As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday season, it is important to spend more than just Thanksgiving Day thinking about the things for which we are thankful. Often, it is easy to get bogged down in the struggles of life, and not notice the important things. It is one’s attitude that makes all the difference.
In Paul’s final letter, which was to Timothy, he was writing from a Roman prison. In 2 Timothy 2:8–10, Paul said “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Paul’s attitude was obviously very positive even though he knew at this point that he was on death row.
Take a moment to reflect on Paul’s life: He went to our equivalent of the best school available. His teacher was Gamaliel. Paul was required to memorize the first five books of the Bible by age 12. He became a Pharisee, and highlighted his own credentials in Philippians 3. He became a mass murderer in his zeal to stop the message we call the Gospel. His actions, prior to meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road, perhaps, is not unlike the actions of the Jihadist of today. Yet, Paul did meet Jesus on the Damascus Road, and started the journey that led him to that Roman prison where he was waiting to be executed for the same crime for which he used to be the executioner.
Contrast that with a man with whom Abraham Lincoln interacted. On April 4, 1865, ten days before he was assassinated, Lincoln walked through the city of Richmond. An African American walked up to the President and bowed down to him. Lincoln responded by saying, “Don’t kneel to me; that is not right. You must kneel to God only, and thank Him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy. I am but God’s humble instrument; but you may rest assured that as long as I live no one shall put a shackle on your limbs; and you shall have all the rights which God has given to every other free citizen of this republic.” Obviously, there is a very big difference between the freedoms of being an American and the gift of grace that is available only through Jesus Christ. However, do you, at times, live as if you are chained like Paul, when you are actually free like the above mentioned African American?
Take a moment to think about your freedoms as an American, and also your ability through Jesus Christ to live without the guilt of your own sin. As an American, we can reflect on God’s providential guidance of our Nation, particularly in its beginning, and celebrate the freedoms that we share. This is particularly true when you look at the fact that Christians in other countries are being murdered for their faith. Often times, we focus on growing and maturing as a Christian. However, it is important to never forget the baby steps: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). It is remembering these types of foundational beliefs that may help us to focus on a cheerful heart. Therefore, pay attention to the attitudes of your heart. Are you a free man that continues to wear chains, or a man that is only chained by this world but lives in the freedom of abundant life?