With Thanksgiving to God


Psalm 107 :

O give thanks unto the Lord for he is good; his mercy endureth forever. 

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy. 

Verse 8:

Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. 

Verse 15:

Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 

For he hath broken the gates of brass and cut the bars of iron asunder. 

He’s made us free! 

Verse 21:

Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing. 

Verse 31:

Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Let them exalt in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders. 

Verse 41:

Yet sitteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock. 

The righteous shall see it, and rejoice; and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. 

Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.

A beautiful paean of praise to God for his wonderful goodnesses to us. 

One of the most traumatic and moving of all the scenes in American history came to pass on the fifth day of April in 1621.  There stood a little band of 51 Pilgrims on the shore of Plymouth Bay in what is, today, Massachusetts. 

They had endured a terrible winter.  One hundred two of them had come to the new land, the New World, on the Mayflower.  And January and February of that year of 1621, one half, 51, of the band had died.  They were buried in unmarked graves, leveled with the ground, lest the Indians see how few and weak were those that remained.  They were buried on Cole’s Hill overlooking the Plymouth Bay. 

On that fifth day of April in 1621, the 51 survivors stood and watched the Mayflower leave the shores and waters of America.  Not one of the living Pilgrims—not one of these remaining men and women of God, boarded the ship to return back to their homes in England. 

They had come and to find and to build a place of worship in the New World.  And despite the hardships that faced them, and the burden of grief that overwhelmed them, they remained to build a new nation on the new continent called America. 

They were devout people, those pilgrims.  They brought with them their most precious possession: this King James Version of the Bible.  It had been published just nine years before.  And it was the center of their life and their hope and their purpose before God. 

After they built their shelters, where this Bible was the center of their family devotions, they first erected their church where this Bible was preached.  And after building the church house, their next structure was a schoolhouse.  And the textbook of the school was this Bible. 

They elected William Bradford as the governor of their little Pilgrim band.  And in the fall time of 1621, God having graciously blessed the seed they had sown and given them a bountiful harvest to reap, Governor William Bradford announced a time of thanksgivng, the first Thanksgiving in the New World of America. 

And in the fall time of 1621, for three days, they rejoiced in the goodness of God, the friendly Indians outnumbering the Pilgrims.  That was in keeping with what they read in this Bible.  For throughout the Book of Leviticus, the people brought peace offerings to the Lord. 

I think a better translation of the word would be “thanksgiving offerings” to the Lord.  The family, their friends and neighbors, with the officiating priest, they rejoiced as they ate together in the remembrance of heaven. 

Also in this Bible, throughout the Book of Deuteronomy, they read about the Feast of Tabernacles.  You could call it the feast of “in-gathering,” the feast of harvest time.  And in the fall time, the people met by families and thanked God for His wonderful goodnesses in giving them rain from heaven and food from the field. 

Such did the Apostle Paul admonish his people who love the Lord.  In the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians: “Be ye thankful—Be ye thankful, for this is the will of God concerning you.”  And in the last chapter of the Book of Philippians: “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” 

So, our first pilgrim forefathers, that first year, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and praise the Lord for His remembrance in the harvest.  That spirit of gratitude to God continued in the growth of the new nation.  After the terrible sacrifices of the Revolutionary War, and after the writing of the Constitution, in the first assembly of the Congress, both Houses passed a joint resolution asking the president—the new President, George Washington—to proclaim a national day of Thanksgiving. 

And this is what our first president wrote in 1789: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer: 

“Now, therefore, I do recommend an assigned Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November, to be devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the magnificent Author of the good that is and that will be, that we may all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and the protection of the people of this country. 

Given under my hand the third day of October, A.D., 1789.”  And signed, George Washington. 

In 1864, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the first national annual holiday to be the last Thursday of November of each succeeding year in which our people were to thank the Lord, as a people, as a nation, for His wonderful goodnesses to the children of men.  And thus, it has continued to this day: a Thanksgiving to our Lord for His remembrance of us. 

So, with pride and gratitude we thank God for the nation they built:

 

This country, our country.

Breathes there the man with soul so dead

Who never to himself hath said

This is my own, my native land.

Whose heart within him never burned

As homeward his weary footsteps turned

From wandering on a foreign strand.

 

God bless America, land that I love.

Stand beside her and guide her

With a light through the night from above.

From the prairies, to the mountains,

to the ocean white with foam.

God bless America, my home, sweet home.

 

And with thanksgiving to God for the faith they bequeathed to us, the Book and the gospel and the assembly of God’s people in the church, those pioneer preachers pressed across the Alleghenies, into the West and ever, ever westward and, finally, brought the message of Christ to us. 

My father, in the beginning days and years of his life, was a cowpoke on the vast ranches in West Texas.  He was converted when he was 27 years of age.  And I’m speaking now of over 72 years ago. 

I can still see in memory and hear those pioneer preachers: uncouth, uneducated, unacceptable in any elegant urban polished pulpit of the day.  But, their hearts were aflame with the love of God.  And their speech was full and moving and eloquent as they brought the message of salvation to the people who lived in the West. 

They established our churches.  They founded our Christian institutions. 

And we owe a debt to them that we could never, ever repay. 

We thank God for the pioneer preachers, and we thank God for the gospel they brought to our homes and our hearts and our people.  With thanksgiving to God, we call to mind and remember the courage and the noble faith by which they faced all of the hardships and trials and troubles of life.  They did it in the love and faith and persuasion of the presence and goodness of the Lord God of heaven. 

An older teenager came to his father one day, and said, “Dad, you know, God is supposed to be a helper for these who are helpless and He’s supposed to champion the poor, but I don’t see it.  This man here who has a place to stay in the station, and all of years of his life, he’s supposed to be one of the best men in the community.  He’s supposed to have honored God with his life, with his home, and his family and with his firstfruits.  But, I don’t see it.  He’s the poorest among us.  And how he lives, I don’t understand.

“And I don’t understand it, see it, Dad, I just don’t.  There are not any troubles that have not come unto him.   All of the vicissitudes and fortunes of life that devastate characterize him.  He has troubles and he lives in devastation. 

A godly man, Christian man, who loves the Lord, but there are no troubles that he doesn’t have.  The wind blows, tear his farmhouse down.  One of his horses was struck by the lightning.  There are no sorrows and no lack that he hasn’t experienced. 

“And I don’t understand it, Dad.  He’s supposed to be a Christian and God’s supposed to take care of him.  But, I don’t see God taking care of him any better than he does anybody else and, seemingly, to me, he’s worse off than anybody we know.” 

And the father replied to his boy, and said, “Son, you’re not old enough to remember.  But, when I knew the old man, he was a drunkard, and his family was in want.  They went hungry and cold in the wintertime.  They suffered. 

“But, son, the old man was converted.  He was saved.  And immediately, he became a new man in Christ Jesus.  They haven’t this world’s goods, as you see some possess.  But, Christ is in their home and the children have been reared in the love in nurture of the Lord and the blessings of heaven are upon them. 

“And by the way, Son, have you talked to the old man and does he complain?  Does he find fault?  Or, does he bless God for the remembrances of heaven that enrich his house and his home.”

And the boy thought and said, “Well, Dad, I just hadn’t thought of it like that.  No, I’ve never heard him complain.  And I’ve never heard him find fault with God.  All I’ve ever heard from him was the blessings that the Lord had bestowed upon him, and how thankful he was for heaven’s remembrance.” 

And the father said to the boy, “Son, that is the blessing and gift of heaven.  All of us are subject to the vicissitudes and fortunes of an ill wind—the disappointments and hurts of life, all of us.  All of us are subject to the passing vicissitudes of time and fortune.  We get old and older.  Inevitably, the day will come when we linger and die. 

“And there are disappointments that dot the day of our pilgrimage. 

We don’t escape them, no matter who we are.  And there’s no place in this earth in which we can hide and thus escape the vicissitudes and fortunes of life.  That is a common denominator and inheritance of all mankind. 

“But, the difference lies in your heart and in your life: to have God as your refuge and strength, and to have Jesus as your partner and to walk with Him through the valley of the shadow, and to have Him to be your friend and companion.  There’s nothing like the blessing of the presence of God known to the human heart.” 

And the boy replied, “Dad, I had never thought of it like that.  That old man is rich and God is blessing his family.  And Dad, we’ll not forget that the great and marvelous and precious blessings, for which we are thankful, are these that come from His bountiful hands.””

And let that be our spirit and our heart and our response, our attitude toward all the vicissitudes and fortunes of life.  Am I well?  Lord, thank you for the gift. 

Am I not well?  Then, Lord, thank you for the comforting presence of the Great and blessed Physician. 

Am I disappointed?  Do I halt?  Do I have problems that seemingly are insoluble?  Then Lord, thank you for being close by.  “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”  Strength is mine because of your love and grace. 

And dear God, how could I thank Thee for that better life that is yet to come, given to us freely in Christ Jesus—maybe poor toward men, but rich toward God: living in a hovel here, but having a mansion over there; sometimes, sadly, alone in a pilgrimage in this life, but someday to accompany angels in the throng that worship and sing the praises of God in heaven.  Oh, how good God is to those who love Him! 

And that is our invitation to your heart today.

 (A message given by Dr. W.A. Criswell to the First Baptist Church of Dallas on November 22, 1987)

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