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The secret to being thankful despite circumstances

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It appears that the calendar has furnished American Christians with a fortuitous confluence of dates and events which we should seize upon to cultivate a posture and attitude of gratitude.

We have just experienced a midterm election which confirms the fact that we are a deeply and evenly divided nation at the national level, with major strongholds for each party in differing sections of the country. When one looks at a three-dimensional blue (Democrat) and red (Republican) map of the country’s congressional districts, it appears to be a sea of red with blue lakes and several blue super skyscrapers (Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, etc.)

Exit polls reveal that while 75% of voters believe the country is “going in the wrong direction,” the election resulted in a divided government. The Democrats control the Senate by the narrowest of margins (either 51-49 Democrat or 50-50 depending on the runoff results in Georgia in early December). The House is controlled by the GOP by the narrowest of margins (even though they received significantly more votes in House races nationwide). Perhaps this is a tribute to the Democrats having performed better at gerrymandering the House districts prior to the election.

However, given the divisive rhetoric employed by both sides in this election cycle, the results have been received by the populace with impressive acceptance and the American spirit of “we will try to do a better job of making our case to the American people in the next election.”

For that fact, all Americans should be most thankful. There are not many countries in the world where the population has such deeply entrenched trust in their national institutions and their government. That is especially true for nations that are as manifestly diverse and divided in political loyalties as America is at this moment in our history.

So, as we approach Thanksgiving week, I am profoundly grateful to the preceding generations of Americans who labored as sacrificially as they did to create, maintain and protect this uniquely robust and enduring system of political and economic liberty.

For all these things, Americans should be very grateful this Thanksgiving. On Veterans Day (Nov. 11), we celebrated those tens of millions of Americans who have worn the uniform of our nation’s military services in times of war and peace. Two months earlier, on Labor Day, we celebrated the generations of Americans who composed the labor force that created the American economic juggernaut that has produced a higher standard of living for a greater percentage of its population than any economy in human history.

Just two months before that, we celebrated July 4th, Independence Day, when the nonpareil “Declaration of Independence” was published, which laid the foundation for the world’s oldest truly representative government “of the people, by the people, for the people” where government receives its authority by consent of the governed.

As we gather in extended families across the land this Thanksgiving, we by the accident (or providence, depending on your faith) of birth have been the beneficiaries of this extraordinary, priceless heritage of freedom and recognition of the God-given (“endowed”) unique and priceless dignity of every human being.

As Americans, we are uniquely blessed by this glorious heritage. And we must always remember, blessings are by definition not earned, but are gifts. We should seize upon the opportunity of Thanksgiving week to thank our Heavenly Father for those priceless gifts we enjoy. May all of us resolve to teach this great heritage with which we have been entrusted to our children and our grandchildren, and may we pledge to pass it on to them unsullied and undiminished.

And our manifold blessings as Americans pale into insignificance when compared to our blessings as children of the King redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we are encouraged in the Holy Scripture to have an attitude of gratitude, and we are admonished apostolically when we fail to demonstrate that quality.  

In his letter to the Galatian Christians, the Apostle Paul reminds them of all that they have to be grateful for in the Gospel of our Savior. He expresses wonder that they so easily have forgotten all that God has done for them (Gal. 4:8-9). He reminds them of what Jesus did for each of them: “He gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.” (Gal. 1:4). He justified us: “and we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law.” (Gal. 2:10).

The Apostle Paul reminds the Galatian Christians and us, “And we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law.” (Gal. 2:16). “Justification” means that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior that in terms of our position and relationship with God, it is just as if we had never sinned and just as if we had always obeyed."

Jesus has redeemed those of us who have received Him as Savior from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us and He gave us His righteousness (Gal. 3:27). This is known in Christian theology as “the Great Exchange.” Jesus took the penalty of all of our sin on the cross and imparted to us His righteousness. He became our Savior and our Lord. And there is more. He also became “the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29) and He “hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21).

The Apostle John declares: “To them that received Him as Savior, to them gave He the power to become the children of God.” (John 1:12).

Jesus redeemed us. Jesus rescued us. Jesus adopted us. Adoption is always intentional and it is always an act of love.

Through His sacrifice on the cross, He made us joint heirs “so you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Gal. 4:7).

The Apostle John expressed this unfathomable truth this way in I John 3:2: “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him. For we shall see Him as He is.”

As Christians, we would be of all people the greatest ingrates if we did not express our love and gratitude unceasingly to our Heavenly Father and His incomparable Son, Jesus, the Savior, and coming King.

Let us praise his name this Thanksgiving and every day and may we resolve to live a life of gratitude and to always be ready to give a “reasonable explanation” to “every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” (I Pet. 3:15).

He is Risen! And we shall be risen to be with Him forever. We should indeed be of all people most thankful!

Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.

Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.

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