This year, on November 26, many Americans will congregate with relatives and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. If you are the average U.S. citizen, you will enjoy a sumptuous dinner that day—a veritable smorgasbord of fruits and vegetables, roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce and other delectable trimmings. Chances are, you will enjoy this fabulous meal in a warm, cozy home equipped with many modern conveniences. You may even watch a football game on your big-screen TV.
If you are an average American, you have much to be thankful for. But how thankful are you? Do you truly appreciate the cornucopia of blessings God has poured out on this land?
Thanksgiving Day in History
It is commonly agreed that the first Thanksgiving in the United States was established by American colonists in 1621. That December, in gratitude for the ending of a particularly grueling year and for a bountiful fall harvest, Pilgrim settlers held a special thanksgiving festival near Plymouth, Massachusetts. The settlers gratefully praised God, thanking Him for this new land, that they were still alive, and for the food they had to eat. Every indication is that these people knew they were being given unique opportunities, blessings and responsibilities.
The thanksgiving festival soon became a popular holiday among the New England states. During the succeeding decades, several of the original 13 colonies adopted annual thanksgiving days. Thanksgiving traditionally represented “a day of religious observance, set apart to give thanks for the blessings of the past year, as well as an occasion for family reunions, bountiful dinners and festivities in the home” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1954 edition).
In 1789, U.S. President George Washington declared a national day of thanksgiving in honor of the new Constitution. But it wasn’t until the Civil War that the American peoples decided to observe Thanksgiving Day as a public holiday. Ever since President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation, the nation has officially celebrated an annual Thanksgiving Day in November.
Land of Milk and Honey
Throughout the 19th century, the United States’ wealth and influence grew at an unprecedented rate. There was ever more to be thankful for. The masses of the world began looking to America as the new land of hope and opportunity. And to this day, people from many countries yearn to share in the overflowing “horn of plenty.” In 1996 alone, some 916,000 legal immigrants streamed across America’s prosperous borders.
In her heyday, America owned roughly half of all the world’s riches. There is no doubt the U.S. still enjoys the highest standard of living of any major industrial country. Annually, its gross domestic product is a staggering $8 trillion. Its median family income is nearing $30,000 per year. The unemployment rate hovers at a low 4 to 5 percent.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been labeled not only the world’s number one superpower—but the world’s only superpower. With an annual defense budget of $260 billion, America’s military is peerless. No other country possesses such technologically advanced, well-equipped and well-trained fighting forces.
Indeed, we American citizens have much to be grateful for. As a whole, we have been blessed with the highest standard of living of any people in the history of mankind.
It’s obvious God called our country for a great purpose—to be a model nation.
But today America is a house divided. We have no national goal.
A television news reporter recently asked several leading Americans a question to this effect: “What should we do, as a nation, now that we’re number one?” The responses were startling. One man’s response amounted to, “We ought to simply sit back and relax.” Another passively explained, “I don’t think we should do anything about it—we like things the way they are. Why try to force democracy on other nations? Let’s just enjoy the status quo.” Unbelievable!
With this attitude, we have buried our heritage. We have recklessly squandered our fabulous resources and polluted our beautiful land.
Historians are now speculating on whether the tenure of the U.S. as the only superpower in the world will not also be one of the briefest in history.
Times have changed since the first Thanksgiving Day in 1621. Along with our rise to prosperity, public ingratitude has increased—especially in the past few decades. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful …” (2 Timothy 3:1-2).
America has a regal history with God. Our forefathers believed and taught that. But what about our leaders today? Do they honestly feel we are still “one nation under God”? Are they grateful for what the Creator has given them—or have they become unthankful and vain in their thinking? (Romans 1:21-22).
Our careless, godless, decadent lifestyle has stripped the value and meaning from Thanksgiving Day. We are, generally, an ungrateful people.
“Most people are too busy, too concerned with self to thank God. The day is filled with football games, drinking, gluttony. Thousands take to the roads in a mad scramble to ‘have a good time.’ The entire day is filled with the emphasis on self-gratification.
“At some time in the 24-hour period most of our brethren manage to say ‘grace’ over a meal. But how many express heartfelt thanks to Almighty God?” (Good News, August 1967).
As a nation today, we are in serious trouble. Our bellies are full, and we don’t care. We have forgotten it is God who is our Provider. Now He is withdrawing His blessings from us.
Notice this dire warning to America (or any nation): “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; … And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish” (Deuteronomy 8:11-13, 17-19).
Wow! Those are strong words!
God is enraged with ungrateful Israel! Both physical and spiritual Israel in this age are “rich and increased with goods” (Revelation 3:17) and don’t even realize they are considered wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked in their Maker’s eyes! But our heavenly Father demands that we pay homage to Him.
God deserves our respect! If we, as a nation or a Church, “do at all forget the Lord thy God,” He will spew us right of His mouth! (Revelation 3:16). Sadly, that’s what is prophesied to happen to an ungrateful America and to God’s lukewarm Laodicean Church.
But there is good news. If we would simply thank God, and remember it is He who gives us all good things, He would gladly continue to shower His abundant blessings upon us! Take the time to read these blessings (Deuteronomy 28:1-14).
Our heavenly Father is a great God of mercy. Just like a physical father doesn’t like having to spank his children, neither does God want to punish us. He doesn’t want to see anyone perish.
“Turn to me, O Israel, for why will you die?” God asks. Man has had 6,000 years to turn to God. But he has failed abysmally. Now, God will punish; only those in a place of safety will be protected.
How much thanksgiving we give back to God could very well be an indicator or measurement of the degree to which God will protect us! Think about that.
God Commands Thankfulness
We in God’s Church, “of all the American people, can fully enjoy this special day because of our deeper understanding of the origin of all our personal and national prosperity—the sole result of God’s promise to Abraham” (Philadelphia News, June 1996).
Thanksgiving is not just for Americans and should not be limited to one day a year. It should be a daily occurrence for all of us—particularly those of us in God’s Church. God commands it! “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).
God’s very elect are a people of remembrance (Malachi 3:16). We cannot afford to forget to give Him thanks—continually. Now, as never before, we need to stop and meditate on the myriad of blessings our Father has given us.
It is God’s will that we thank Him for all things (Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Why? Because He wants to develop perfect, holy righteous character in us. He knows that carnally we are not thankful. And we all have to battle carnality!
Thankfulness gets our minds off self—off greed, lust and vanity. Therefore, to help us overcome our evil human nature—and to kill the carnal man in us—God has commanded that we be thankful. When we are sincerely thankful, our focus is automatically on God.
The first thing we should do when we awake on the morning of Thanksgiving Day (and every morning) is kneel and give thanks to God.
“It would not be wrong to spend as much as one third of our prayer time every day in simply going over our blessings and giving God thanks for them” (Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 46, 1967 edition).
Thanking God is a continual process. We have been given super-abundant knowledge and understanding in God’s Church. God expects us to constantly improve our character by thanking Him for that knowledge, and by acting on the great understanding we’ve been given. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required …” (Luke 12:48).
What to Be Thankful For
Think about this. How thankful are you for all of God’s thunderous revelation? Are you thoroughly excited about being a part of the specially chosen firstfruits who will help usher in Jesus Christ’s glorious return?
How many times have you stopped to give thanks for the Bible? Where would we be without the preserved Word of God? And what about the “little book”? We would not be in the pcg today were it not for Malachi’s Message.
Do you give thanks for the physical food you eat? The Bible shows we should. Jesus did. He set an example for us, giving thanks for what He ate—and asking God to bless it.
Do you give thanks for the roof over your head? Your children? Your spouse? Do you give thanks for good health? Even if you don’t have perfect health, do you rejoice in your sufferings? (1 Peter 4:13). Do you thank God for His promises of healing?
God wants both physical and spiritual Israel to offer Him the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 116:17). Now, as never before, we need to stop and thank God for the many blessings we have.
As we observe Thanksgiving Day this year, take stock and consider the sheer magnificence of our national blessings. Stop and reflect on why we have so much. Remember our rich history, and those who fought to preserve this great land. And meditate on where America is going—and understand why all the nations of Israel must be punished by a merciful God. (Perhaps no other piece of literature will help you do this more than our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. If you have not yet received your copy, request it immediately.)
Let us always give heartfelt thanks to our Creator for the manifold blessings He has so generously bestowed upon the nations of Israel—and put the “thanks” back into Thanksgiving this year!