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“Hat In Hand Thankfulness!” 1 Thessalonians 5: 12-28 Key verse(s): 18: “. . . give thanks under all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Thanksgiving! It is easy to forget, especially when our lives are so filled with other things. Perhaps that’s why we have a Thanksgiving Day; because if we didn’t, we might forget to do it? And, perhaps, it is because so many bad things happen in life that it just doesn’t seem possible to be thankful in a consistent manner.

Perhaps there is no greater thing to be said about a person than that he was thankful and his life was a picture of generosity and giving. That, when all was said and done, there was not a time in life when gratitude did not rise to the surface despite all else and claim the day. “When General Ulysses S. Grant arrived in New York in 1854, after he had resigned under a cloud from the army in California, he was without funds and still far from his Ohio home. In this difficulty he wen to call on a West Point friend and comrade in the Mexican War, Simon Bolivar Buckner. Buckner generously supplied him with funds, so that he could reach his home in Ohio. Eight years afterward, when Grant captured Fort Donelson in that Great Civil War victory of February of 1862, the surrender was made by General Buckner, now an officer in the Confederacy, the other officers having fled.

In a speech delivered years later at a Grant birthday dinner, Buckner told what happened there at Fort Donelson: ‘Under these circumstances I surrendered to General Grant. I had at a previous time befriended him, and it has been justly said that he never forgot an act of kindness. I met him on the boat (at the surrender), and he followed me when I went to my quarters. He left the officers of his own army and followed me, with that modest manner peculiar to him, into the shadow, and there he tendered me his purse. It seems to me that in the modesty of his nature he was afraid the light would witness that act of generosity, and sought to hide it from the world.” (Macartney’s Illustrations, pg. 149)

One can only imagine how Grant and Buckner must have felt in such an awkward situation as that must have been. Two proud and honorable men, once friends, now fighting on opposite sides. Drawn together by acts of violence and bloodshed, it would have seemed that there was no room for goodness or graciousness in the moment. Yet, a grateful heart stepped in and captured the day for the sake of kindness and consideration. There was a debt to repay and humility to offer. Grant’s grateful heart reaching out to touch the heart of his friend and benefactor. That became the crowning achievement of the moment. It was not the receipt of a sword, the stacking of weapons, or that gentleman’s salute. Rather, it was the hat-in-hand exchange of a few dollars and coins in repayment of a kindness that signaled the importance of the moment.

God works in mysterious ways in our lives. When we experience evil, He manages that evil for good. When we suffer misfortune, He pulls us closer to Himself. No matter what the situation, God brings His grace and mercy to bear, cloaked in the mantel of His gracious love and tender mercy. Buckner was certainly not thankful for the defeat that he and his men had just suffered. But, you can be guaranteed that he was thankful in that defeat; thankful that a friend would not forget a kindness, that a foe would humble himself at the memory of a kindness long past done. Gratitude has a way of doing that. It pierces through the darkest days and calms the roughest waters. True thankfulness finds a way of pulling us out of despondency and pulling us into the light of gratitude. It simply can’t be helped. So, thank God for evil? No, evil is not a result of anything God has ordained. Evil does not come from God, but a thankful heart does. Being able to thank God even when evil happens to us is not a response to the evil but a recognition that even evil is controlled by God for our good. God will accomplish good always and for that we can be ever so thankful.

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