“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”
–James 1:2-3 (NLT)
“Thanks for calling back, Mom!” the young woman said. “Bruce’s family is coming over for Thanksgiving dinner! So, where have you been? I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get ahold of you on such short notice.”
“Calm down, honey! Tell me what’s going on.”
“I simply have to have your recipe. You know–the way you make the turkey? Nobody wants to leave the table after the first bite, and this is my one chance to impress my boyfriend’s family!”
While you may not be fixing Thanksgiving dinner this year, similar scenarios have become pretty common for all of us. We rush around thinking about recipies for food, but not for life.
Now don’t get me wrong. When Thanksgiving Day arrives next week, I hope many of you will have a great dinner with family and friends. Perhaps you will enjoy some football or parade coverage as well. But today I’d like to highlight the group of people who started it all–the pilgrims. Desiring freedom from British rule, they chose to settle in America, and by doing so they gave us the true recipe for thanksgiving.
The pilgrims of 1620 were very much like us today. They weren’t fearless heroes who knew exactly what they were doing on their journey. They were simple travelers who could turn to no one but God and each other during the trials they faced.
And boy, did they go through a lot! When they left England aboard the Mayflower in September 1620, there were sunny skies, and all the passengers were healthy. However, halfway through their 60-plus day journey, the ship ran into stormy weather. The turbulent seas forced the pilgrims to make several repairs, while the cold and damp conditions aboard the ship led to a great deal of sickness and a few deaths.
Things were no better for the pilgrims after they landed in Massachusetts in November. The bitterly cold winter months brought starvation and death with them. By the time spring came, less than half of the pilgrims who sailed from England were still alive.
In spite of all these trials and hardships, the pilgrims had a firm foundation of dependence upon and faith in God. It was this faith that had brought them so far, and God helped them to settle in America and eventually become friends with the local Indians.
What can the pilgrims’ story teach us in today’s world? And what was their recipe for life?
First, if you want to accomplish great things, sacrifice may be a large part of the journey. During times of comfort and ease, we can become complacent and proud of ourselves. On the other hand, the pilgrims had to fight hard for their religious freedom in America. This liberty wouldn’t have meant nearly as much to them if they had won it quickly and easily.
Second, the true message of Thanksgiving is to be thankful to God in all circumstances. The pilgrims certainly didn’t enjoy their perilous sea voyage or the difficult winter that followed, but one of their journals states that they fell on their knees and thanked God when they finally arrived on American soil. They were very glad to sit down at that first Thanksgiving dinner with the Indians.
During our lives we will all face summers and winters, hardships and harvests. However, our opening scripture reminds us to take joy from each trial which God brings our way.
It’s true that we don’t literally enjoy troubling times. In fact, we often hate anything that challenges us or takes us out of our comfort zones. However, trials bring us closer to God and test our faith in Him.
This Thanksgiving and every day, I pray that you will be like the pilgrims and use the tough times to form a loving friendship with our heavenly Father.
Like the pilgrims, we too are on a life-altering journey. But in our affluence, we often don’t recognize this.
We are on such a journey when it comes to thanksgiving, but the problem comes because most of us see thankfulness as a destination instead of a journey. In other words, we don’t look at the everyday events in life as opportunities for growth when they come. Instead, we tend to only see the negative, and view these events as a hindrance to a goal we would like to reach.
On the other hand, each day becomes an adventure when we move from thanksgiving to thanks-living. Even though we don’t like hard times, we can yield ourselves to the care of a loving God and rejoice, giving thanks to Him every day.
Since we know that God has everything under His control, we can be assured that we are His masterpiece as well. Scripture talks about how God is molding and shaping us for His glory, and He wants to take us to a higher destiny.
Instead of complaining and merely honoring God with our lips when our hearts are far from Him, then, I challenge you to be thankful in all circumstances, trusting God at all times. “Sounds like a tall order,” you say. It is a big assignment for all of us, but remembering this simple recipe for thanks-living may help.
First, let’s get out our ingredients. The first thing you will need is to ask God to change your heart as you reach for the newest brand of outlook.
I am not talking about Microsoft Outlook. In this case, Outlook is a new ingredient which will help you face life with thankfulness. Instead of merely focusing on the sacrifices you are going through, a new outlook will enable you to see yourself on a journey. Here, God wants us to know He is conforming us into His image.
That leads us to our next ingredient. You may have to scour your cupboard or even go to the store for this one. It is much easier to complain than it is to add opportunity to the thanks-living mix. But you will be amazed at the seasoning which it provides in your life.
Now it’s time to do the mixing and cooking. Get out a mixing bowl, and grease it well with yieldedness. After this, pour in journey and opportunity to taste, as everyone’s circumstances are different. Mix well, and place in the oven of life, baking at 450 degrees for one hour. When you are done, you will have a delicious recipe for joy, which you are encouraged to share with others.
Now I have to apologize, for having said all of that, I have not mentioned the most important part of this recipe: the cookie sheet of faith. Without this firm foundation, your recipe will fall flat in the oven.
If you don’t know Jesus Christ, I strongly encourage you to learn about Him by reading His Word. Then, repent of your sins by agreeing with God that His Ways are right. Prayerfully ask Him to enter your heart, and instead of braving life’s stormy seas alone, allow Christ to be your welcoming shore and your loving, constant friend.
Jesus offers you the ingredients of Journey, Opportunity and Yieldedness today, and as you walk with Him, you will travel a new path and enjoy a new adventure together. So why not fix a new recipe this year, and let Him guide you down the path to thanks-living?
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Tuesday night Bible study. These studies are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 5:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 712-432-6498. When prompted, press 1 for live chat rooms, and we’ll be waiting in room 31. You can press pound to bypass our friend Sharon’s intro message once you’ve entered room 31. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.