Protestant Reformed Young People, have you ever stopped to consider your brethren and sisters in the Lord, who are found in distant lands and whose circumstances of life differ markedly from your own? We know, of course, that they are there, for we are told plainly in the Word that God continues to gather His chosen ones from every nation and kindred and tribe and tongue. It is not therefore very unreasonable to assume that He also has His youth in these foreign places. And we know, too, that their lot in life differs from your own, as it pertains to their physical existence; it differs, not only, but it differs rather radically.
Perhaps a brief contemplation of this circumstance will be beneficial for us at this season of thanksgiving. Why do you give thanks? Because you have received many blessings in this life, such as copious amounts of food, clothing, shelter, health, physical peace in which to sojourn, etc? Is that the real essence of the basis for your thanksgiving? Think then for a moment of that brother or sister who in an entirely contrary circumstance in this life also must contemplate the possibility and reason for giving thanks. It doesn’t work so well, that way, does it? And yet we know that all of God’s children here in this life have reason for continued thanksgiving to their God. It is apparent that thanksgiving does not arise because of things.
You and that youthful saint who experiences the opposite of all the luxury which you may here enjoy do not, therefore, have things in common. Evidently there is some other matter, some other consideration, some other factor that enables the two of you to both raise shouts and songs of thanks, in this season and throughout the whole year and every year of your life.
Where does thanksgiving arise? Perhaps this question will assist us in our contemplation. Thanksgiving proceeds from the heart. Now we know that the heart of man apart from God is evil and corrupt entirely and vaunts itself over against others and against God. But we speak here of the heart of the youthful saints and they are not hearts that are apart from God!
Rather, they are the hearts into which has been instilled the fear of the Lord God. Hearts, they are too, which have been given the love of God. This is not just a vague and meaningless statement, covenant youth. Rather, it is pregnant with significance. For it is that love of God which determines the entire outlook and manifestation of that heart. For example, it also determines what regard that heart will maintain for its brother in the household of faith. If there is no love of God in the Scriptural sense of the word, then there is no love for the brother manifest whatever. Remember that, when you consider the reason for your thanksgiving in this season. And if there is no love of the brother in Christ, it will quite naturally follow that there is no real love of God either and any semblance of thanksgiving is a mere mockery of man.
Further, whether our hearts are the recipients of the love of God in all its working power also determines the manner in which we view all the earthly and physical circumstances which confront us in our lives here below. Then imagine for a moment the situation in which we would receive not the list of “good things” mentioned before, but their exact opposites. Then what?
IN and WITH those things, the child of God, let me repeat that, the child of God will give thanks! God has so worked in and changed his heart that he sees his sojourn (and meaning abounds in that term, too¬) as the way prescribed by his God. He sees that in essence a heritage is his! To him is committed the unwavering conviction that his God is an absolute Sovereign, who works all things according to His good pleasure. So, too, does he view his own circumstance in this weary world of woes. But more than that, (and here arrives a point which we must all consider carefully as we give thanks) he also renders thanksgiving to the Mighty God even FOR all those things. Yes, FOR them. That will at once rule out all thought simple of being thankful IN them as a sort of “in-spite-of-it-all-response”. The saint is given to see that these very things which seemingly work against him are indeed prescribed for and work (effect) his good. The saint sees, confesses and knows the Sovereignty of our God.
And you, Protestant Reformed Youth, know this too. It is held before you almost at every turn of your way. Give thanks for this heritage which it has pleased that same Sovereign One to reveal confessionally in our midst. Indeed, maintain that confession with all at your command.
And manifest, by all means, manifest the renewed character of your heart in all your spheres in a life which is evidently thanksgiving to your Maker.