When the shadows lengthen and the night closes in around you, if your faith is real, you can still sing. You can’t test the lights on your automobile until the darkness comes. A mighty ship lies anchored in the placid water of the protected harbor. She looks graceful and strong, but the real test comes, not in the harbor, but as she fights the angry waves of the sea.
I once sat with a man who was struggling through one of life’s darkest nights. “I just can’t go on!” he whispered. I replied, “If the faith I have preached about, and the faith you have sung and talked about, is true, you can go on. In times of crisis, we have two choices — either we must live up to our faith — or abandon it.” He just nodded his head and didn’t speak for a long time. Then, he looked out into a starless night, and said, “I’ll go on with God’s help!”
Paul reminds us that the secret of life is found when a man decides to join hands with God. “I can do all things” — not by myself, but — “through Christ which strengthened me.”
About 400 years ago, a group of men and women set aside three days for a festival of Thanksgiving. That first winter was hard. Some of the Indians were hostile, and these Pilgrims had a hard time clearing land, building houses, and staying alive. Nearly half the colony died that first winter. Before the end of the first year, they bowed their heads and thanked God for his blessings to them. Some of us may ask, “Gratitude — to whom and for what!”
Gratitude is a reflection of your indebtedness to others. All of us are in debt, and I’m not talking about the money we owe the bank or the finance company. Every time I turn on an electric light, I ought to say, “Thank you, Mr. Edison.” Every time I climb into an airplane, I ought to tip my hat and say, “Thank you, Orville and Wilbur Wright.”
When I look through a telescope at some planet far away, I feel like tipping my hat to Hans Lippershey. Every time I get my lawnmower out to cut grass, I’d like to kick Peter Gaillard who invented the mowing machine.
I am thankful for many things -— the beauty of a dove — the soothing sound of a babbling stream -— the warmth of knowing a friend — the sweet scent of a rose –— nature’s wonderful way of changing the scene — the lovely shadows that remind us night is very near — and God, whose guiding hand is always within our reach.
I am grateful to live in America. A casual glance around the world would cause us to conclude that we are a privileged people. Three-fifths of the world’s population does not have enough food, and the garbage truck must come to haul off what we throw away. Millions of people can neither read nor write, and every child in America has access to a school.
Life expectancy is less than 30 years in some parts of the world, while the average American can look forward to more than 70 years on earth. Millions live and die without ever seeing a doctor or hospital, and we live near both.
America is a place where you can criticize the government and not be afraid. We have free speech, and you can go and worship in the church of your choice. America is a place where you can dream, and where those dreams can still come true. Thank God for that, when you get up each morning and go to bed each night.
I am grateful for my friends. Do you remember those ancient lines of wisdom: “He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy shall meet him everywhere.”
I am grateful for a heavenly Father who watches over me. God is infinitely patient -— you and I can cheat him, ignore him, and hide from him, but we can never make him lose faith in us. God never sees us as hopeless. The Psalmist reminds us, “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” Even when those who love you must leave you, God will be there to help you. This is an example of God’s eternal love for man.