A Thanksgiving Devotional

“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stall, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation.”

— Habakkuk 3:17-18

The prophet Habakkuk writes of rejoicing in the salvation and strength of the Sovereign LORD even in the midst of utter desolation, loss, destruction, poverty, famine, and even death. This scenario sounds all too familiar. Giving thanks, rejoicing in the face of evils that rage about us, is a discipline rooted in the goodness and providence of our gracious and loving God. All of us have encountered in differing degrees the kind of loss, devastation, and abandonment referred to by Habakkuk. In these times we are summoned thankfully to rejoice in the seemingly insignificant blessings of God, those blessings which tempt to pass unacknowledged and even unnoticed.

In the speech that Maximus gives to his Roman soldiers toward the beginning of the movie Gladiator, Maximus proclaims, “Brothers, what we do in life… echoes in eternity.” We don’t just give thanks for our benefit in the face of suffering, but for the benefit of all humankind, as an intercession of sorts to represent the thanks of all people, past and present, back to our Creator.

God ultimately gives us the ability, as St. Teresa wrote, “to discern the providence and wisdom of God” in the entire created order and all circumstances, and to stand in the strength and sure hope of the God who is love. We discern God’s wisdom not necessarily by understanding it, but rather by simply trusting and standing in hopeful love.

St. Basil the Great wrote, “When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way. Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator.”

This Thanksgiving, let us give thanks, as Paul states, “in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Let us give thanks that God created us out of sheer love and continues lovingly to sustain us even in the midst of suffering. Let us proclaim, sing and enact that Gospel of love in robust mission that transforms the world into the fullness of Christ’s Kingdom, ushering in the reign of God across the earth. Thanks be to God, our salvation, our strength, and our comfort!

May you and yours have a most blessed Thanksgiving!

The Lord be with you,

James R. Hart, IWS President

About the author

Dr. James R. Hart has served as President of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies since 2007. Dr. Hart was a member of the first IWS doctoral class, the Alpha class, and served as Dean of Students during his matriculation. After graduating from IWS, Dr. Webber appointed him as the Dean of Administration, and then Provost in 2006. In June of 2007, he was inaugurated as the second president of IWS. Dr. Hart holds a B.M. in Sacred Music from Oral Roberts University, an M.M. in Trumpet Performance from the University of Tulsa, and a D.W.S. from the Institute for Worship Studies. He was critical to the formation of IWS in Florida and has held administrative responsibilities since its inception in 1999. He is a professional trumpeter, choral director, and worship leader, and a published composer/arranger, songwriter, and author. He has been involved in worship leadership in various contexts around the globe for over 40 years and has taught in the areas of worship, theology, and music in various conferences, colleges, and seminaries. Dr. Hart and his wife, Carol, have three daughters and three grandchildren.
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