Good afternoon from Managua, Nicaragua!

While tomorrow’s holiday may be a U.S. based celebration, the concept of giving thanks and being thankful is applicable anywhere.  This truth led me to take advantage of the opportunity Thanksgiving presents in preparing this week’s devotional for the teenagers in El Canyon.  

Thankfulness is an interesting thing.  Often times it is only a fleeting feeling after receiving something we wanted, or a periodic event that coincides with moments we are told require thankfulness such as Thanksgiving or our birthday.  It seems that without something to remind us, we tend to walk through life in a state of forgetfulness when it comes to giving thanks.  It is not that we are necessarily ungrateful people, but rather that we take many things for granted until the moment when they are taken from us or brought to the forefront of our minds by something.  On Monday evening I had the chance to talk to the teenagers in El Canyon about this idea and what it looks like to live a life of gratitude.

When talking to people, I always find that it is always helpful to put the topic in terms they can relate to.  In this case, I decided talking about chocolate would get the teenagers attention.  Upon starting, I asked them what they would be more thankful for, a single chocolate or chocolate factory to which they could go whenever they wanted to get as much chocolate as they could eat.  Not surprisingly, they picked the factory.  Why?  Owning their own chocolate factory would provide them with an unlimited supply of the thing that brings them so much happiness.  What if there was something that could infinitely more joy and hope in our lives than a chocolate factory ever could?  Do you think it would make us more thankful people?

In the Bible there is a story of a wealthy tax collector named Zacchaeus who had a life changing encounter with Jesus.  The story begins with Jesus inviting himself to dinner at Zacchaeus’ house after seeing Zacchaeus watching him walk by from a sycamore fig tree.  If you do not know anything about tax collectors in those days, they were despised and avoided by most people due to their reputation as cheaters and traitors. The fact that Jesus, a respected teacher, would ask to come to Zacchaeus’ house was a big deal.  We do not know exactly what happened during dinner, but we do know it produced a major change in Zacchaeus’ life. “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord!  Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay him back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8, NIV 1984)  It goes on to say that Jesus told Zacchaeus that “salvation had come to his house” and that he had come to “seek and save” people like him.  Meeting Jesus produced a reaction in Zacchaeus that can only be described as an act of extreme gratitude.

It is here that I believe we can find the hope and joy that produces a life of thankfulness.  Like Zacchaeus, a relationship with Christ can change the trajectory of our lives.  An accurate picture of how much God loves you and desires for you to have a meaningful life provide a constant source of joy, one might even say a joy factory.  It is my experience realizing that Christ came and ultimately died so that I could have this accurate picture and be in this relationship puts everything in perspective and is an incredible source of gratitude.  Additionally, I am better able to see everything I have as a blessing from God and, therefore, able to be more thankful. Does this mean I no longer suffer from forgetfulness when it comes to giving thanks?  Certainly not, but I have found that the more my relationship with Christ and understanding of God grows, the less forgetful I am.  Maybe this Thanksgiving is an opportunity for you to begin to do the same.

Happy Thanksgiving!

– James Belt            

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