Pandemics, elections, racial tensions, economic instability. These are the circumstances we are living in right now. All of which are fraught with uncertainty. Amidst all this uncertainty, it can feel difficult to be thankful as we approach Thanksgiving. How could Paul write: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thess. 5:18.
The Perspective of Thanksgiving
While George Washington first proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving, official recognition as a national holiday was made by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
Our nation is divided. But we are much less divided than in 1863. Lincoln assumed the presidency in 1860. The next year the nation was at war. One year later his 11-year-old son, Willie, tragically died. Yet amid a civil war and still grieving the loss of his son, Abraham Lincoln was thankful. His proclamation continues to be shared.
“No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
God in His mercy moved His people and our nation forward. Nothing stops our God. His truth is marching on. We can be tempted to put God in a political party and have Him take our side in judging another group of people. Lincoln showed us a better way. His prayer was:
“I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right; but it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation may be on the Lord’s side.”
May that humble perspective be ours.
The Prayer of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a time of prayer. Paul knew thanks could not happen apart from prayer. His letter to the Thessalonians preceded thanksgiving with prayer. “Pray continually.” I Thess. 5:17.
Are you praying for your boss who let you go? For the Black Lives Matter protestor? What about the police? Are you praying for the President? Why not? Jesus prayed for all people. He wanted all people to come to Him and was willing to meet with a rich Pharisee like Nicodemus and a poor outcast like the woman at the well. (John 3 & 4). He surrounded himself with natural enemies – Matthew, a tax collector, and Simon, a zealot.
And Jesus willingly washed the feet of Peter who would deny him and of Judas who would betray him (John 13).
If we cannot join Jesus in praying for others this Thanksgiving, then we should search our hearts to discover why. You will never have a thankful heart if you hold onto bitterness.
God created all people in His image. He loves and died for all people.
The Power of Thanksgiving
The power of Thanksgiving is humility. True thanksgiving recognizes all our blessings come from God – not from anything we have done.
Pride says look what I have accomplished. Humility says thank you.
Pride sprinkles a little Jesus talk on our own plans. Humility submerges us in the will of God.
Paul said we would understand God’s will for us through Christ Jesus. Jesus did not exercise his rights as God to judge. He humbly loved and served others. Jesus invites us to follow His example.
Justice and Thanksgiving
The Civil War essentially sought to define the idea of justice. Both sides believed they stood for justice. Both sides believed God was on their side. The problem was people put their politics and economic interest ahead of God. They led with their self-interest and made God fit that interest.
I encourage you to listen to my friend Dr. Tony Evans as he addresses this at our Restoring Hope event. His words are powerful.
On one wall of the Lincoln Memorial is his second inaugural address. The ending of that address rings loudly today as we continue the battle for justice.
“With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
The Need for Justice
Hopefully, the pandemic helps us realize we are all vulnerable and should count our blessings. As we count our blessings this Thanksgiving let us, with malice toward none and charity for all, be thankful for all God has given us. We are truly thankful for all those who are doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.
Prosperity before the pandemic allowed us to forget the vulnerable who cannot afford the high price of lawyers.
Earlier this month the World Justice Project released the Rule of Law Index. America fell to 110th in the world out of 128 nations for providing affordable access to justice. You can be part of this work to include and assist the vulnerable through Administer Justice. Together, we can bind up our nation’s wounds and come together in serving the widow, the fatherless, the alien and the poor.
Please pray over how you might be part of this work through Administer Justice. Ask God for guidance using your talent and gifts to humbly care for, serve, and love the vulnerable just as Jesus did.