Have you ever missed a turn on your road to somewhere and then had to make a mid-course correction?
Sometimes when you go too far down the wrong road, you can never completely retrace your path. You might even get blown off course through no fault of your own. Then you have to find a completely new course to your desired destination. We might not have felt particularly like giving thanks for those detours at the time we went through them. Maybe today we’ll discover some thoughts to help us reconsider – thanksgiving for mid-course correction on the master’s path for our life – the providence of God.
Proverbs 16:9 says “The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” This is called the Providence of God. God guides his children and God provides for their way. It’s one of the key characteristics that all of our nation’s founding men and women knew about their Creator and Savior.
I’ll never forget when, as a young man, daring to make a detour in my own career, I began to discover the providence of God was guiding my steps in ways that I had never considered before then. It’s been a continuing journey of discovery ever since… discovering the limitless providence of God.
From the historical perspective of America’s early beginnings, one of the landmark examples of the providential direction of the steps of a believer’s way is seen in the account of our country’s ancestors, the Pilgrims, over 400 years ago. Their plans were RE-directed by God’s providence numerous times.
One of the clearest short accounts of some key elements of the Pilgrim story is presented by author, Michael Medved for Prager University at https://youtu.be/a33Fuz8wKDA . Let’s listen.
Did you catch nuggets of credit to the providence of God in Michael Medved’s brief report? I was particularly delighted to hear his acknowledgment that…
“They maintained unshakeable confidence that God protected them, not to grant special privileges, but to impose special responsibilities. They saw themselves as instruments, not authors, of a mysterious master plan.”
One of the most profound chronicles of the providence of God is the whole history of the Pilgrims. They truly are the epitome example of the sovereign guidance of God. They are the enduring taproot of the unique place God has for the historic pathway of America. They are an irreplaceable part of just why this nation is so exceptionally built on God’s merciful intervention. And it’s all amazingly lived out through the lives of Godly men and women.
Just consider some parts of the pilgrims’ journey where providence redirected their path from what they had planned.
Historian Bill Federer publishes a daily historic insight called American Minute that you can find at this link: One of those recent reports recounted that…
High winds and treacherous tides along North America’s coast blew the Pilgrims 500 miles off course. That prevented them from joining Virginia’s settlement at Jamestown, founded 14 years earlier.
Having to make landfall in Massachusetts, there was no government to submit to, so the Pilgrims created their own. We know it as the Mayflower Compact.
It was the first “constitution” written in America. The Mayflower Compact began:
“In ye name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord, King James … having undertaken, for ye glorie of God, and advancemente of ye Christian faith, and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia …
in ye presence of God, and one of another, covenant & combine our selves togeather into a civill body politick … to enacte … just & equall lawes … as shall be thought most meete & convenient for ye generall good of ye Colonie, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience …”
The Mayflower Compact ended:
“In witnes wherof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cap-Codd ye 11 of NOVEMBER, Ano:Dom. 1620.”
Another fine example of God’s providence, in His guidance of the path of the Pilgrims, is beautifully told by Ben Franklin in his own autobiography.
From William Federer’s American Minute 11/23/17 – Notable Thanksgiving Day Proclamations
Ben Franklin wrote of the first Thanksgiving (The Compleated Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin, editors Mark & Jo Ann Skousen, Regnery, 2006, pp. 331-333):
“There is a tradition that in the planting of New England, the first settlers met with many difficulties and hardships, as is generally the case when a civiliz’d people attempt to establish themselves in a wilderness country.
… Being so piously dispos’d, they sought relief from heaven by laying their wants and distresses before the Lord in frequent set days of fasting and prayer.
Constant meditation and discourse on these subjects kept their minds gloomy and discontented, and like the children of Israel there were many dispos’d to return to the Egypt which persecution had induc’d them to abandon …”
Ben Franklin continued:
“At length, when it was proposed in the Assembly to proclaim another fast, a farmer of plain sense rose and remark’d that the inconveniences they suffer’d, and concerning which they had so often weary’d heaven with their complaints, were not so great as they might have expected, and were diminishing every day as the colony strengthen’d; that the earth began to reward their labour and furnish liberally for their subsistence; … that their seas and rivers were full of fish, the air sweet, the climate healthy, and above all, they were in the full enjoyment of liberty, civil and religious.
He therefore thought that reflecting and conversing on these subjects would be more comfortable and lead more to make them contented with their situation; and that it would be more becoming the gratitude they ow’d to the divine being, if instead of a fast they should proclaim a thanksgiving.
… His advice was taken, and from that day to this, they have, in every year, observ’d circumstances of public felicity sufficient to furnish employment for a Thanksgiving Day, which is therefore constantly ordered and religiously observed.“
Historian, Bill Federer, in his excellent encyclopedia of quotations called “America’s God and Country,” includes many more firsthand accounts, most notably, William Bradford, the Plimoth Colony’s governor for nearly all of their first 36 years as a new colony.
When we discover more of the background history of the little English congregation we call the Pilgrims, the accounts are permeated with a recognition of God’s providence through all their many struggles. Their courage and tenacity to pursue freedom because of their strong convictions that the formalized influences of the Roman Catholic church made it impossible for them to honestly comply with the demands of King James of England. He was just as determined to ‘harrie’ them out of the land of England. If they had not been blown off course to land at Cape Cod, they would not have been forced to establish their own self-governed colony, independent of the jurisdiction and authority of England. That set the tone for the ‘spirit’ of what became America.
Think of the blessings we now have in America because of the foundations laid by these courageous souls.
Having been blown of course from their intended landing in Virginia by a terrible storm, the Pilgrims landed at Cape Cod on November 11, 1620. William Bradford recounted the landing in “Of Plimoth Plantation.”
“”Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.”
Little did the Pilgrims know that if they had landed there a few years earlier, they would have been massacred by the Patuxet, one of the fiercest Indian tribes on the American coast. The tribe, however, had been completely destroyed by a plague in 1617, although historians don’t know why.
Of the 102 Pilgrims, only 47 survived till Spring. At one point, only a half dozen of their number were healthy enough to care for the rest.
In the Spring of 1621, the Indian Squanto came among them, and showed them how to catch fish, plant corn, trap beaver, and was their interpreter with the other Indian tribes.
Governor William Bradford described Squanto as “a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation.”
Governor William Bradford wrote of the Pilgrims: “They shook off the yoke of anti-Christian bondage, and as ye Lord’s free people, joined themselves (by a covenant of the Lord) into a church estate, in ye fellowship of ye Gospel, to walk in all his ways, made known or to be made known unto them, according to their best endeavors, whatsoever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them.”
Pilgrim elder William Brewster commented: “The church that had been brought over the ocean now saw another church, the first-born in America, holding the same faith in the same simplicity of self-government under Christ alone.”
To find out just what a dark world the Pilgrims endured, you should get William Federer’s book, “The Treacherous World of the 16th Century and How the Pilgrims Escaped It: The Prequel to America’s Freedom.” Go to www.AmericanMinute.com to order it. All of us, no matter what difficulties we have to face in our day, will be encouraged and inspired by discovering the hardships endured by those who survived during that time of many tribulations among the people of England and all of Europe. Between 1606-1609, Muslim pirates from Algiers captured 466 British and Scottish ships. The Extraordinary Story of North Africa’s One Million European Slaves tells how in 1625, Muslim pirates sailed up the Thames River and raided England. They attacked the coast of Cornwall, captured 60 villagers at one town and 80 at another. Muslim pirates took a whole island in Bristol Channel and raised the flag of Islam. By the end of 1625, over 1,000 English subjects were sent to the slave markets of Morocco.
I’ve been a life-long student of history. I had the joy of experiencing an early career as a history museum curator. I don’t think anything matches the eye-opening revelation of my discovery that God has actually been guiding the history of human kind. The discovery of Acts 17:26 showed me an amazing corollary to Romans 8:28, God really does cause “all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes.” Here’s what the apostle Paul told the educated people gathered at Mars Hill to hear him unpack the reality that Messiah had finally come to bring about God’s redemptive plan for His earth.
God has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
Think of it. God really is working all things together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purposes. The pilgrims lived out a pivotal place in God’s providential history of the world… The world then was filled with uncertainty, with hardships, and tribulations from many causes. Was God in control?
Two years after the first thanksgiving at Plimoth, governor Bradford made an official proclamation for a day of Thanksgiving on November 29, 1623.
“to all ye Pilgrims: In as much as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest…
And then he went on to proclaim the setting aside of a special day of “thanksgiving to Almighty God for all His blessings.”
In 1647 William Bradford’s handwritten book he titled “of Plimoth Plantation,” shows us that his generation not only saw the providence of God in their experiences but they consciously lived in the recognition that their lives were about investing in the next generation for the kingdom of God. Hear what he wrote.
“last and not least…
…let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise.”
Today, we face uncertainty and tribulations causing many to suffer in unimaginable ways. Is God in control now?
I had a dream recently that awakened me when I imagined driving down a road and suddenly discovering I was on the wrong route even though I had not veered off the path I thought was correct.
Immediately, I thought of some of the many instances in my life where I was rerouted. Some of those times were trying… some were exhilarating… but the Lord has always been faithful.
As the prophet Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:21-26
“Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.”
Isa 12:2 Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’
Thinking of God’s providence experienced by our pilgrim forefathers, will this holiday season leave you filled with joy…or burnt out from all the activities as you face the challenges ahead?
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11
Don’t you think that joy really is the bottom line of the Christian life. We desire this lasting joy for ourselves, but also for our families and for the world around us. Full joy (to the glory of God) is what we were created for.
What does that look like practically? It all starts with saturating our minds in the words and truths of Scripture and other resources filled with His Word.
Col 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
As you launch into the holiday season and select gifts for your loved ones, let me ask you a question:
Does the word of Christ dwell in you richly?
Are you willing to take some steps to prepare for the providence of God in your family?
This season you have an incredible opportunity to give your loved ones the gift of joy by giving gifts that are rich with the words of Christ and discoveries of His grace in the RE-directions of our lives. By God’s grace, He will make our joy full.