I have an important question: What were you doing 400 years ago? It may sound ridiculous at first—of course nobody lives to be 400 years old! But I’m asking it seriously. To give proper context to this question, I want to revisit the story of the Pilgrims.

The Pilgrims were a small group of English separatists fleeing religious persecution from King James of England. In pursuit of freedom to worship as they saw fit, they sought to remove themselves from the religious oppression and constraints imposed upon them by the government controlled Church of England and begin a new life. Initially fleeing to Holland for a decade, they eventually secured a ship (actually two ships—the Speedwell and then the Mayflower) to make a daring escape attempt from their homeland. One hundred and two passengers forever left behind a life they knew to make the arduous journey across the Atlantic to the New World known as America.

On November 11, 1620, the Pilgrims and the others on board—tradesmen, craftsmen, merchants—signed the Mayflower Compact, a governing document based on biblical principles that would become the first written framework of government in the New World. In it we find the foundational principles of religious freedom, equality, and a rule of law made by the people for the people—ideas we often take for granted, but completely revolutionary in their time.

After sixty-six days at sea, they landed at Cape Cod in relatively good health, having lost only one man during their voyage. But they would soon face great hardship. Only half of them made it through their first winter, many succumbing to malnutrition, disease, and harsh conditions. It got so bad that at one point, their daily ration of corn was a mere five kernels. So you can imagine their joy when, assisted by the Indians, they had a successful harvest that next fall. They gathered together and feasted for three days, setting five kernels of corn next to their plates as a reminder of what God had brought them through—a tradition that lives on for many Americans to this day.

This initial group of pilgrim forerunners, who founded Plymouth Colony, was but the first among many. Future pilgrim voyages over the next two decades would go on to establish colonies throughout this “New England” they were building, including colonies in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Haven, Maine, and beyond. These colonies reflected the same core values that would become the cornerstone of the new world.

Fast forward roughly 400 years, and the fruit of the Pilgrims lives is nothing short of profound. We live in a nation where religious freedom, although sometimes challenged, has stood the test of time. America, despite her many flaws, has been a truly unique experiment in world history. No nation in history has sent as many missionaries into the rest of the world. Throughout the past century, Christianity has expanded from the West to the far corners of the globe. This is the fruit of modern day obedience to the Great Commission, but also, fruit that stems from those who came long before us. It is fruit of those who embraced a vision for this life that extended far beyond their time.

The first Thanksgiving was a celebration by the Pilgrims of God’s faithfulness in giving them a harvest for the seed they planted. But even today, as we sit down around the table and feast, as we offer gratefulness to God for his goodness, as we worship Him freely and openly, without fear of repercussion and without constraint, may we recognize that we are still yielding a harvest from the seeds they planted nearly four centuries ago. My prayer for us is that we would live with the same kind of vision they did. May we trade a seventy-eighty year vision for one that looks to impact future generations and even all of eternity.

Four hundred years from now, what will future generations reap from the seeds you are sowing today?

If you were encouraged by this post, don’t keep it to yourself—share it with someone else! You can also check out my book Driven by Eternity where I explore what God’s Word says about making your life count today and forever!