“[It is] announced in Holy Scripture and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord… It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.” Abraham Lincoln
It was President Abraham Lincoln who signed an act in 1863 passed by Congress for Thanksgiving Day to be recognized on the last Thursday of November.
We’ve come so far and yet there is so much we continue to take for granted.
Battling the elements and the challenges of living in a new land, the Pilgrims made many more graves than huts, and yet these brave pioneers thanked Almighty God by setting aside a day of Thanksgiving! This is the American spirit; the same spirit that led brave men and women to leave England in pursuit of a land where they could worship the Lord Jesus Christ without restriction.
It is in this spirit of faith that the first Governor of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford wrote:
“Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, againe to set their feete on the firme and stable earth … Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honor of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony.”
The Bible teaches us to give thanks in every circumstance and when times are tough, we know the testing of our faith produces endurance. Most of us can’t fathom what the early pioneers had to go through to gain the independence we take for granted today. Thanksgiving was originally a celebration of the harvest among the British colonists who came to America.
Then on January 1, 1795, President George Washington signed a “National Thanksgiving Proclamation,” stating:
“Our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experienced.”
Sixty years later, in addition to the desire to see all Americans acknowledge God and give thanks, Abraham Lincoln also recognized what he believed was God’s hand of judgment on America “for our national perverseness and disobedience.” People were falling away from God, the Civil War was taking American lives and dividing the people, and Lincoln declared the first national day of fasting and repentance. In the April, 1863 proclamation, he stated:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. …We have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
Great men seek the help of a much greater God in times of need. I wonder what Lincoln would say today.
In 2016, Americans seem angrier and less loving, more demanding and less patient, more entitled and less willing to work, more greedy and less grateful, more selfish and less Christian.
But God never changes and He is not surprised that we’ve fallen away from Him by choosing culture over Christ, and the creature over the Creator (Romans 1:25). We love this life a bit too much and have conformed to the world instead of being changed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We have become so busy, distracted, and stressed about things having little lasting value that we have lost our eternal perspective.
What’s the best way to regain a healthy perspective, a calm sense of hope, and a fresh thought process? Get in God’s Word.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7
We have steadily abandoned the morals and principles that once made us great. Those who oppose God have assaulted the American family, threatened religious freedom, attacked Christians, rewritten our history, and have eroded the foundations of our liberty. Because of our own silence and apathy combined with these anti-Christian agendas, we are reaping the consequences as a church and nation.
What’s it going to take for America to be humbled and repent? Christians must be brought to our knees.
How do we cultivate hearts of gratitude toward God and understand how good He has been to us? Remember the Gospel. In His goodness, He sent His only Son, Jesus, to sacrifice Himself so that whoever believes Him and receives this precious gift can be forgiven of their sins. These sins once separated us from a holy, loving God, but now we’ve been brought near to Him by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13)!
We have so much to be thankful for in America. Look around the world and it won’t take long to recognize despite our flaws and apathy, we do live in an exceptional country thanks to the faith of our founders and their vision for this nation.
America has done more for the world’s stability and for people in need than any nation on earth. Overall, we are a generous, compassionate people. Through the years, American churches and charities have provided practical help to countless souls world-wide and in our short history, the gospel of Jesus Christ has reached millions. The spiritual needs of humanity is far greater than any other.
So, knowing he has you and I here for His purposes at this very time in history, let’s remember the God we have taken for granted.
Thanksgiving isn’t a time to be busy and overly distracted with planning, eating, shopping, or feeling obligated; it’s a time to lift our hands in humility to the One who holds our every breath and heartbeat. God is faithful and He promises to provide all our needs (Phil. 4:13).
It is also a time to analyze and evaluate our priorities and get right with God if we have personally strayed from Him. It is a time to encourage others to cry out to the Lord for mercy and to save America from self-destruction.
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Let’s get back to the basics of faith, family, and freedom; back to loving King [Jesus] and Country. Ours is a beautiful land and we have much to be thankful for including those who have sacrificed for the freedoms we now enjoy.
“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife. Who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life! America! America! God shed his grace on Thee …”
May His amazing grace lead us to repentance. If Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, then our perspective can be one of gratitude no matter what is happening around us. Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever; …But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Psalm 106:1, 1 Cor. 15:57
Top image of Abraham Lincoln 1865. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)