We have so much to be thankful for.
Many people will say that around this time of year. But I’ve been wondering recently, are we also taking time to be thankful for the One who’s given us so much? And are we taking the time to serve Him? I’ve also wondered if we — myself included — have grown too dependent on the “so much” we’ve been given.
Let me be clear, it’s not my intention to burden us with guilt, but to challenge us with a different perspective this season.
Do you remember the man in Jesus’ parable who discovered a treasure in a field? He sold everything he had and bought the field in order to gain the treasure (Matthew 13:44).
We need to learn how to think like that man, to divest ourselves of what is less valuable — activities, burdens, things — in order to gain what is priceless.
Consider the initial pilgrim settlers who loaded their bare necessities onto tiny sailing ships to reach the New World of America. It was tight quarters on the Mayflower. Those looking for a better life still had to leave almost everything behind. And despite the intense journey, arriving with not much more than the clothes on their backs and even losing family members and friends to illness along the way, they still took time to give thanks.
Also consider the next greatest movement of people, the “Westward Ho!” settlers who filled wagon trains in the nineteenth-century migration from Middle America to the West Coast. A two-thousand mile, six-month wagon train trip from Missouri to California cost about $2,000 in the 1840s, which is more than $58,000 in today’s currency. Where would the average family of very modest means get that kind of money? By divesting themselves of things that were not as important to them as the goal of reaching their destination.
There was no room on a prairie schooner wagon for furniture, pianos, beds, heirlooms, and the like. They could take only what would keep them alive on the journey and help them begin again upon arrival.
Said another way, it is about “traveling light” on our journey through this world. It is about identifying our destination and being willing to make the right choices to reach our journey’s end. Sometimes we have to ask the hard questions about our journey and the changes we may need to make in our priorities, values, possessions, and other worldly ties as God leads us.
When families move to a new location — especially one that is far away — what do they do? They have a moving sale! They realize that moving lava lamps, turkey fryers, and stacks of old magazines is not wise. When our family moved from Indiana to Southern California in 1981, we evaluated everything and left a solid amount of Jeremiah property behind.
The question is always: “What do we need to help us reach our goal? What might distract, divert, or become an obstacle?” And those questions can be answered only when we answer these as well: “What is my destination? How important is it to me? What am I willing to lose in light of what I stand to gain?”
History records the observation of one A. J. McCall, a wagon train traveler on the Oregon Trail who noticed how some travelers tried to take everything with them: “They laid in an over-supply of bacon, flour and beans, and in addition thereto every conceivable gimcrack and useless article that the widest fancy could devise or human ingenuity could invent — pins and needles, brooms and brushes, ox shoes and horse shoes, lasts and leather, glass beads and hawks-bells, jumping jacks and jews-harps, rings and bracelets, pocket mirrors and pocket-books, calico vests and boiled shirts.”
Are we like some of those wagon train pioneers, with desires far bigger than our wagons? Do we need to think afresh about what it means to travel light through this world?
Like the man in Jesus’ parable; like Abraham who traveled from Ur to Canaan; like the Mayflower pilgrims whose goal was a better life in the New World; and like the “Westward Ho!” pioneers — we cannot afford to be weighed down by things that work against us.
And we can’t let our blessings get stacked so high that we can’t see the one who blessed us!
I pray God will help us discern whether we are traveling light enough to respond nimbly and easily to whatever he calls us to do to fulfill his will. Because the less we are encumbered by this world, the more readily we can go anywhere and do anything for him.
Dr. David Jeremiah serves as senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California and is the founder and host of Turning Point. A New York Times bestselling author and Gold Medallion winner, he has written more than fifty books.