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When I say the word, “Thanksgiving,” what comes to mind? When I was a kid, Thanksgiving brought images of Pilgrims, turkey, pumpkin pie, fall leaves and football. Now that I’m older, Thanksgiving still brings many of those things to mind, but there is much more at the forefront. Thanksgiving means travel, driving, calorie-counting, thinking of what I forgot to do at work, wondering if I should put the Christmas decorations up, and a litany of other things.

That being said, Thanksgiving still brings to mind family, togetherness, and most importantly: opportunity.

As you gather around the table this holiday weekend, whether Thanksgiving is a peaceful and joyous occasion for you or a dread-filled turkey fright fest, there are three ways I want to encourage you to use your Thanksgiving for the glory of God.

1. Be Thankful.

At the beginning of Ephesians 5, after a celebration of the gospel and a beautiful charge to unity, Paul turns a corner and shows believers how to “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Paul inserts a word to contrast the attitude, speech and perspective of the believer with that of the non-believer. The word he uses: Thanksgiving. “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:4). What is the overarching and defining mark of a believer’s attitude, heart and speech? Thankfulness. No matter where you are going, or what you are doing this weekend, find something to be thankful for. This honors God.

2. Use the Time.

The Pilgrims, parades, turkey, and football only take so long. Much of the time spent around Thanksgiving is not related to the holiday itself, but is simply “down time.” This year, as much as you think about the stuffing and gravy, think about how you can use the time for God’s glory and your joy. Do you have a long drive? Plan to turn the radio down and the family conversation up. Wondering what to do while everyone is in a tryptophan coma? Bring that gospel-centered book you’ve had on the shelf, get a new one, or commit to reading a certain portion of the Bible.

 3. Use Words.

My hope for you is that you will spend Thanksgiving this year with those you love. Take advantage of the time not just to show love and spend time with each other, but actually say the words. We never know how many opportunities we will get. Take advantage of the opportunity before you. Dads, hug your kids and tell them you are thankful for them. Don’t just dance around the awkward conversation, talk about the gospel. Don’t just do thankful things, say thankful gospel-infused words.

No matter what Thanksgiving holds for you, remember Who holds Thanksgiving. Ultimately, our greatest thanks is rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Be thankful.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and may these words of the Apostle Paul be true for you:

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3).