Published November 1, 2020
What a year 2020 has been. Because of COVID-19, our world has experienced a year that has dramatically disrupted our schedules, our plans and our way of life. Who would have dreamed we'd cancel in-person church services nationwide for weeks, and in some cases months, because of a health concern? Who would have imagined standing in line to enter the grocery store, Wal-Mart or Lowe's? Who would have expected masks to be appropriate attire in public places? And who would have dreamed that "maintain social distancing" signs would greet us at every turn?
Yet, in spite of so many unprecedented upheavals in society, we look to the Bible and find this instruction repeatedly given — give thanks to the Lord. This year was not what we'd anticipated, with more 'downs' than 'ups' — but God deserves our praise, adoration and thanks.
The Bible uses versions of the word "thanks" some 151 times — and that doesn't include other instances when it speaks of being grateful.
One goal of this month's Western Recorder is to call attention to the mindset of thankfulness. David clearly states his position in Ps. 9:1: "I will give thanks to the Lord." In spite of 2020's abnormalities, inconveniences and family hardships, we can still praise God and thank Him. Ps. 9 goes on to say the Lord is our refuge in times of trouble and He has not abandoned us. To not thank God for His mercies puts us in the position of being guilty of ingratitude. May we never be like the nine lepers who did not return to Jesus to thank Him. When you reflect on 2020, the pandemic surely will come to the forefront of your memories. Even though it may have been a difficult year, don't forget the times that God has blessed you. Heed the words you find in these passages …
• "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever" (1 Chron. 16:34).
• "Let us enter His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout triumphantly to Him in song" (Ps. 95:2).
• "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name" (Ps. 100:4).
• "Let them give thanks to the Lord for His faithful love and His wonderful works for all humanity" (Ps. 107:31).
• "Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thes. 5:18).
• "… Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe …" (Heb. 12:28).
May our prayer be like that of poet and orator George Herbert, who wrote, "Thou has given so much to me … give me one thing more — a grateful heart."
Accompanying a grateful heart should be the desire that others know the same God we trust and serve. Pew Research says that the proportion of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christian has decreased 12 percentage points over the past decade. In that same time period, the proportion of those describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular" has risen by 17 percentage points. Even worse, fewer than half of millennials describe themselves as Christian.
As thankful Christians, it should be our constant desire that family members, co-workers, friends and neighbors come to faith in Christ. Kentucky Baptists have the opportunity in the days ahead to show their gratitude and obedience to Christ's instructions by being involved in the Gospel to Every Home initiative. As the gospel message flourishes, may we remember to praise the Lord with thanksgiving as He draws people to Himself through the transforming power of the gospel.
History provides us insight into how two U.S. presidents of the past acknowledged Thanksgiving. Consider their words …
George Washington: "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 … That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of
His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war …"
Abraham Lincoln: In an 1863 proclamation, he called for "a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens." Lincoln specifically asked the nation to go to God "with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience."
Chip Hutcheson is interim managing editor of the Western Recorder, the monthly magazine of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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