The Spirit of Gratitude, by Zack Strong
As Thanksgiving approaches, I thought it would be wholly appropriate to share several things for which I am personally thankful. First, however, I want to say a word about the state of our society. Gratitude seems to be a trait which is in rapid decline. We were once a God-fearing nation which rightly attributed our prosperity, security, virtue, manliness, strong families, flourishing churches, cultural development, political wisdom, constitutional government, and individual Liberty to God our Father and the religion of His Son. In former times, statesmen, academics, pastors, laborers, and laymen alike publicly expressed their gratitude to God for the bounties He had poured out upon the United States. Yes, the American heart was once brim with gratitude to the Almighty and to His Son Jesus Christ.
In place of gratitude, modern society has enshrined the mortifying traits of self-love, self-indulgence, selfishness, greed, and pride. Pride is the gateway sin. It leads one to pit his supposed wisdom against the eternal wisdom of God. It leads him into crooked paths and perverse logic. It drives him into darkness. It prompts a man to become a rule unto himself and to live as if his actions merit no eternal consequences. Pride leads him to hate others, to covet what he does not have, to lust after that which is forbidden, to never be content or thankful with what he receives. Indeed, how can one who endlessly covets more and more, who is jealous of others, who thinks he is above his fellow man, who believes he is entitled to power and praise and prosperity, ever be thankful with what he has been given? When ripe, pride produces love of self rather than love of others, greed for personal gain rather than selfless sacrifice for others, self-indulgence rather than a desire for the betterment of one’s fellow man. Ultimately, the two traits – pride and gratitude – are incompatible.
Pagan temples of self-worship and humanism dot the land. The priests of pleasure and prophets of promiscuity are preaching their perverse philosophy of self-love and selfishness in every ear. Society scoffs at those who are humble and acknowledge a power greater than themselves. Self-love is an addicting tonic which, when consumed in abundance, produces spiritual death. It is a virus which numbs the tender feelings of the soul. It is a poisoned potion brewed in the depths of hell and ritualistically drunk by tens of millions as they pander for the praise of the world, reject sound principles in favor of momentary pleasure, sever ties with reality to pursue utopian dreams of paradise in the form of self-centerdness, and reject the notion that they owe obeisance or gratitude to any external force. Yes, they have chosen to become rules unto themselves. They are creatures who have rejected their Creator; children who have rejected their Father while enjoying the luxuries of His marvelous estate and the blessings of His generous hand.
It is a shame to say it, but God is rarely mentioned in public discourse any more. And when He is mentioned, He is either mocked, derided, or profaned. The so-called enlightened, sophisticated, advanced, tolerant, open-minded, progressive, and educated laugh at the idea of God. Indeed, they reject what they cannot see, hear, or scientifically measure. Following their logic, love and all similarly unquantifiable emotions are figments of our imagination – fantasies, social constructs, myths – and life is a meaningless, animal existence in which nothing but hedonistic self-indulgence and self-love are the ultimate goals. Yes, communism – for these ideas are central to communist theology – has eroded the American soul by diminishing all that is good and praiseworthy and by magnifying all that is base and selfish.
Secularism and kindred humanist philosophies of varying names (communism, humanism, statism, rationalism, liberalism, fascism, socialism, progressivism, anarchism, libertinism, atheism, satanism, materialism, etc) openly parade down the streets of our cities, in the halls of government, in the classrooms of universities and public schools, in the churches, and in our homes. The idols and heroes of our society teach us to eat, drink, and be merry. We are seduced into rampant sexual relations with anyone and everyone whenever the animalistic urge strikes. Morality is old-fashioned, prudish, and oppressive, they say. We are conditioned to be disrespectful, raucous, disobedient, and crude. We are told that survival of the fittest is the name of the game. TV and entertainment blast us with materialistic messages which urge us to want more, spend more, buy more, waste more, covet more, lust more. The ends justify the means in this race for self-gratification, and public image is paramount. We must not only keep up with the Joneses, we must surpass them and squash them under our foot. We must not be content with what we have, we must crave bigger toys, more possessions, fancier phones, the newest fashion, sleeker cars, larger homes. And if we have to take out a second mortgage or a new credit card to fund all these luxuries and extravagances, it’s worth it as long as we’re indulging our passions and lusts.
I’ve presented a fairly bleak picture of the present. Yet, I don’t think it even comes close to doing justice to the depraved state humanity finds itself in. We are a society, culture, and people in rapid decline. This decline is spiritual, emotional, physical, economic, political, societal. Today is the great day of Lucifer’s power.
I have not presented this dark image in vain. I intend to now contrast this image with flashes from the past – events, happenings, and words for which I am grateful. It is my hope, as you recall these instances, that you will take heart and realize that God is at the helm. He has blessed those who put their faith in Him, and always will. He has prospered nations who have lived His laws and walked in His footsteps. He has blessed our nation more than it now deserves. Yes, I hope you come away from this article with more gratitude for the fortuitous circumstances you find yourself in by living in this blessed country.
With all the complaining we do, it all seems childish when we step back and consider what we really have as Americans. No other people on earth have equal blessings, rights, and privileges. I encourage you to make a list of things you are personally thankful for in your own life. I recently did this exercise. A few of the blessings on my list are: a good family, good books, my testimony of Jesus Christ, the Constitution, clean comedy, inspirational music, etc. I pray that hope will well up inside you as you read the quotes below and that you will lift up your chin, square your shoulders, and press forward against the onslaught of the enemy with perfect faith in God and trust in the triumph of good over evil, righteousness over sin, light over darkness, truth over error. I pray that you will realize how blessed you are and that you will get on your knees and thank our Eternal Father for His gracious blessings.
As I contemplate the story of America, I can’t help but recall how this New World was opened to the world’s knowledge. I am grateful that the Almighty inspired a good man, Christopher Columbus, to open the Americas to settlement in modern times. Columbus’s honorable name has been traduced by dishonest and agenda-driven scholars and historians. He was, in fact, a good man, a wise man, a Christian. Of his expeditions, Columbus wrote the following:
“The Lord was well disposed to my desire, and He bestowed upon me courage and understanding; knowledge of seafaring He gave me in abundance, of astrology as much as was needed, and of geometry and astronomy likewise. Further, He gave me joy and cunning in drawing maps and thereon cities, mountains, rivers, islands, and harbours, each one in its place. I have seen and truly I have studied all books – cosmographies, histories, chronicles, and philosophies, and other arts, for which our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my emprise called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?” (cited in Mark E. Petersen, “The Great Prologue,” 26).
I am further grateful that God inspired humble Christians to inhabit this continent. Yes, the first boatload of settlers were a band of sincere Christians who came to America not in search of gold, but in search of a home where they could freely worship God. Before going ashore, the men of the Mayflower sat down and composed a constitution, or a covenant, known as the Mayflower Compact. I’m thankful for the vision and devotion of these men and women who consecrated themselves, as their first official act in the New World, to the worship of God. Their act set the tone for the settlers who would later be inspired to follow them. The Mayflower Compact read in part:
“In the name of God, Amen. . . . Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith . . . Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick.”
I’m grateful that the American colonists were pious Christians who deliberately established the colonies on biblical principles. I am grateful that the pulpits and public podiums of early America blazed with the fire of Liberty, morality, and Christianity. Below are two examples:
William Penn, one of the most famous preachers in colonial America, wrote the following in 1668: “If thou wouldst rule well, thou must rule for God, and to do that, thou must be ruled by him. . . . Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.”
John Witherspoon, arguably early America’s most notable pastor, gave a sermon entitled “The Trial of Religious Truth by Its Moral Influence.” In this sermon, he warned that a “universal profligacy makes a nation ripe for divine judgments, and is the natural means of bringing them to ruin.” In a later Thanksgiving sermon, he said, “civil liberty cannot be long preserved without virtue. A Republic must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty.”
It was inspiring messages like these that rang in the ears of the men and women who forged this nation and prompted them to faithfulness and piety. I am grateful for their faithful devotion to these high principles of personal conduct. Indeed, Liberty could never have been won without morality and religion being firmly rooted in the hearts of Americans. It was the foundation upon which they built.
I am thankful that Thomas Jefferson penned these words, ratified by fifty-five other brave men, in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. . . . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
I am grateful that the men who waged the War for Independence strove to fight honorably and, by so doing, called down the blessings of Heaven in their behalf.
General Washington issued numerous noteworthy orders to his men during the war. On July 4, 1775, the following was issued:
“The General most earnestly requires and expects a due observance of those articles of war established for the government of the army, which forbid profane cursing, swearing, and drunkenness. And in like manner he requires and expects of all officers and soldiers, not engaged in actual duty, a punctual attendance on Divine service, to implore the blessing of Heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.”
After the war had been won with the conspicuous assistance of the Almighty, General Washington stated the following upon relinquishing his military command on December 23, 1783:
“The successful termination of the war has verified the most sanguine expectations; and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my countrymen, increases with every review of the momentous contest. . . . I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life, by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them to His holy keeping.”
Truly thankful I am for great leaders and brave, honorable men who risked life and limb to maintain a nation of freemen rather than a nation of subjects or slaves.
I am grateful to the Founding Fathers who deliberated in Philadelphia in 1787 and, under the hand of divine inspiration, crafted the U.S. Constitution. I praise the Constitution as an instrument of God. It is as sacred to me as any other scripture. I pledge my allegiance to the Constitution and the principles it so beautifully enshrines. I am grateful to the political stability that has emanated from adherence to that wise document for so many years.
I’m grateful for numerous early presidents and statesmen who, in their official capacities and public discourses, acknowledged their reliance upon God and America’s indebtedness to Heaven.
In his First Inaugural Address, George Washington declared: “It would be improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the council of nations and whose providential aide can supply every human defect. . . . No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”
Thomas Jefferson, in his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1805, said: “I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessities and comforts of life, who has covered our infancy with His Providence and our riper years with His wisdom and power.”
President Washington issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation on January 1, 1795. It read in part:
“It is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experienced. Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever within the United States, to set apart and observe Thursday, the 19th of February next, as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, and on that day meet together and render sincere and hearty thanks to the great Ruler of nations for the manifold and singular mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation.”
Washington went on to list many of the blessings with which God had blessed the United States, including “the possession of constitutions of government which unite and, by their union, establish liberty and order.” He thanked Heaven for peace and prosperity and asked God to impart the blessings of “sobriety, order, and morality and piety” to Americans and to all mankind.
John Quincy Adams, in an Independence Day oration in 1821, proclaimed: “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”
In yet another Fourth of July oration, this time in 1837, John Quincy adams said: “Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day. Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the Progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity . . .”
John Jay wrote in a letter of October 12, 1816: “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
Writing in his 1785 “Religious Freedom, A Memorial and Remonstrance,” James Madison stated: “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage. . . . Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.
Many more such statements could be cited, but I express gratitude for the few I have listed. Such statements increase my adoration for the faith and devotion of the Founders of America. What wonderful Christian men we once had as our leaders! I honor their memory.
I am grateful that the United States remains intact as a nation in 2015. I am sincerely grateful that, despite all of the assaults on our Liberties, our rights, the Constitution, and on the men who established this nation, Freedom still burns in the hearts of tens of millions of Americans. I am grateful for men like Chuck Baldwin, Joel Skousen, Alex Jones, Ezra Taft Benson, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Michael Badnarik, W. Cleon Skousen, Ron Paul, Ken Bowers, Jack Monnett, Hans Verlan Andersen, David Barton, Stan Montieth, and others, who have stuck their necks on the line to expose the enemies of Freedom, to teach real history and correct principles, to defend the Constitution, and to rally Americans behind the standards of goodness, humanity, Liberty, and God.
I am grateful for each good, sincere person. I cannot express enough respect for those who defend truth no matter how unpopular it is. To you brave few, my heart goes out. I am your ally and friend in this fight. I am grateful that God has not forsaken this land entirely and that His Spirit still roams from sea to sea inspiring the hearts and minds of receptive and honest men and women. That same “Almighty Being” who aided General Washington during the Revolution, who inspired the Founders to craft the Constitution, and who made America the richest, most powerful, most influential and free nation in world history is the same Being who is today marshaling His followers for this final struggle for the souls of men. God rules over the destinies of nations. It is in Him we can trust. It is His blessings which should humble us and make us grateful.
Above I said that today is the great day of Lucifer’s power. This is true. Yet, let me be unmistakably clear: Satan’s time is drawing to a swift close. His fragile kingdom is in its death throes. Christ’s Kingdom is only in its infancy. After a short while, Satan will decrease, but the Messiah will only increase for eternity. Our Lord has already defeated the Devil and his machinations. Our Redeemer has previously conquered death and hell. Our King is shortly coming to reign as King of King and Lord of Lords. He will banish evil and destroy the pagan temples of the adversary. He will crush the wicked who refuse to heed His call and who fight against His disciples. He will overthrow every last vestige of Lucifer’s kingdom. Satan shall be bound. What a glorious thought!
Yes, there is an awakening happening. The hearts of many are reviving as they come to the Light. The Light is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God. As we serve Him, we will be blessed individually and as a nation. As we reject Him, we will fall both as individuals and peoples. We live in a covenant land with divine obligations to serve God, to be virtuous, and to hold up the torch of Liberty to the nations. I am eternally, emphatically, indescribably grateful that Christ has already won the victory and that He has declared how the story ends. I am grateful that I can put my whole faith in Him and I know with unflinching certainty that I have not trusted in vain. I am eternally indebted to my Savior, and everlastingly thankful for His mercies. If, in our Thanksgiving celebrations, we have forgotten to thank the Lord for His innumerable blessings upon us, our families, and our country, we have missed entirely the essence and purpose of this uniquely American holiday.
Let us make a sincere effort to be more grateful, to acknowledge God’s hand in our personal lives, to acknowledge the ever-present finger of the Lord in our nation’s history and destiny, and to be constantly grateful and humble. We live in such a blessed, prospered, special land. No other nation in world history has enjoyed as many luxuries, conveniences, technologies, nor the level of prosperity, prestige, and power, as has the United States. We can attribute all of these marvelous blessings to the fact that the men and women who founded this country were devout Christians who not only professed, but practiced, their religion. They established this country as a Christian republic with its roots running deep into the fertile Christian soil tilled and prepared by generations of industrious, upright individuals seeking to create a new Israel – a city on a hill. Through inspiration they established just laws and a Constitution which set each person at Liberty and assured each man his accountability before God. No other people in modern times has ever enjoyed so many rich blessings! I thank God for the privilege of living in the United States of America.
I leave you with a quote to contemplate:
“My God! how little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy.” – Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, June 17, 1785
A first big step toward a brighter future is to cultivate a spirit of gratitude for what the Lord has blessed us with. Have an extraordinarily wonderful Thanksgiving!