I am Thankful...Sort of... Well Not Really!
Topic: Thanksgiving Passage: Hebrews 13:5–13:5, Psalm 100:4–100:5, Ephesians 5:20
God had me open to these words from Psalm 9 this morning: “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” I read that and my heart says, YES! I want to do that!! I want to see life like that!
It is very easy to be UNAWARE that unthankfulness, complaining and self-pity, is permeating your conversations, your internal thinking, and EVEN your prayers!
If I asked, “Are you really a thankful person? We say: “Of course I am thankful! But here is how we talk: Oh, you'll never guess what happened to me today! The washing machine broke, and so and so hurt my feelings, I am under such a heavy load at work, and my allergies are miserable, ... and nobody from church called to see how I was doing, I was up with 2 sick kids in the middle of the night, my life just kind of stinks right now, I don't know how I can put up with this situation (or this person) any longer. Of course I am a VERY thankful person, but you see the taillight went out on my car and I got this huge bill for for property taxes in the mail and......
There is nothing wrong with telling someone about the difficult things you are going through, but there is a big difference between sharing those things with self-pity dripping from your voice, OR sharing them with an attitude of underlying gratitude. You can say this hurts right now, but I know God is good and will work good in all this. Self-pity puts the worst possible interpretation on circumstances. Thankfulness lifts you out of your misery and opens your heart to God.
Gratitude is one of the most important qualities God desires from you. Hebrews 12:28 “Therefore since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, LET US SHOW GRATITUDE - we could have been told to fast or go on a pilgrimage, but it says, “let us show gratitude, by which we my offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe...”. The LB says, “Let us please God by serving him with thankful hearts.”
You serve God by giving thanks. You please God by giving thanks. It is the one thing God wants from you, in response to your salvation. Hebrews 13:15 “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that GIVE THANKS to His name.” Psalm 100:4,5 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good...”.
NOT giving thanks, is the first sign of man's sinful rebellion against God. Romans 1 says, “They did not honor him as God or GIVE THANKS, but their foolish heart was darkened.” We are living like fallen men, when we complain, and grumble. In the Bible, grumbling, is in the same category as idolatry and immorality. It is part of the life of darkness, which we have been called out of.
Thankfulness is to abound in our lives, our talk, our expressions! Colossians 2:7 “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith,...and OVERFLOWING WITH THANKFULNESS.”
Thankfulness is a continual way of thinking and expressing ourselves, before God. We are to be “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything” Ephesians 5:20 “Whatever you do in word or deed, do it ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. Colossians 3:17 “ in EVERTHING give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Or “Give thanks in ALL circumstances” NIV. God's will for you TODAY is that you be giving thanks.
Thankfulness is the key to personal happiness. It is a scriptural principle that where your mind is allowed to go, your feelings will end up. Philippians 4:6,7 basically says, “Pray about everything with thanksgiving, and the peace of God will guard your hearts. Think of things that are noble, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy.” Think on things to give thanks for! If you fill your mind with things to be thankful for, YOUR FEELING WILL BE DIFFERENT. Tim Lahaye wrote, “You create your own emotional state by either griping or giving thanks.”
William Law wrote “ If I could tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness and all perfection, it would be to make a rule for yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you. For it is certain that whatever seeming calamity may happen to you, if you thank and praise God for it, you turn it into a blessing. If you could work miracles, you would NOT do more for yourself than to have this wonderful spirit, for it heals by just a word, and turns all that it touches into happiness.”
James Kennedy once began a message by saying, “What if I had a magic wand that could take away all your unhappiness and depression? He paused then he went on, “well I do have it! - Its thankfulness”.
Henry Frost served for many years as a missionary to China. In his journal he wrote of a very difficult time in his life. He says, “I had received sad news from home, and deep shadows had covered my soul. I prayed but the darkness did not vanish. I summoned myself to endure, but the darkness only deepened. Then I went to an China Inland mission station and saw on the wall of the mission home a plaque with these words: 'TRY THANKSGIVING'. I did, and in a moment every shadow was gone, not to return.”
What should you give thanks for? Everything! I love to listen to our grand-kids pray at lunch. God we just thank you for this beautiful day, for being here at Grandma's house, for pizza, for packages. They are not bound by some religious idea of what we can give thanks for!
We should give thanks every time we eat or drink. Jesus “took the bread and gave thanks..” We should give thanks for all the health we enjoy. Psalm 103 “Forget none of his benefits, who heals all your disease”. Give thanks for every time you recover from sickness or disease. 1 Timothy 4, Paul said marriage and food are things which God created to be RECEIVED WITH THANKGIVING.....For everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected IF IT IS RECEIVED WITH THANKSGIVING...”. Paul's concern was NOT to keep us from good things! But to tell us to give thanks!
Give thanks for good people God has brought into our lives. Paul said, “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers”. I can really get encouraged just thanking God for the really dear people we have here at RLC, wife, kids, grand-kids
But the thing we should be MOST thankful for, is SALVATION. If you ONLY see circumstances or material things as good, you will not always have much to be thankful for. There are greater things to be thankful for than a bargain at the mall or that the team you were pulling for won! Like that God saved you, and loved you, and is with you!
Colossians 1:12 says we are to be “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light”. If you are a child of God, you are qualified for heaven. Right where you sit this morning, you are qualified to be eternally with God. You do not have to go to purgatory, to attain enough holiness to enter heaven. You are qualified right now, BY THE FATHER, to share in an inheritance with all the other saints. That is something to give thanks to the Father for!
The word salvation means that God saved us from the wrath to come, by the blood of his Son. Jonathan Edwards said, “It is by the shear mercy of God that we are not in hell”. Be thankful that you have been chosen by God for salvation!! Jesus said, “Do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven”. If you value your salvation you will always have something to be thankful for.
We should always be saying “Thank you God, that you would choose me, love me want me; that you would be my God and that I am yours!” That is your reason to give thanks. That is your reason for happiness. Jesus Christ loved you and gave himself for you. He nourishes and cherishes you. John said, “What kind of love is this, that we should be called the children of God!”. The Holy Spirit is with you and inside you, Christ is interceding for you, God justifies you! You are really, really blessed!
Thankfulness is to permeate our prayers! The Bible says, to “present your requests to God, WITH THANKSGIVING”. Philippians 4:6 And Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful AND THANKFUL.” Your prayers should include requests for what you need or want, but those must be expressed with thankfulness. Thank God for things he has done for you in the past, thank him for the goodness and mercies you are currently experiencing and give thanks for all the good, that is on the way. My dad ended just about every prayer with “We thank you for all you have done and all you are going to do”.
Prayers prayed like this WILL lead to peace in your heart. They will overcome a multitude of distressing emotions. Prayer WITHOUT thanksgiving can actually be worse for you. Tim LaHaye in a book titled Overcoming Depression, wrote, “Prayer without thanksgiving will be detrimental and tend to make you depressed. Any time you come away from a period of prayer more depressed than when you started, examine your prayer for that missing ingredient – thanksgiving”. It makes sense - if prayer only recites your worries and fears, and complaints, you CAN be more depressed after you pray. I appreciate the way Mike Sheeks always gives thanks for many things when he prays at deacons meetings or other places. I don't know where he learned it but he practices it! And it is so encouraging!
Thankfulness is NOT only to permeate our prayers. It is to permeate our personal conversation! It is a way of talking about everything with everybody. Ephesians 5:3,4 “But among you...there must not be obscenity, foolish talk...., BUT RATHER (there must be) GIVING OF THANKS. When you are with each other, and you are saying things, you must say things with thankfulness!
When your spouse comes home from work, are you saying, I am SO thankful for this or that... Or Oh, you'll never guess what happened to me today. When we talk with each other in a thankful manner it is a way of showing gratitude to God.
Hindrances to thankfulness:
Prosperity. The more people have, the less grateful people tend to be. Once we have something we almost immediately loose our appreciation for it. Someone said if the stars only came out once a year, we would stay out all night to watch them, but because they are there every night, we take a ho-hum attitude toward them. We become numbed to God's goodness.
I heard a part of a message on the radio one morning, by Bob Russell and he said, “I could make you exuberantly happy tonight within 24 hours with exactly the circumstances that you're living in, right now; but it would be a brutal 24 hours. I'd have your lawyer call you and tell you that you were being sued, and it looked like you were going to lose every dime that you had. Then I'd have your doctor call you and tell you that he's looked at the latest test, and he thinks you have a terminal disease; and you've just got six months to live. Then I'd have a trusted friend call you and tell you that the three people who are closest to you in life had just been killed in an accident. Then, after 24 hours, I'd say to you: "None of this is true. You still have your wealth, you still have your loved ones, you still have your health". After you took a deep breath and probably punched me out, you'd be exuberantly happy with exactly what you have right now.” Your ability to be thankful has more to do with being able to see the things you have to be thankful for, than a different set of circumstances.
R T Kendall wrote, “Prosperity may have the consequence of making us forget”. We are used to having food of every kind within a couple of minutes drive. We are used to having temperature controlled houses or apartments, hot water for baths, ice whenever we want it, shoes, clothes, hair spray. If we are not careful, we can get used to our prosperity and presume upon it. We forget that we have good health. We forget that we have a warm place to sleep. We forget that we have a place to work. David said in Psalm 103 Bless the Lord and forget NONE of his benefits.
The proper response to prosperity is to be continually amazed at God's goodness. Psalm 116 “what shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” I shall lift up the cup of salvation...To you I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord”.
Lack of faith in the sovereign rule of God in our lives. I know God's sovereignty has been overemphasized in some circles to the point that it sounds like fatalism, but, I am not sure how you can be thankful without acknowledging the prerogative of God to do what he does in our lives! In heaven we will see the will of God in its final fullness and perfection for eternity, no tears, no pain, no sorrow. But there is a true sense in which God's will is being done right now in our lives, in all that happens. Therefore we can give thanks in all things.
Yesterday morning I went out to start my snow blower. And it would not start! I went through all the steps to turn it on, and pulled the cord probably 50 times, until I was exhausted. I'd had a bad cold and really didn't have all my energy back and still had some congestion so I was really breathing heavy. After about 20 minutes of failure and frustration. I started to say, “I really don't need this, today”. Now I hate that phrase with a passion. So I repented of it and I said, “I probably really do need this this today”. “This exercise might be just what my lungs need to clear out. Maybe the Lord wants me to do something else first this morning. Thank you God for your leading!” I was just ready to go inside when I realized that there was an electric starter on my snow blower, that I had never used before. I saw you had to plug it in. So I got a cord and plugged it in, and it cranked over and started, and I got my driveway done. And I was so thankful, I will never have to yank that cord again!
The Bible says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord”. You must believe that as a child of God your steps are being ordered by the Lord, even in the little things, even in life's losses and disappointments. In this present life God promises to redeem your pain, loss and disappointment. He takes everything that happens and weaves it all into a plan for good. By faith, we are to see God at work in every smallest event and give thanks.
Comparison. There is probably nothing that kills thankfulness in our hearts more than a tendency to look around at others WHO WE THINK have it better than us. Jesus told a parable about workers who were hired in the morning and promised a wage. They were content and thankful UNTIL they saw that the workers who started later in the day were paid the same amount of money. Then they became really upset. Comparison ruined everything for them. If you tend to compare yourself with others, you can be a very thankless person no matter how much you have.
Associating with people who grumble. It is amazing what good it does you to be around people who generally are positive and thankful. It is also amazing how easily you can be drawn into bitterness and complaint by associating with others who talk that way. Churches deal with this all the time. One person starts grumbling and gossiping and a whole bunch of previously happy people become infected by grumbling. The Bible says, “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals”. Yes, you love and help people who are grumblers, but when you start agreeing with them and reinforcing their negative attitudes you are giving up your God giving calling to be thankful!
Bob Russell, the pastor I heard one morning while driving, said, “Those who plan our short-term mission projects/trips get concerned if there are two complainers on the same trip because they say the complainers gravitate toward each other. They exaggerate the problems, and they contaminate others and sour the whole trip.” Latch onto thankful people!! And learn to think and talk like they do.
Demanding perfection in our circumstances (before we are happy or thankful). It is the mentality of “I will not be happy unless”. I want this kind of house, I want this quality of food, I want my hair to look a certain way, I want these things for my kids, I want to make this much more money. Pretty soon those wants are demands and they become the source of UNHAPPINESS. We are unhappy any time life is less than 100% perfect. One of my favorite times during the week is Friday night. Cindy and I order a pizza, we relax, we watch an old movie from the 40s or 50s. We sit and talk afterward up in the family room. But you know, if they didn't put enough cheese on the pizza, if I'm not careful, it can ruin the night! It is hard to NOT focus on the one thing that is not up to expectation! Let us not be demanding! We still live in a fallen world. We are incredibly blessed but we are not home yet.
Correct your internal talk, to start thinking thankful thoughts. It really has to start in your heart. You can make lists of things to give thanks for, but unless you correct the inward thoughts of the heart, it will just be trying to be fixing the outward symptoms, not the real problem. It is so easy to devote yourself to worry and anxiety or complaints. We need to devote ourselves to thinking things that are good, noble, and worthy of praise.
Begin to express thankfulness. The Bible says, “Give thanks”! Jesus healed ten lepers, but it says, “One came back, praising God in a loud voice and he threw himself at Jesus feet and thanked him”. Jesus said, “Where are the other nine”? Only one EXPRESSED thankfulness. The others would probably have said they were thankful. But they did not bother to tell Jesus.
Start your prayers with thanksgiving and don't move on to requests till gratitude has been stirred in your hearts.
*Practice giving thanks when you are in sad OR happy circumstances. Jonah gave thanks from the belly of the whale! “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you Lord...with shouts of GRATEFUL praise, I will sacrifice to you...And the Lord commanded the fish and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Give thanks when you feel your life is ebbing away! The Lord has you in his hand for good!