Thanksgiving and Rememberance

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Monday 25th of April was 101 years since Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli. Their task was to secure the Dardanelles, the straits which connect the Aegean and Black Seas, to maintain the supply route to Russia. Although their mission was a failure, they were able to evacuate without the Turkish forces noticing.

When we remember these events and the other military anniversaries that hold significance for us, we can wonder what God has to do with them. What is it appropriate for Christians to do in marking these days which our nations see as important?

Of course, the most important day to mark is the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ over sin and death. That is why Christians have always met on the first day of the week (John 20:1, 19, 26; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1; Revelation 1:3, 10.). This victory is greater than any other. Jesus Christ suffered and died and rose again to secure freedom and ensure peace with God for everyone who trusts in Him. (Hebrews 2:14-15; Romans 8:1). Our freedom came at the greatest cost (John 3:16; Romans 8:32).

There is good reason for us to mark other days too (Esther 9:20-22). They must never replace our worship of God or detract from it. But when we understand God’s rule over the whole of history, we see that there is a place for worshipping Him in response to events of importance in our particular national history.

The Israelites were taught to ‘give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. For His mercy endures forever.’ (Psalm 107:1). In particular, we are to thank Him for His redemption (Psalm 107:2). The Psalm gives detailed accounts of four general ways in which God delivered His people (Psalm 107:4-9, 10-16, 17-22, 23-32). No matter how low we are, His ability to deliver us is never limited; even if our opponents are rulers, God can and does intervene (Psalm 107:39-41). In response, we are again told to rejoice (Psalm 107:42).

But how can we rejoice on ANZAC Day, or September 11, or when we remember the death of a loved one?

The Psalm writer gives us the key:

“Whoever is wise will observe these things,
And they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.” Psalm 107:43

If we fear God, understanding that His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), we will not dismiss disasters like Gallipoli as mistakes or reasons to doubt God’s care. Instead, we will see His lovingkindness (that is His grace or covenant love).

God’s covenant love means that because of His promises to us in Jesus Christ, God is acting for our good through all kinds of events (Romans 8:28). The events themselves may not be good, but He is using them to make us more like our Saviour, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). If we assume that we know how things ought best to be done, we will be puzzled by the events we experience. But if we know that God is making us more prayerful, more reliant on Him, and more dedicated to serving Him, we will find that in our suffering He is doing good. God gives us good things, and sometimes takes them away, but in doing so He is showing us that we must always depend on Him and trust His goodness (Job 1:21).

When bad things happen, we will hurt and cry and mourn. But we will also grow and hope (Romans 5:3-5). God’s grace and His love are shown to us as we suffer (Psalm 107:43; Romans 5:5). And so we should rejoice.

The proper way to observe ANZAC Day is not to glorify the dead, but we can praise God for their service. We cannot pray for the dead, but we can give thanks to God for them. But more important than all of this, we should praise God for His lovingkindness.

Yours in Christ’s service,

Stephen McDonald

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