, is not saying our doctrinal or moral position should change bending to the compelling whims of the world. Specifically, he is discussing the reality that our joy and demeanor in life should be such that it testifies to the world we are a peculiar people. Did not our Lord say that His disciples would be known by their love (John 13:35)? The disciples are said to not only be filled with the Spirit but also with joy (Acts 13:52). It is specifically mentioned as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Paul the Apostle labored not only for the progress of the saints but also for their joy (Philippians 1:25). Remarkably, it is even said in Scripture that the Lord Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). There is no doubt Lloyd-Jones is spot-on in calling us to a vibrant joy-filled relationship with Christ.
Yet, there is a direct tie between joy and thanksgiving. Philippians 4:4-7 says:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:4-6
The joy the Christian has in Christ leads them to cast aside anxiety bowing before God in prayer with hearts full of thanksgiving bringing a peace that is beyond anything the lost world knows. Therefore, my friends, in this short Thanksgiving meditation, I want to encourage us to take joy and thanksgiving seriously in Christ. Let us remember what our Lord has done for us in giving us salvation. May we find joy in Him delighting in His perfection and glorious work each day of our lives. These precious realities should cause our hearts to overflow with thanksgiving to our God. All of these realities mark us as being distinct from the world. A grounded joy in the good times of life and the difficult points to the truth our anchor holds firm. I pray an awakening amongst believers starts this very day!
1 All quotes from his book: Spiritual Depression