How was it possible for the Pilgrims to give God heartfelt thanks after going through such a terrible winter? All had nearly starved to death and each had lost family and friends to the harsh New England winter of 1620-21. And there can be no doubt that much grieving and sorrow was still present. But like Job (Job 1:21; 2:10) the Pilgrims refused to angrily slander God and seemed to be able to look past their troubles into another realm. By faith they saw blessings that cant be seen with the natural eye and rejoiced, and in doing so left a great legacy for our nation that we still celebrate 388 years later. They modeled for us how to thank God in the midst of hard times. At all times, but especially in hard times, believers focus on the great rewards Jesus has won for us. The Bible calls this focus on the future: hope. And hope is a powerful transformative force. It brings fresh energy and resolve when bad news has left us discouraged.
So, having acknowledged that there are plenty of negative things going on that if we fix our attention on them will drain us of thanks, lets instead reflect on an amazing list of promises Jesus makes to overcomers in the Book of Revelation. Each promise gives us a new glimpse of the glories waiting for us in eternity. These will remind us of how much we have to be thankful for even in the hardest of times, and they remind us that we too are just pilgrims camped on the shore of a hostile land (Heb 11:8-10, 13-16).
Pilgrim Thanksgivings (1621 and 1623)
Selected readings from Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory, Fleming H. Revell Co., 1977, pp. 115-144
What did they see?
In 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:9 Paul tells believers we are not to lose heart when undergoing hardship because there is an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison waiting for us. He tells us that our eyes of faith are to be focused not on this world but on one which cant be seen with natural eyes. Thats our real home and the one that really matters because its eternal while this one is quickly passing away.
He forces us to make a decision. Is he correct or are the things not seen that he hopes in so strongly merely a fantasy world? Answering these questions will help us decide:
Will I wake up some morning one day younger? Am I moving inescapably a day at a time toward death?
Will the devil decide to be nice one day and stop opposing, tempting and oppressing me?
Will the nations and terrorists and criminals of the world decide to give peace a chance?
Will a generation rise up that doesnt have to learn its lessons by making mistakes?
Has the human heart evolved to the point where greed, cruelty, anger, hatred and lust are gone?
If not, then the real fantasy world is the one where people hope to find heaven on earth and live in denial of the brevity of life. So, you and I have a choice: which world is the one upon which I focus my eyes? Here? Then carpe diem! There? Then Ill live this life for Christ and quit being condemned or angry at God because I still face trouble.
The pilgrims did not expect a trouble-free life. They saw this life as a brief season of preparation for eternity.
They were not surprised when life was hard because they were pilgrims on this planet.
They lived their lives corporately, not merely as individuals. They considered God to be faithful if He carried their community forward, even if hardship affected them as an individual.
They saw life as a gift from God that He could take back.
They were satisfied with sustenance and did not need opulence (daily bread, not storehouses full). At their second Thanksgiving in 1623 the first course served was five kernels of corn to remind them of their daily rations during the starving time in the winter of 1621-22. (Would I curse those five kernels or thank God for them?)
What does Jesus promise the seven churches?
Lets lift our eyes and behold things not seen:
Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21
See Daily Bible Study (Wednesday-Saturday)
Thanksgiving is basically a solemn assembly in which our nation takes a Sabbath day to recognize God as our Source and thank Him for His goodness. As a nation we still have an enormous amount of blessings for which we can thank Him. But beyond that, as believers we have things to give thanks for that there arent words to describe. So remembering that we too are pilgrims, lets worship God this Thanksgiving.
Some practical comments
Thanksgiving is a national holiday, not a family holiday, so:
1) Add places to your table and invite those who might not have a place to go.
2) If possible, dont eat alone. Invite someone to have dinner with you at a restaurant (or microwave some frozen dinners).
3) Have turkey (and pumpkin pie?) unless severely allergic.
4) Give to and help with the Thanksgiving Food Drive (Heb 13:16).
5) Spend time discussing: ways God has provided for you, special people in your life, spiritual blessings you have received this year or one of the promises given to the seven churches (Rev 2, 3) which means a lot to you this year.
6) Optional: Pray for our country, our troops, our church, our missionaries, our leaders (national, denominational, congregational).
7) Remember: Habakkuk 3:16-19
Lets start now
Who has God been to you this year? Lets answer using just one word: Savior, provider, protector, friend, heart-changer
1) Whats the best thing that has happened to you this year?
2) Where do Habakkuk 3:16-19 and Job 1:21; 2:10 apply to you this year?