|HIGHLIGHTS OF DAWN||November 2010|
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”
EACH YEAR IN THE United States, many Christian people observe a national day of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day had its roots with the early settlers of New England, and it occurred after the annual harvest time of fruits and vegetables for which they gave thanks to God. Many changes have taken place since that time and the true significance of that occasion has been generally lost, but the custom has continued until our present time. This year families and friends will gather together to celebrate this special day on Thursday, November 25th.
THE SPIRIT OF THANKSGIVING
A day of thanksgiving is a time to remember our loving Heavenly Father to whom we owe our very existence, and who continues to provide for our daily needs. For this, we turn our attention to the wonderful words and spirit of the psalmist in our featured scripture—‘Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.’
The spirit of thanksgiving is that which encourages us to appreciate all that God has done for us. As his children, we thank him for giving us the Truth by which we are enlightened to his plans and purposes. We realize our own unworthiness of the countless blessings that he has bestowed upon us. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Rom. 5:8-10) “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”—I Cor. 1:30,31
GOD’S GOODNESS MANIFEST
The Apostle Peter explained that our Lord Jesus was God’s wonderful gift to his sin-sick and dying human creation. “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” (I Pet. 3:18) God continually provides for mankind, yet as a whole they are in rebellion against him and his authority.
The natural world with all of its varied beauties is seen by the majority of people as the handiwork of a loving and wise Creator. He has given his human family many rich gifts that we may enjoy in our everyday lives. However, this realization appeals not only to the physical and mental faculties, but we also learn to appreciate the abundant spiritual blessings that he has given to us in his Holy Scriptures. In proportion as we study his wonderful word of Truth and seek to attain understanding, so also does the Holy Spirit more richly abound in us in the development of the New Creature in Christ Jesus, and our walk with him in newness of life. Thus does the child of God grow in the spirit of love, appreciation, and thanksgiving.
EVERY GOOD GIFT
Our Heavenly Father was responsible for our birth through the arrangements of his wonderful providence in nature. As we develop a more meaningful spiritual relationship with him, we grow in knowledge and grace. However, we also realize our insufficiency and dependence upon him—his love and mercy. Only after we have been for a considerable length of time in the narrow way can we comprehend the full force of the apostle’s words, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”—James 1:17,18
It is important that we go often to our Father in prayer and supplication as his child. We may do so with the knowledge that he delights to give us his blessings. By his leading hand he has promised to guide us along the various steps of our Christian walk. His marvelous love and grace toward us is thus manifest—“For in him we live, and move, and have our being.”—Acts 17:28
Those whose minds have been enlightened to the wonderful works of God see his riches of grace more each day and have many causes for thankfulness that many others may not have. They have come into a very close and precious relationship with the Lord, and know that all things are overruled for their spiritual welfare by a loving God. This is in accordance with the words of the psalmist, who wrote, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”—Ps. 91:1
IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS
The Apostle Paul admonished, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thess. 5:18) Those who have given their lives in consecration to God and the doing of his will, and have accepted our Lord Jesus as their Head, consider every day as a time for giving thanks. Thus the child of God rejoices with gratitude and thankfulness in serving our loving Heavenly Father daily and in every situation of life.
Every experience of life, whether it is one of joy or sorrow, is an occasion for thankfulness. It means being willing to have the Lord’s will cost us something, knowing that in giving ourselves to the divine service, the greater our joy will be. It has been said that the deepest shades of sorrow may yield the richest fruitage of peace and joy in the Lord. Sorrow and trial may elicit a greater degree of thankfulness than may be true with more pleasant experiences. For example, some of the Lord’s people may have been bedridden for years with a debilitating disease, yet they appreciate God’s grace in their spiritual life more fully than others who have not undergone such an experience. Their trial has caused them to depend upon the Lord, and this has caused them to live closer to him, being ever conscious of their dependence upon him.
A THANKFUL HEART
We are inspired by the zeal and determination shown by the Apostle Paul, when he wrote, “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:38,39
Many of God’s servants of the past were men who endured great hardship, but their hearts were filled with thankfulness. This was especially true in the spiritual life of the great Apostle Paul. He proclaimed, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”—II Cor. 4:7-11
Few of the Lord’s people have suffered more for the Truth than Paul, but there is no indication of complaint in his writings that form a major part of the New Testament scriptures. Further, in his letter to the brethren at Corinth, he explained, “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”—vss. 14-18
The apostle readily accepted his commission in the service of the Lord. However, this service brought him almost continuous suffering and trial, oftentimes nearly costing him his life. Yet he did not waver in his commitment, and continued serving the Truth and the brethren with his heart filled with devotion to God. He had the assurance that these ‘light afflictions’ which he said were only for a moment in time were preparing him for an abundant entrance into Christ’s glorious kingdom to which he had been invited to have a special part.
Because of his untiring zeal in preaching the Truth and assisting the Lord’s people to greater faithfulness, the Apostle Paul was taken prisoner to Rome. While in bondage, he wrote an epistle that has been a source of blessing and encouragement to the Lord’s consecrated people throughout this present Gospel Age. He said these comforting words, “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth.”—Col. 1:2-6
We note that the apostle’s letter was addressed specifically ‘to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse.’ This reflects the apostle’s sincere desire for their spiritual growth and development as New Creatures in Christ Jesus, and that they may be built up in the most holy faith. Paul was concerned for the spiritual well-being of these brethren although he had never met them personally. He had learned of them through the ministry of Epaphras. “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.”—Col. 1:9,10
Paul hardly mentioned in his letter the fact that he was living in a Roman prison and, no doubt, enduring trying circumstances at the time. Even in a casual reference, he mentioned it in perspective with the spiritual life of his brethren. He wrote, “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds.” (Col. 4:1-3) Again, in closing his letter he said, “Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.”—vs. 18
ABOUNDING WITH THANKSGIVING
After their having been thoroughly established in the faith, he brought the Colossian brethren’s attention to the importance of giving thanks to the Lord for all of the blessings they had received. Further in his letter, he reminded them, “Though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”—Col. 2:5-7
Paul used the tree as an example to frame his inspiring thoughts. The rooting process goes on without any outward manifestation. Yet, a tree that is well rooted cannot be easily uprooted because of its powerful grip upon the soil that has nourished it. “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”—Eph. 4:14,15
In the life of the consecrated Christian, the roots of faith reach ever deeper into the wonderful knowledge of God and his ultimate purpose concerning the development of the Christ during this present Gospel Age, and the future recovery of the whole human family from their sin-sick and dying state under the administration of Christ’s kingdom. As the tree develops, so does the mature Christian’s character grow stronger and more visible. In time, it will be manifest by the wonderful fruitage of the Holy Spirit of God.
A SURE FOUNDATION
Those who are privileged to be living during the closing decades of this present Gospel Age have received abundant mercies from our loving Heavenly Father. He has revealed more fully to us the mysteries of Truth that were kept hidden for centuries, and the Lord’s people have been lifted up and established on a blessed and firm foundation in Christ. David expressed his appreciation and thanks to God, when he wrote, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”—Ps. 40:1,2
OUR GOINGS ESTABLISHED
The psalmist said that his prayer had been answered and that he had experienced new hope and understanding in his life. We also learn that God had established his goings. What a wonderful thought, because we, too, can say that our goings have been established and that we have experienced a newness of life and purpose. Our Lord is the firm foundation upon which each of us has our standing. We have been raised out of the horrible and miry pit of clay, which represents sin, destruction and death, and our feet are now placed upon the solid rock of Christ.
In this beautiful psalm, David further said, “He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.” (vss. 3,4) The Lord has also established our goings, and we too have been given a new song to sing. It is centered in the wonderful promises of God as revealed in the Divine Plan of the Ages.
A NEW SONG
Our firm foundation features the hope of our heavenly calling in Christ Jesus, and the establishment of Christ’s future kingdom of righteousness under which all the families of the earth are to be blessed. “I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts [living creatures], and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.”—Rev. 14:1-3
The Apostle Paul experienced this wonderful change in his spiritual life and ministry. He proclaimed, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”—Phil. 3:13,14
OUR BLESSED HOPE
When we learn the true meaning of the song which our loving Heavenly Father has given us to sing, we have much for which we may praise and thank him. If we are abounding therein with thanksgiving, it means that God has taken us into his tender confidence and has revealed some of the hidden treasures of Truth concerning his ultimate plan and purpose for his human creation. Through his Word, we catch a glimpse of his marvelous glory, and see more clearly his abounding love, infinite wisdom, unlimited power, and unswerving justice.
The new song in our mouths grows distinctly more melodious and harmonious as we have opportunity to sing it aloud to others. It becomes more precious as our love for God and his beloved Son becomes more established in our hearts and lives. From the words of the Prophet Isaiah, we read, “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”—Isa. 52:8-10
LIFTING UP OUR VOICES
We believe that we are now living in the closing years of this present Gospel Age. As conditions in the world continue to grow more desperate and violent let us take advantage of our great privilege to lift up our voices in proclaiming the long-promised kingdom of Christ soon to be established over the whole earth. Individually and collectively let us hold forth the Word of life to a sin-sick and dying human family that yet awaits the glorious kingdom which we believe is soon at hand.
Let us give our heartfelt praise and abounding thanksgiving to our loving Heavenly Father for all of his benefits and blessings to us. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”—Ps. 100:1-5