Giving Thanks to God—Then and Now

November 24, 2013

As Americans, and as Christians, we have much to be thankful for. Thanksgiving Day is a time to consider the things we’ve been blessed with and to give thanks for them. But why does such a day exist? Where did it come from? And to whom should we offer thanks? A look at the experience of the ones on whom this holiday is based can shed light on the meaning of this day we celebrate each year.

On September 16, 1620, one hundred and two passengers set sail from England on a 90-foot ship called the Mayflower. A good number of the party were believers, now known as Pilgrims, in search of a new life in a new world. Fleeing religious persecution in England, the Pilgrims were searching for a place where they could live and worship God according to what they had seen in the Bible. Full of hope and expectation that the Lord would bless them, they set off for the New World.

Making for the Colony of Virginia, established by England several years earlier, they encountered rough storms and winds. The frail Mayflower was battered and wrenched off course by some 500 miles. Amazingly, the ship and most of the passengers survived the harrowing crossing, and the storm-shattered vessel floundered into the sheltered but deserted waters off the coast of what is now Massachusetts.

The Pilgrims arrived in winter on the cold and craggy shores with grateful thanks to God, but without much else. This was the seemingly unpromising beginning of the Plymouth Colony. Governor William Bradford gave an account of that arrival:

“Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof…But here I…stand half amazed at this poor people’s present condition…Being thus past the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles…they had now no friends to welcome them, nor inns to entertain or refresh their weather-beaten bodies…And for the season, it was winter; and they that know the winters of this country, know them to be sharp and violent, and subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search an unknown coast…For, which way soever they turned their eyes, save upward to the heavens, they could have little solace or content in respect of any outward objects.”

By the end of that first, cruel winter, half of the people had died. But spring and help from the Native American Wampanoag tribe seemed to promise a new start.

Over the next years, as the Pilgrims struggled to survive, they continued to look to God for their comfort and supply.

When two years later, for example, an early summer drought threatened their crops and their lives, they organized a day of fasting and gathered together for prayer, sermons, and singing. The Lord honored their gathering and sent rain, reviving both the crops and the hearts of the people. In response, the Pilgrims honored God, their gracious Provider, as they had on previous occasions, with a solemn day for giving thanks. They worshipped God with thanksgiving for His faithful, ongoing care for them in the new land of their freedom.

This Thanksgiving Day, as we gather around dining tables with our friends and family, may we remember the price our nation’s forefathers paid to freely worship God in this land. And may we follow their example in thanking God for all He has blessed us with today—this country, its freedoms, our fellow Americans, our friends, our families.

Above all, let us thank our loving Father not only for blessing us with many outward things but also for loving us and sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. How we thank Him for securing for us an eternal salvation and freeing us from the fear of death! We thank Him because He Himself is the greatest blessing in the universe.

May God continue to bless America as He has since our forebears first set foot on these shores. And may He bless each of us with more of Himself as our rich portion.

From all of us at BfA, have a warm, happy, and blessed Thanksgiving.

15 Comments

16 Comments

  • Felicia Young says:

    Praise You, Jesus! We believers are so very grateful to God for this ministry. We love the God given knowledge, wisdom and prudence of History that’s passed down to us with God spirit, His understanding and revelation. Thank You, Father, thank You, Lord, thank You, Holy Spirit, for Bibles for America. Thank for sound doctrine. Ms. Young

  • I bless and thank God,for all that he’s done,and doing in my life.and the lives of my unsaved family.my brother’s,and sisters in CHRIST…I thank the LORD,for you all at Bfa…God,bless.

  • Vance Brown says:

    As I think of Thanksgiving Day, I think of Squanto, the God-fearing Indian gentleman whom God used to prepare the way for the pilgrims. Squanto is another example of a man who “experienced and enjoyed Christ as his daily portion in difficult situations”, and who “enjoyed Him as the top blessing”.
    Eric Metaxas notes, in his book titled, “Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving” -

    This entertaining and historical story shows that the actual hero of the Thanksgiving was neither white nor Indian, but God. In 1608, English traders came to Massachusetts and captured a 12-year old Indian, Squanto, and sold him into slavery. He was raised by Christians and taught faith in God. Ten years later he was sent home to America. Upon arrival, he learned an epidemic had wiped out his entire village. But God had plans for Squanto. God delivered a Thanksgiving miracle: an English-speaking Indian living in the exact place where the Pilgrims land in a strange new world.

    (Source, http://www.ericmetaxas.com/books/squanto-and-the-miracle-of-thanksgiving/)

    Chuck Colson adds:

    “We can only imagine what must have gone through Squanto’s mind: Why had God allowed him to return home, against all odds, only to find his loved ones dead?

    A year later, the answer came. A shipload of English families arrived and settled on the very land once occupied by Squanto’s people. Squanto went to meet them, greeting the startled Pilgrims in English.

    According to the diary of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford, Squanto “became a special instrument sent of God for [our] good . . . He showed [us] how to plant [our] corn, where to take fish and to procure other commodities . . . and was also [our] pilot to bring [us] to unknown places for [our] profit, and never left [us] till he died.”

    When Squanto lay dying of a fever, Bradford wrote that their Indian friend “desir[ed] the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in heaven.” Squanto bequeathed his possessions to the Pilgrims “as remembrances of his love.”

    (Source, http://townhall.com/columnists/chuckcolson/2006/11/23/gods_instrument_the_story_of_squanto/page/full)

    (From the online article titled, “God’s Instrument” The story of Squanto, Townhall.com, Nov 23, 2006)

  • Helen jimenez says:

    I want to thank the lord Jesus Christ for all his done in my life,a child of physical abuse,neglect..i grew up angry,bitter and empty,i went from gangs to drugs,to prison,time and time again,sadly i would go to church only to be looked up and down and made to feel worse,was this jesus,if it was,i didnt like them…i tried to kill myself,i saw myself on that dark hotel room dead and i felt the light and presence of the lord telling me,isnt this what you wanted,for three to four seconds,i felt myself being pulled into a hole,i felthollow,empty,a feeling of depressionlike never before,it was such a horrible feeling towards where i was being pulled to that i cried out to him,NoNo please,i dont want to go there,please jesus..no,no,instantly i came back to my body,i couldnt see,i crawled into the street for help,i had tooken so much heroin,the dr.s said i should of been brain dead…today im such a different person,transformed through the love and grace of jesus,he sent me to a church,where the love of god flows and that love is what changed me,people thoughti was hopeless,i myself thought the same,but there is hope,im no longer empty inside,i give my testimony to others,most of my family have come to christ,what jesus did in me has given alot of my lost friends hope,hes real in my life,thank you for all that yall do for christ and for others…may we continue to reach out to others,god bless

    • Bibles for America says:

      Dear Helen,

      Our hearts are full of thanksgiving to God! Praise Him for His rich mercy and for His great love, and for making alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5)! And we wholeheartedly agree with you—may we continue to tell others about Him and the difference that He makes in our lives!

  • Les Tepper says:

    Please remember our brothers and sisters in the Persecuted Church. They suffer greatly to present the Gospel to their people. They cannot board ships and flee, but must endure mockings, rejections, restrictions, imprisonment, torture, and execution. They too desire religious freedom. Like the pilgrims they give thanks to God for His blessings, including being found worthy to suffer for His name.

  • I have read about the mayflower before, but thanks for the new in sight it has given me.

  • John Knapp says:

    Well put. Thanksgiving needs to be broadcast throughout our land wherever we can, saying the word “Thanksgiving” as we go about because the word Thanksgiving is removed in schools and much of American society to avoid suggestion of thanking God.

    May we speak of Thanksgiving to our living God wherever we can.

  • Michael Collins says:

    Thank You BFA for being there for us, for sending the RC Versions so faithfully to the hungry seekers over the years, and for the privilege of being able to give anyone and everyone a free new testament bible with awesome footnotes that answer every question you ever had about the bible, God’s Holy Word. Thank You Lord for being our life, our everything, and because of Your blood and Your name we can overcome all the darkness around us. Amen and Amen.

  • This post really fills me with appreciation for our gracious Lord and His loving care for His people. May we take this opportunity to fill our hearts and mouths with thanks to Him for all He has given us and especially for the salvation and life that is ours in His Son, Jesus Christ.

  • Katherine Lay says:

    I am very blessed and thankful for all the blessing God has giving to me he is my everything and there are so many people who don’t have nothing as I would be praying for them this Thanksgiving just like I do everyday, I give thanks to God everyday and every night. Thank you God for blessings me. I love you so very much.

  • Karen Bales says:

    I once heard a statement made that went like this: what if you were to wake up with only the things you thanked God for the night before. What would you have left?
    I thank God for the life He is allowing me to live, for the opportunity to praise and worship Him freely, for His fresh daily anointing to do that which He has called me to, for my very wonderful husband of 38 years, for my children and their children, for my family and in-laws, my friends, the church body and all that He has given to me. God You are wonderful! Thank You

  • Thanks for sharing the thanksgiving story , Happy thanksgiving to you all at BFA. God bless u all !

  • RONALD SETTLE says:

    I like your blog on giving thanks to God –then and now…A lot of people do not know what it cost for them to be able to serve God freely….this freedom has a high price tag on it, but it is worth what it cost..take your stand for Jesus you will be glad you did..

  • Nagwa Anis says:

    THANKS To GOD FOR YOU AND FOR THE GREAT BOOKS YOU PROVIDED ME FREE. I COULDN ‘T HAVE AFFORDED THEM. THEY ARE BUILDING ME SPIRITUALLY. I TOLD MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS ABOUT YOUR WONDERFUL MINISTRY. BE RICHLY BLESSED.

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