Let Us Give Thanks

IT has been a long time since the first Thanksgiving Day, and many changes have taken place. The population of our land has increased to nearly three hundred million. With reference to just our country alone, the Revolutionary War won freedom from the mother country of England. There was the Civil War between the North and the South, the Spanish-American War, the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Through all this welter of experiences, many have lost faith in the existence of a loving God whose providences overrule in their lives.

But still the custom of observing a national day of thanksgiving continues, and certainly those who rejoice in a knowledge of the true and loving God and his plans are happy to take advantage of this special occasion for giving thanks. We recognize, of course, that it is the Christian’s privilege to give thanks to the Heavenly Father every day for his tender watch-care over all their affairs. They know that while he may permit them to pass through difficult experiences he is so overruling in their affairs that all things are working together for their good as New Creatures in Christ Jesus.—Rom. 8:28

The Apostle Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thess. 5:18) To properly give thanks in everything means that every day will be one of thanksgiving. It means that we will not thank the Lord merely for those things which contribute to our immediate wellbeing and joy, but also for the trials which he permits to test and to develop us as Christians.

For His Son

There are certain abiding values in our lives as Christians for which we should daily give thanks. One is the fact that our Heavenly Father gave his beloved Son to be our Redeemer and Savior. (John 3:16) In II Corinthians 9:15 the Apostle Paul writes, “Thanks be unto God for his inestimable gift.” (TCNT) This inestimable gift is Jesus, the one who is altogether lovely—“holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.”—Heb. 7:26

Jesus is not only our Redeemer and Savior, but also our elder brother; our advocate with the Father; our great high priest; our good shepherd who gave his life for his sheep; our friend. Jesus is also the captain of our salvation; and in due time will be our heavenly bridegroom.

We should be thankful for the assurance that we will be given the necessary strength and courage to continue on in the narrow way of sacrifice and service, and will attain victory and the crown of life at the end. Again Paul wrote, “Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place.” (II Cor. 2:14) If we are on God’s side, humbly serving him, we cannot lose, but are sure to be victorious, so we can say, “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”—I Cor. 15:57

Prayers of Thanksgiving

Giving thanks to God for his many blessings is an important aspect of prayer, and is properly a part of all our prayers. Paul had learned from a fellow worker, Epaphras, of the love and zeal of the brethren at Colosse, and he wrote to them, saying, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard ‘it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”—Col. 1:9-12

What a wonderful summary this is of God’s blessings upon those whose one desire and purpose is to know and to do his will! These are the ones whom God “hath made … meet [or suitable] to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Truly, this is a cause for thanksgiving to all who have heard the invitation to the high calling, and who have responded in terms of full devotion to God and to his will.

This, in reality, is simply being thankful for the truth concerning God—the truth of his great plan of the ages. It is through this truth and its power that we are invited to take up our cross and follow the Master; and it is through the truth that we are assured of victory, and of the future glorious privilege of living and reigning with Christ as priests and kings unto God.—Rev. 20:6

For the Brethren

As we have seen, one of Paul’s outstanding reasons for thanksgiving was his brethren in Christ. He appreciated and loved his brethren, and not only did he pray for them, but daily gave thanks to God for what they meant to him. One of the outstanding examples of this is in his expression of love to the brethren at Philippi. He wrote: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”—Phil. 1:3-6

There is an unusual tenderness of thought expressed in this message of greeting to the brethren at Philippi. “I thank my God,” Paul said, “upon every remembrance of you.” And he assures these brethren that he remembered them in his every prayer, and that he had been doing this from the first day until now! Apparently Paul held very fond memories of that first day. And well he might, for it was indeed a blessed day. Philippi was Paul’s first stop in Europe when he responded to the call which had come to him in a vision, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.”—Acts 16:9

Paul and his companions, responding to this call, went to the city of Philippi, “the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony.” There they remained for a few days, and then came the Sabbath. As the account explains, “We went out of the city by a riverside where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spoke unto the women which resorted thither.” (Acts 16:12,13) Among these women was Lydia, a seller of purple.

The record states that Lydia’s heart was opened by the Lord, and that she attended unto the things which were spoken by Paul. (vs. 14) This was genuine interest. She was baptized, together with her household, and then she said to Paul and his fellow workers, “If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.”—vs. 15

That was the first day mentioned by Paul, when he began to give thanks to God for these brethren at Philippi. What a wonderful day it was! Imagine at the present time going into an area where, as a result of bearing witness to the truth, a group of brethren would become interested and furnish a meeting place for the start of an ecclesia! Surely Paul must have been assured that his affirmative response to the call, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us,” had been blessed by the Lord. Yes, he had received this additional evidence that God was directing his steps.

In the Gospel

Paul thanked God for the fellowship in the Gospel which he had enjoyed with the Philippian brethren from that first day. The Revised Standard Version properly uses the word “partnership” instead of “fellowship.” The brethren at Philippi had been faithful in working with Paul in the great cause of promoting the Gospel. Their mutual discussions of various aspects of the Gospel was part of their fellowship. But they did more than talk about the truth; they went out and proclaimed it to others so that those to whom the Lord gave “hearing ears” could have an opportunity to rejoice together with them.

This was a wonderful partnership which Paul enjoyed with the brethren at Philippi. And it is this same partnership which brethren in Christ enjoy today, for the promotion of the Gospel continues, and will continue until the last members of the body of Christ have passed beyond the veil, and are living and reigning with Christ in his kingdom.

And this should be one of our great causes for thanksgiving this coming Thanksgiving Day, and every day of every year as we continue to witness for Jesus and for the Word of God. And are we thankful for our brethren even as Paul was—thankful because they are our brethren, and thankful for their partnership in the promotion of the Gospel? Do we rejoice in our partnership with the brethren, or are we hesitant about becoming involved too deeply in their work of sacrifice in the promotion of the Gospel?

We, at the Dawn are particularly thankful for our brethren throughout the world; and this is especially true when we consider the wonderful manner in which the lovers of present truth have labored together for the promotion of the truth. Like the Apostle Paul with respect to the brethren at Philippi, we thank our God upon every remembrance of the manner in which our brethren the world over are enthusiastically laying down their lives in the work of the harvest, making the truth available to the potential ‘grains of wheat’ in these closing days of the age. Our partnership in the Gospel with our brethren everywhere is indeed heartening, and we daily give thanks for the goodness of the Lord in permitting us to enjoy this blessed fellowship.

The LORD Has Blessed

We are thankful also for the many evidences that our labor together in the Lord has not been in vain, for there are those here and there who within the year have been brought into contact with the truth through the cooperative efforts of the truth people, and are themselves now rejoicing in their knowledge of the wisdom, justice, love, and power of our great Creator, our loving Heavenly Father. What a joy it is to note the love and zeal of those whose ‘first love’ enthusiasm is still aglow with self-sacrificing zeal for the Lord and for his people!

And that ‘first love’ spirit of sacrifice and devotion to the Lord and to his cause should remain with us. It is a pity if we permit it to cool off to any degree. Nor is there any valid reason why it should. Indeed, as we become better acquainted with the Lord and note daily his overruling providences in our lives, both our love and faith should increase, and our joy in the Lord should abound yet more and more.

The Lord has blessed every aspect of the work of proclaiming the simple and glorious Gospel of the kingdom, and for this we are thankful. It is great cause for thankfulness to realize that so many of our partners in the Gospel are distributing the kingdom message. It is a joy to realize that every week, through the cooperation of our partners in the Gospel, the truth of the divine plan continues to go out over the radio and television on such a wide scale.

God’s Keeping Power

To note the keeping power of God in the lives of his people is always great cause for thanksgiving. How we rejoice to realize that our faith in the precious doctrines of present truth remains firm, and that those doctrines have lost none of their luster. This is a special cause for thanksgiving in these days when there is so much chaos and uncertainty in the world among professing Christians.

It is true that we are still waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises respecting the establishment of the messianic kingdom. And that waiting period has been much, much longer than many of us expected. “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick,” wrote Solomon. (Prov. 13:12) But this is true only if we lose sight of the vitality and validity of the precious doctrines of truth. We should remember that it is not God who is deferring our hopes, but our own misconceptions of the time elements of his plan.

The great fundamentals of the truth are just the same, and therefore just as precious today as they have ever been, and there is nothing we can do to speed up God’s timetable of events in the outworking of the details of his great plan of the ages. Let us be thankful that he has not revealed these details to us, for as it is, our faith and patience are being tested, and these are important elements of Christian character. How appropriate are the words of Jeremiah: “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”—Lam. 3:26

The salvation in which we are now particularly interested is that “great salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” (Heb. 2:3) This great salvation, as we know, includes the future opportunity of living and reigning with Christ for the blessing of all the families of the earth. That blessing will be the salvation of mankind and the restoration of whosoever will to human perfection, and to life on the earth forever. How thankful we are for the blessed prospect of sharing in the great project of offering this salvation to mankind, awakening all the dead from the sleep of death, and helping them over the road to holiness and perfection.—Isa. 35:8

How thankful we are, also, that in this time when the hearts of the people are filled with fear because of the chaotic conditions throughout the world, the Lord, through his Word, has revealed to us the meaning of present world events; that meaning being that the Messianic kingdom is indeed near at hand. The details of time we do not know, but today we are seeing the things foretold by Jesus as marking the signs of his second presence and the end of the age. And, as Jesus admonished, because we see these things, we lift up our heads with confidence, knowing that our deliverance into the kingdom is drawing near—a whole year nearer than on Thanksgiving Day a year ago!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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