|CHRISTIAN LIFE AND DOCTRINE||November 1999|
Key Verse: “O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.”—Psalm 105:1
EACH NOVEMBER IN THE United States, a day of national thanksgiving has been set, as proclaimed by the President. Most churches will hold special services on that day, and there will be much feasting by those who can afford to feast. To millions it will be just another holiday with little or no thought given to being thankful, especially not to the Lord, for many are not sure that they believe in God. But to Christians, dedicated to a sacrificial walk in the footsteps of their Master, Thanksgiving Day will be especially appreciated as another opportunity to pour out their thanks to their Heavenly Father for all that he continues to mean to them.
For those who are endeavoring to be faithful in following the Master, every day is one of thanksgiving to the Lord. Every day these are conscious of the many benefits they are constantly receiving from the bountiful hand of their Heavenly Father. They recall that by heredity they are members of a sin-cursed and dying race, and are not entitled through their own righteousness to enjoy God’s love, which provided a Redeemer in the person of his beloved Son, and that their imperfections are now covered by the merit of his shed blood.
We are thankful that the Lord has opened the eyes of our understanding to behold the beauties of his character as they are revealed through his great Divine plan of the ages. Through this understanding we are inspired to lay down our lives in his service, knowing that through his loving provision in Christ Jesus our imperfect works will be acceptable. (Rom. 12:1) While we have not made a bargain with the Lord to exchange earthly blessings for a heavenly reward, we are thankful for the “heavenly calling” which is extended to all those who, in the proper spirit and with understanding, respond to the call to walk in the Master’s footsteps.—Heb. 3:1
We know that the way in which we walk is narrow and difficult, and we are thankful for the many assurances of the Word that our Heavenly Father will guide and strengthen us in our every step; that he will never leave us, nor forsake us, nor permit us to be tested above that which we are able to bear. (See Hebrews 13:5 and I Corinthians 10:13) We are thankful that when we have been fully planted together with Jesus in his death—having proved faithful unto death, suffering and dying with him—we will live and reign with him. How blessed it will be when we reach the end of the way to receive the promised “crown of life”!—Rev. 2:10
We are thankful for the wonderful provision of restitution which our Heavenly Father has made for the world of mankind, and for the provision of the Divine plan that those who live and reign with Christ will have the privilege of dispensing these blessings to all the families of the earth. We are thankful that during the thousand years of the Messianic kingdom the knowledge of God’s glory will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea, and that ultimately all will know the Lord, from the least unto the greatest. Then the whole world will give thanks unto the Lord for his goodness to the children of men. See Habakkuk 2:14 and Jeremiah 31:34.
In Daniel 12:12 we are told of a time when a special blessing would come to the Lord’s people; to those, that is, who would be living at and beyond the close of “the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.” Jesus associated his return with this blessing to be enjoyed by the faithful watchers, and indicates that the blessing would result from the fact that he would serve his people with “meat in due season.” (Matt. 24:45-47; Luke 12:37; Rev. 3:20) We have experienced this great blessing, and recognize that it is ours because our Lord has returned, and that now we are living in the time of his Second Presence. This surely is great cause for thankfulness.
What a blessing it is to recognize that we are living in this time. We rejoice in the ‘meat in due season’ which the Lord has served to us through his ‘faithful and wise servant.’ It is the precious truth of the Lord’s presence that explains the meaning of these chaotic times in which we are living. It is because we enjoy this knowledge that we do not fear as the world fears, when we see the symbolic “earth” being “removed,” and the great “mountains [kingdoms]” being “carried into the midst of the” symbolic “sea.”—Ps. 46:1-3
Recognizing the Master’s presence gives us assurance that soon, as the “Sun of Righteousness,” he will arise “with healing in his wings” for the promised blessing of all the families of the earth. (Mal. 4:2; Gen. 26:4) Jesus, together with his church, shall “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matt. 13:43) How thankful we are that the poor, suffering world is to have its diseases healed and its problems solved. As we consider the sick, the suffering, the dying, our hearts say: ‘Thank God for “the times of restitution of all things” now so near!’—Acts 3:19,21
Our Key Verse admonishes us to ‘make known’ the Lord’s ‘deeds among the people.’ This, indeed, is the true way of showing our appreciation to the Lord for all his loving goodness to us. If a friend bestows great favors upon us, our first inclination is to tell others how kind he has been, and what a grand person he is. The same should be true concerning the manifold blessings which our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us. We just naturally want ‘to make known his deeds among the people.’
What are the Lord’s ‘deeds’? There are, of course, his marvelous works of Creation. These are on display for all to see and appreciate if they will. The ‘deeds’ of the Lord which are not widely known are those contained in his great plan of the ages; namely, the plans he is carrying out for the redemption and recovery of the human race from sin and death. To make known these ‘deeds’ of the Lord is to bear witness to the Truth, the Gospel of the kingdom.
It is a glorious privilege to tell the whole world these good tidings of the kingdom! Bearing witness to the Truth is, in itself, showing forth the praises of him who has “called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Pet. 2:9) We thank him for the privilege he has given us of bearing witness to his Truth. We should love to tell the story; and as we do so in the true spirit of love and thanksgiving, we will find that each time we tell it, the story of God’s plan of salvation becomes “more wonderfully sweet.”—“Hymns of Dawn” #116
Bearing witness to the Truth is something in which we all can have a part. Not all of us can have a large part, but each one can do something. Bearing testimony personally to our friends and neighbors is by far the most effective method of sounding forth the glad tidings. How our hearts rejoice as we engage in this personal work! True, we may not, due to circumstances, have many opportunities along this line. But perhaps there would be more opportunities if we were on the alert to watch for them. For some it might be possible to set aside a little time each week just to call on people in the vicinity in which we live, and tell them about the glad tidings of the kingdom, leaving some literature where it seems timely to do so. Truly this would be one way of giving thanks to the Lord for all that he has done for us.
We are thankful to the Lord that he has provided his people with tracts and kingdom cards, which we can distribute to our neighbors, hand to people we meet, or to leave where they can be found in public places. One of our hymns refers to tracts as ‘golden gems,’ and they truly are gems of truth—brief and to the point—and through the years have been instrumental in attracting many to a more complete message of the kingdom.
Many of the Lord’s people at this Thanksgiving time will want to praise the Lord for the privilege they have enjoyed of mailing the “Hope” booklets to friends and relatives of the deceased. We all thank the Lord for opening this opportunity to make known the glad tidings. Letters of appreciation frequently come to The Dawn from those who receive the “Hope” booklets, testifying that they have been comforted through a better understanding of the hope of the resurrection.
RADIO AND TELEVISION
We believe that the Lord’s people are thankful that the message of the kingdom continues to go out so widely over the radio and television. There is no doubt that this is made possible by means of the Lord’s overruling providences in connection with the consecrated efforts of his people to make known his ‘deeds’ among the people. We are constantly hearing from those whose first contact with the true Gospel of Christ has been through the radio or television. The Lord is blessing this work, and this is one of our great causes for thankfulness as we approach the third millennium since Christ.
As we have previously reported from time to time, “The Bible Answers” video cassettes used on television are also having a wide use in the public meeting field. This is another special cause for thankfulness, and is a method of service to which we had not given special consideration in advance. During the year, the witness has been given in many churches and clubs, and the brethren around the country have used one or more of the video cassettes in their public efforts. Again we say that the Lord is good to his people in allowing them this further opportunity for service.
CONVENTIONS AND CLASS MEETINGS
Throughout the year there have been many conventions, both large and small. Each one of these has been a cause for thankfulness to all who could attend. How blessed it is to meet together for one or more days with those of ‘like precious faith’! The same is true of the regularly scheduled ecclesia meetings. Those who are situated so they can attend these meetings have great cause for thankfulness. We know that the Lord’s people in general are giving earnest heed to Paul’s admonition not to forsake “the assembling of” themselves “together,” and “so much the more,” as they see “the day approaching.”—Heb. 10:25
To have the privilege of fellowship with a few or many of the Lord’s saints is a blessed thing. It is part of the rich heritage of the consecrated which they enjoy while this side of the veil, and an outstanding cause for thankfulness. The Apostle Paul expressed himself along this line, saying, “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.” (Phil. 1:3-5) Let us endeavor to cultivate a deeper affinity for our brethren in Christ everywhere.
We thank God always for the privilege of prayer—of approaching the throne of heavenly grace, there to “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16) Indeed, prayers of thanksgiving should be overflowing from our hearts at all times. We thank God for himself, and his beloved Son. We thank him for the Holy Spirit which reached us through his precious Word of truth. How wonderful it is to have the Bible, and through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit to be able to understand it.
In addition to prayers of thanksgiving we also have that blessed privilege of seeking, through prayer, the Lord’s forgiveness of our many imperfections. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” Jesus taught us to pray. (Matt. 6:12) How soon a cloud would hide the smile of our Father should we neglect this aspect of prayer!
We need to pray for guidance, and for help to do the Lord’s will. We should not attempt to carry out the terms of our consecration in our own wisdom or strength. True, the Lord knows what we need before we ask; but he wants us to ask, thus to be the more impressed with our need to put our trust in him. And how truly thankful we are for the assurance that when we go to God in prayer, through the merit of our dear Redeemer we will be heard.
Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thess. 5:17,18) This does not mean that we are to be on our knees in prayer every minute of the day and night. It does mean that we are to be habitual in prayer, and never give up this blessed privilege of communing with our Heavenly Father. And in the matter of thanksgiving, it means that every day is to be Thanksgiving Day to the Christian. As we have seen, it is not enough to set aside one day each year to offer up the sacrifice of praise to our Heavenly Father for all his many benefits to us. And truly, the Lord’s benefits are many. David wrote, “Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: … if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”—Ps. 40:5
The Lord’s ‘works’ and ‘deeds’ are many. Just as David wrote, if we undertake to recall them all we find that they are more than can be numbered. As we contemplate his many benefits we are lost in wonder, love, and praise, and we ask what shall we render unto the Lord for all his goodness. The answer comes back from his Word: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.”—Ps. 116:13,14
Thus we are reminded that true thanksgiving to the Lord for all he has done for us is not mere lip service. It is appropriate—indeed essential—that we express our thanksgiving to the Lord with our lips, and from the heart. And if this is genuine, it will be verified by our works in doing the will of the Lord, which is the paying of our vows of consecration to lay down our lives in his service.
Does the special Thanksgiving Day of 1999 find us faithfully pressing on in the way of sacrifice, doing with our might what our hands find to do? If so, it is because every day our hearts overflow with praise to the great Giver of every good and perfect gift, and that this praise is finding expression in our determination to give our hearts and our all to the God of our salvation.