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CHRISTIAN LIFE - GIVING THANKS 2 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

GIVING THANKS

2 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; 1 Timothy 4:5; 1 Timothy 5:16-17

THANKSGIVING IS A DAY SET ASIDE TO THANK GOD FOR HIS ABUNDANCE. MANY CHRISTIANS WHO SEEM ENORMOUSLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE COMMERCIALISM OF CHRISTMAS SEEM UNCONCERNED WITH THE THANKLESSNESS OF THANKSGIVING DAY. AT MANY HOMES—EVEN CHRISTIAN HOMES--ABUNDANTLY AND LAVISHLY PREPARED TABLES HAVE INTRUCTIONS WHICH SAY, “LET’S HAVE THE BLESSING AND MAKE IT QUICK BEFORE THE FOOD GETS COLD.”

YET THANKSGIVING AND GRATITUDE ARE AN ESSENTIAL PART OF OUR JUDEO-CHRISTIAN HERITAGE. THE JEWS HAD SEVERAL OCCASIONS FOR THANKSGIVING BUILT INTO THEIR LITURGICAL AND NATIONAL CALENDAR.

  • PASSOVER WAS THE THANKUL CELEBRATION OF THE PASSING OVER THEIR HOUSES BY THE ANGEL OF DEATH AS THEY WERE PREPARING TO BREAK FREE FROM BONDAGE IN EGYPT. IT ALSO BECAME KNOWN AS THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD. IT WAS A SPRINGTIME FESTIVAL COMMEMORATING THE HARVEST OF THE FIRST BARLEY SHEAF, A THANKSGIVING.
  • THE FEAST OF WEEKS WAS A ONE DAY THANKSGIVING EVENT WHICH OCCURRED FIFTY DAYS LATER AT THE END OF THE SEVEN WEEK GRAIN HARVEST. THE GREEKS CALLED THIS THE DAY OF PENTECOST, MEANING FIFTY. THIS FEAST WAS ALSO CALLED THE FEAST OF FIRST FRUITS FOR THE OCCCASON WHEN WORSHIPERS COULD MAKE THEIR OWN OFFERINGS FROM THE NEW GRAIN CROP.
  • THE FEAST OF BOOTHS OR TABERNACLES WAS OBSERVED ANNUALLY IN AUTUMN AT THE END OF THE AGRICULTURAL SEASON,
  • ANOTHER THANKSGIVING OPPORTUNITY, THE FEAST OF THE INGATHERING, WAS A SPECIAL THANKSGIVING FOR THE HARVEST OF GRAPES AND OLIVES. OBSERVED ANNUALLY  IN AUTUMN, THIS FEAST WAS DESIGNATED AS THE OCCASION WHEN INDIVIDUALS MADE THEIR OWN OFFERINGS.
  • LEVITICUS 7:11-14 DESCRIBES THE FELLOWSHIP OFFERING GOD REQUIRED AS A THANK OFFERING

THESE HISTORICAL JEWISH FESTIVALS AND THANK OFFERINGS SERVE AS OUR EXAMPLE FOR A PERIOD OF NATIONAL RELIGIOUS THANKSGIVING. OTHER EXAMPLES OF OCCURENCES OF NATIONAL THANKSGIVING ARE:

  • During the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 3:11)
  • Psalm 100 is subtitled “A psalm. For giving thanks.”       

THE NEW TESTAMENT DOES NOT OFFER A PREDCEDENT FOR NATIONAL DAYS OF THANKSGIVING BUT INCLUDES MANY INSTRUCTIONS FOR CORPORATE THANKSGIVING. THE MOST OBVIOUS IS THE COMMUNION MEAL KNOWN AS THE LORD’S SUPPER. 1 CORINTHIANS 10:16 PROVIDES INSIGHT FOR THIS LAST SUPPER OF JESUS AS A THANKSGIVING EVENT.

EXPRESSING GRATITUDE RIGHT AFTER A HARVEST IS AS OLD AS RECORDED HISTORY. IN AMERICA, THE TRADITION OF A PERIOD FOR THANKSGIVING DATES BACK TO 1622 WHEN THE PLYMOUTH PILGRIMS OBSERVED A HOLIDAY AND FEAST THANKING GOD AND CELEBRATING THEIR SURVIVAL AFTER A RUGGED NEW ENGLAND WINTER. BECAUSE OF THEIR TRAGIC LOSSES, THE PILGRIMS NEARLY ESTABLISHED A DAY OF MOURNING AND FASTING RATHER THAN A DAY OF GRATITUDE OR THANKSGIVING. AFTER ALL, SOME OF THEIR NUMBERS HAD DIED FROM STARVATION, OTHERS FROM DISEASE, AND OTHERS FROM HOSTILE NATIVES, BUT, BECAUSE OF THEIR DIFFICULTIES, THEY WERE ABLE TO APPRECIATE THOSE BENEFITS THEY HAD.

If you ask people today about the Pilgrims, they might tell you,

"They're the ones that invented Thanksgiving and the eating of turkeys."

Why did they do that?

"Because they were so happy about the wonderful crops and the abundance they had here, and they wanted to give thanks to the Indians."

That is what some textbooks teach students!!

Were they thankful for the abundance of their crops? No!! Because there was no abundance. The average meal that winter consisted of five hard kernels of corn on the plate. Period. They landed in early December, 1620, and about fifty percent died in that first winter of 1621. There was not a family who had not lost someone—a husband, wife, or child.  They had little food, and many were still sick. But they believed God’s Word and gave thanks in bad times as well as good times.

The London Company that financed this adventure to the new world charged 45 percent interest which the Pilgrims paid .  It required that the Pilgrims have a communal or socialistic, communistic government so everything was brought into a common barn. Nobody owned any property. The Founders of this country first had a failing communist economy. The result: fifty percent of the inhabitants died. Then the official spokesman William Bradford said, “We had thought ourselves wiser than God. Now it was each man for himself.” Every family received a piece of ground, and the increase was astonishing. From the sorrow of 1621 things improved to the abundance of 1623 when there was another thanksgiving, and this time there was abundance. The crops were great, and the food was quite abundant. They were doing well. They had Thanksgiving again. Friendly Indians may have been a myth at first and possibly true at a later date.

THE FIRST DATE FOR A NATIONAL THANKSGIVING CELEBRATION WAS SET IN 1863 BY ABRAHAM LINCOLN. PRESIDENT LINCOLN AND THE NATION RECOGNIZED THE NEED TO GIVE THANKS TO GOD FOR THOSE ADVANTAGES WHICH WERE THEIRS. LINCOLN SET ASIDE THE LAST THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER, TO QUOTE: "AS A DAY OF THANKSGIVING AND PRAISE FOR OUR BENEFICENT FATHER WHO DWELLETH IN THE HEAVENS." FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT CHANGED IT TO THE FOURTH THURSDAY OF NOVEMBER.

THANKSGIVING DAY EMPHASIS HAS DEPARTED FROM A RELIGIOUS PURPOSE. THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENTS FOR THE LAST TWO DECADES MADE THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATIONS OF CONGRATULATIONS TO GOD FOR HAVING SUCH WONDERFUL CHILDREN IN AMERICA INSTEAD OF THANKING HIM FOR OUR BLESSINGS.

WE SHOULD NOT CONCENTRATE ALL OUR GRATITUDE WITHIN ONE THANKSGIVING DAY AND TAKE GOD'S GIFTS FOR GRANTED THE REST OF THE YEAR. GOD IS VERY CLEAR ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF GIVING THANKS REGULARLY (Ephesians 5:20;1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

WE SHOULD BE GRATEFUL TO GOD IN EVERYTHING BECAUSE

  • Gratitude helps us be obedient and trust the Lord even when we don't understand why. Although God hasn't promised to explain why we go through pain or hardship, He has promised to be with us and enable us to face it.
  • Thankfulness displaces anxiety with peace. The Greek word for peace means “to bind together.” When we keep thanking the Lord in the midst of sorrow, loss, and heartache, we are bound to Him, and His peace fills us as our anxieties crumble. The pain and difficulty may remain, but we've changed inside. This kind of peace is only available to those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
  • Being thankful reminds us of our continual dependence upon the Lord. Mature believers live in absolute dependence upon God every day and rejoice with a grateful and trusting spirit.
  • Giving thanks focuses our attention on God rather than our circumstances. If we fix our eyes on the difficulty, the pain becomes unbearable, peace eludes us, and the situation seems hopeless. Focusing on the Lord reminds us of what we can know for certain:

We're not alone. God is with us. He walks with us. He loves us. We're eternally secure. He will bring us through.

NEVER HAS A GENERATION BEEN SO BLESSED WITH MATERIAL COMFORTS AND POSSESSIONS. WE FLIP A SWITCH AND EXPECT LIGHT, BUT WE FORGET TO BE THANKFUL FOR THE PEOPLE WHO KEEP ELECTRICITY FLOWING. I believe that most people, even many church people, probably don't believe that giving thanks is that important. I wonder how many of us make it a point to give thanks every day in all situations.

THE GREATEST GIFT OF GOD TO HUMANITY IS THE GIFT OF HIS SON. WE CANNOT SINCERELY SAY, "GOD, WE THANK YOU FOR SENDING YOUR SON TO DIE FOR OUR SINS," AND NOT ACCEPT THAT SON AS OUR SAVIOR. TO REJECT GOD'S SON AND HIS CLAIMS ON OUR LIFE IS TO SAY, "SO FAR AS I AM CONCERNED, HE MIGHT AS WELL NOT HAVE COME TO THE EARTH." THE FIRST RESPONSE OF GRATITUDE IS TO TAKE THE CUP OF SALVATION, AND CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD (PSALM 116:14; ROMANS 10:12-13).

THINK OF THE HIGH, EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE WHEN THAT BABY WAS BORN AND YOU HELD IN YOUR ARMS A LIFE OF YOUR OWN FLESH. YOU VOWED TO LOVE AND PROTECT THIS CHILD FOREVER.

THINK OF THAT REVIVAL MEETING, THAT CAMP EXPERIENCE, THAT TIME OF GREAT SORROW OR GREAT JOY WHEN GOD WAS SO CLOSE AND YOU VOWED TO LOVE HIM MORE DEVOTEDLY AND TO FOLLOW HIS WILL.

WHEN WE ACCECPT CHRIST AS OUR SAVIOR, WE VOW ALLEGIANCE TO CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH. THESE ARE PUBLIC VOWS. THEY BEGIN WITH A PUBLIC PROFESSION OF FAITH. LIKE THE PUBLIC VOWS OF MARRIAGE, THE PUBLIC VOWS OF A CHRISTIAN PUT US ON RECORD AND UNDER OBLIGATION TO BE CONSISTENT AND FAITHFUL. THANKSGIVING DAY IS AN APPROPRIATE TIME TO PAY OUR VOWS TO THE LORD IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS PEOPLE.

BUT THANKFULNESS IS MORE THAN WORDS. IT REQUIRES ACTION ALSO.

THE NEW TESTAMENT DECLARES THAT ALL CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO BE MINISTERS AND ARE TO USE THE GIFT OR GIFTS GOD HAS GIVEN THEM. JESUS SAID THAT THE SON OF MAN CAME NOT TO BE MINISTERED TO BUT TO MINISTER. THE WORD “MINISTER” MAY ALSO BE TRANSLATED “SERVANT.”

BELIEVERS ARE SERVANTS IN THE SENSE THAT WE ARE TO BE CONCERNED WITH MINISTERING TO THE NEEDS OF OTHERS RATHER THAN BEING CONCERNED WITH BEING SERVED BY OTHERS. WE MUST HAVE A SERVANT ATTITUDE BECAUSE WHEN WE ASSUME THE ROLE OF THE SERVANT, WE ARE MOST LIKE OUR LORD!

ANOTHER LESSON IN WORDS IS THAT THE GREEK WORD FOR “WORSHIP” MAY ALSO BE TRANSLATED “SERVICE.” HERE WE HAVE THE CONNECTION THAT IN SERVING OR MINISTERING TO OTHERS WE ARE WORSHIPING THE FATHER.

SO ON THANKSGIVING DAY, AS ON EVERY DAY, WE NEED TO EXPRESS OUR GRATITUDE FOR MANY BLESSINGS:

  • GOD’S LOVE, OUR SALVATION THROUGH JESUS’ DEATH AND RESURRECTION, THE BIBLE
  • FRIENDS, PEOPLE WHO INFLUENCED US IN GOOD WAYS
  • OUR TALENTS, OUR GIFTS
  • OUR NATION AND ITS LEADERS.

WE NEED TO GO TO THE LORD IN PRAYER THANKING HIM FOR ALL THAT HE HAS DONE FOR US AND WHAT HE IS STILL DOING FOR US.

WE NEED TO PRAY FOR THE SICK AND THE BEREAVED AND FOR THE WORLD TO KNOW CHRIST.

WE NEED TO LIVE AS GOOD STEWARDS OF WHAT BELONGS TO GOD HERE ON EARTH, GIVING TO HIS CHURCH GENEROUSLY TO FURTHER HIS WORK.

 

LET US PRAY.

Father, we are thankful for the opportunity to tell others about Jesus Christ and share His love with others.  I uplift this church to you asking that your Holy Spirit direct people in it to do your will.  Protect this church from the Evil One. Give us the strength to wage battle against Satan at all times.  May your Holy Spirit teach us this morning.  We give you all the glory and praise.  In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Amen.

Precious Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to worship together this morning.  As we study your Word today, I ask that your Holy Spirit enlighten us through faith by your grace.  I ask that the people in this church continue to learn and apply Biblical principles to their lives.  I ask that you bless this church in their quest to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As this body strives to further the work of your church, please guide them in their efforts, filling this church with new converts.  In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Amen.

You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).

To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).

You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:

         Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on. I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf. Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You. In Your name I pray, Amen.