Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! I love everything about it—the colors, the food, the symbols, the weather, the time with family, the traditions, the history…
Especially the history!
The Pilgrims’ story was epic. They were not soldiers or explorers. They were moms and dads. They were townspeople. They were also believers. And being such, they had come to a climactic point in their lives where they cast off everything but their faith and willingly followed God into the unknown. They left behind chunks of their heart in their homeland, knowing they’d likely never see those loved ones again. They wrapped both arms and legs around obedience and let it drag them through the gauntlet of suffering, trusting that freedom was worth it and God was really enough.
They took their chances on an ocean that was huge and merciless, in a ship that was tiny and vulnerable, and took on a land that was vast and inhospitable, with resources that were timid and failing.
…And they made it!
…And they thanked God for His faithfulness through it all!
…And in doing so, they carved out the very foundations of an entirely new country mere moments from conception!
What a story! What a resolve! What a faith! I reconsider their tale every November and am newly inspired every time.
There was obviously so much more to their faith than just going to church on Sunday morning. It was more than just casually saying, “Sure God, I trust You!” Their faith was deep—like hurt-your-ears deep. Heavy faith. Bedrock faith. Faith that held on, no matter what.
…Faith that won.
…Faith that said thank you.
But faith like this didn’t just show up in the Pilgrims’ lives for the first time in 1620 and suddenly empower that group of simple, unassuming families to go rogue and relocate themselves to an unknown wilderness land where they could worship like they wanted, but might all die.
No, no, the force that eventually drove the Pilgrims to America began wooing them decades before they ever boarded the Mayflower. Theirs was a faith that was forged over time through the habit of relationship. It became a faith that was anchored in covenant love by a God Who had proven Himself more faithful to them than they could ever be to Him.
It was ancient faith.
The kind that drove Noah to build the ark.
The kind that drove Abraham to sacrifice his son.
The kind that drove Joseph to keep hope and maintain integrity.
The kind that drove Moses to take on Pharaoh.
These men of ancient faith, and many others we read about in the Bible, obeyed God dramatically because they knew God intimately! And, as a result, they witnessed God orchestrate a dramatic rescue! And, as a result of that, they were dramatically moved to worship Him with thanksgiving and praise!
My husband and I spent some time recently in Washington, D.C. with a group of students from our church. We were there to learn leadership and spent several days exploring the faith of our Founding Fathers. Here’s a summary of what we learned:
“Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, & King. Men of faith, who chose to live their lives on that foundation. Men who took initiative with self-education & self-discipline & self-improvement, in order to make themselves available & ready for God’s will for their lives. Men who pursued the righteousness of God in the relationships of man, taking responsibility to influence, & thereby inspiring others through their example of service to move toward a greatness that was beyond their present reality. The history of their faith changed the hope of their future.”
These Founding Fathers, like the Pilgrim Fathers before them, grew through a personal study of the Scriptures to become men of radical faith who dared to follow God’s call and champion change in the face of total disruption to their lives and reputations.
In 1789, when President George Washington established Thanksgiving as a national holiday, he wrote a proclamation honoring the legacy of faith on which our country was built. He declared that “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.”
THIS faith. Faith that holds on. Faith that says, “thank you.” This is our heritage as Americans.
This week, as we enjoy our Thanksgiving celebrations, let’s take time to reconsider the FAITH of America’s Fathers AND the FAITHFULNESS of our Heavenly Father! Let’s be newly inspired to ask God to show us how we, too, can live intimately with Him and dramatically for Him.
And more importantly, let’s ask God to help us pass on that kind of faith to our children! We cannot know what adventures in their futures will require Pilgrim faith, but we would be wise parents indeed to anticipate the possibility of them and prepare our children just in case.
This starts, I believe, with training our children to have the habit of spending daily, relationship time with the Lord—learning Him through His Word, loving Him back through graduating acts of obedience, anticipating His faithfulness, and responding to it with grateful, intentional worship.
This habit of relationship will forge a faith that holds on. The undaunted faithfulness of God which our children will experience little by little as time goes by, will eventually overwhelm their entire beings and spoil them to anything less than all of Him. Then our children will be pilgrims! And God will be praised!
Bedrock, ancient, radical, legacy faith. Faith that holds on! Faith that says, “thank you!”
This is our heritage.
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