Oregon Trail to Thankfulness

By Vince Hefner
Type: Story
Subject: Thankfulness; Gratitude

The Oregon Trail to Thankfulness

Dr. Vince Hefner, Pastor

First Baptist Church, Cherryville

In the early days of the settlement of the West, travelers encountered considerable difficulty. One party of pioneers on the Oregon Trail had suffered greatly from a scarcity of water and food for the oxen as well as the travelers. Some of the wagons had broken down, causing delays in the stifling heat. Along with these adverse circumstances came a general feeling of fretfulness and anxiety.

I get upset when I can’t find a good parking spot at the mall; it is hard to imagine what these brave people had to overcome to achieve their goal in reaching their new home. The travelers had just about lost all of their optimism and cheer from their prolonged difficulties. One night a meeting was called for the purpose of airing out their complaints. When they had gathered around the campfire, one of the leaders stood up and said, “Before we do anything else, I think we should first thank God that we have come far with no loss of life, with no serious trouble from the Indians, and that we have enough strength left to finish our journey.” After the prayer, there was a silence. No one had any grievances that they felt were important enough to voice.

Thankfulness often transforms a grumbling spirit into one of contentment, enabling us to see the many mercies of God that we ordinarily would overlook. I have never traveled on the Oregon Trail in a wagon (station wagon or one drawn by oxen) to get to a particular place; however, I have experienced difficulties and disappointments that made me feel like I was eating trail dust going to nowhere.

Discouraging words can make a bad situation worse, and if they are not addressed, these words can really bring any progress to a screeching halt. I remember an event that occurred at my church that I pastored while in seminary. The church did not have indoor plumbing. After a few months, I was discouraged by the church’s lack of desire to move into the twentieth century. When I brought it up to the deacons they told me that the Church was good enough for their kids while they grew up and it would have to be good enough for me and my family. I asked them where their kids were now that they had grown up since they were no longer attending their home Church. They didn’t have an answer. I told them that their children had gone to a Church that cared enough to take care of their basic needs. This of course endeared me to some of the deacons, but others took notice of their new pastor who had conviction for hot and cold running water inside the Church. During a business meeting, one deacon brought up the fact that we needed all the amenities that comes along with running water. Another man jumped up and explained why we didn’t need running water and how we could not afford it. He was really persuading the crowd (about 30 people) with all the reasons not to spend money and change the way things were in the Church. There was a hush over the small group of people as one saint stood up and talked about how God had blessed his family throughout the years, and how they made the mistake of not correcting this problem years ago, and how he would pay for the digging of the well and the water pump.

Then, one by one the members stood up and thanked God for their Church and made contributions to the Vincent D. Hefner Restroom Fund. It was one of my greatest victories!

When you begin to think about all the ways God has blessed you in your life, it is hard to complain or stay in a state of discouragement. Philippians 4:8 says, “if there be any praise, think on these things.” What are you thinking about today? Remember, don’t give in to sin!