TRUE CHRISTIAN THANKSGIVING
(a text transcript of the sermon preached at Elijah Ministries on 2/7/06)
Good morning brothers and sisters.
I give thanks to the Lord this morning for the wonderful privilege of being able to stand here before you…. I believe that the youth group are hooked up and listening in today, welcome guys….I pray that I can be a small blessing to someone today.
Before we start, I’ve got a little report back from last Sunday. A few weeks ago, the Youth of our church had the absolute audacity to challenge the elders of our church to a game of 7-a-side soccer. So last Sunday, the big day arrived and with an awe inspiring performance, I’m very happy to report that wisdom prevailed. The old toppers whipped the youngsters 5-4. The average age of the elders team was 45 and the youngsters average age was under 20. To those who played for our team, well done, you can take a bow. Victory was particularly sweet for me, because my 2 sons were on the receiving end of our phenomenal skill. So, if you notice any of the elders of the church hobbling this morning, you know why. The youngsters have already said they want a rematch, so we’re planning on making this a monthly event – monthly, because the elders need a month to recover.
Staying on the subject of soccer… I’m not sure how many of you have been following the World Cup, but being the most popular sport in the world, with billions of people watching every day, I thought I would just share a few interesting things I found when I did some research on some of the teams. The Brazilians actually have their own pastor and what I found refreshing, was that the Brazilian team includes 6 or 7 devout born again evangelical Christians. One of them, one of the best midfielders in the world is a chap by the name of Ricardo Kaka. On his boots, Kaka has printed: I belong to Jesus. Kaka recently said in an interview that his team held Bible Studies and prayed before every match, not for victory, but rather that their team brings glory to God. He said We should always give Jesus the thanks and the glory in good times and bad".
In such an unholy environment as the World Cup, I found that very encouraging, which leads onto this morning’s message.
Today I want to talk about Thanksgiving.
True Christian thanksgiving – in good times and in bad.
Shall we pray.
Father, we come before you this morning and we give you thanks Lord for the privilege of being able to serve you and to worship you. We pray Lord that your Word will enlighten us and give us understanding on how to apply what we learn in our lives, so that we can walk more acceptably before you and bring you glory. I pray this morning Lord that you would speak through me and that you would open their hearts and minds to only what you would have us hear. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
TRUE CHRISTIAN THANKSGIVING
One of the major shortcomings of this generation is ingratitude or unthankfulness. It follows close on the heels of society today’s love for money and prosperity, for things of this world. It’s a growing failing of the people of this era and is causing the Almighty to turn away from many a soul, not so much in anger, but in sorrow.
Turn with me to 2 Timothy 3…
In 2 Timothy 3, the Apostle Paul identifies the people living in the last days, the days that we are currently living in:
2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2) For men shall be lovers of their own selves, [Interesting here that Paul describes both the self-love taught by human psychology and the homosexual movement in one sentence – men will be lovers of themselves], covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers….. and here I’d like the youth to take note…. disobedient to parents, ……and next we should all note…… unthankful,….. unholy, then onto verse (4) Traitors, heady, highminded…… lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (5) Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. Then verse 7… (7) Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Notice that Paul equates unthankfulness with being unholy…. And that the Lord is ready to turn away from people who practice such things.
Notice too verse 7…. Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Are we becoming like this… ever learning, but never actually acknowledging the truth? How many of us sit here Sunday after Sunday, learning and receiving the Truth from the most outstanding teachers (myself excluded), but never coming to the real knowledge of the truth -
the application of what we learn in our lives. So seldom do we actually apply what we learn in church, in our lives…Have we become sermon proof? Sermon proof Christians…
Can I ask what exactly are you doing here today? Are you here to please your wife or to please your parents? Or are you here because you really want to be here….. Remember that God knows your heart, and if your heart is not right, you will never come to the real knowledge of the Truth.
And what exactly is this knowledge of the Truth?
Keep your place in 2 Timothy and go back one book to 1 Timothy. 1 Timothy 2…
1 Timothy 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; (4) Who wants all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. And here he tells us exactly what the knowledge of the Truth is…verse (5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (6) Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
And this is confirmed in 2 Timothy 2… Go back to 2 Timothy chapter 2….
2 Timothy 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome; but be kind and gentle unto all men, able to teach, patient when wronged, (25) In gentleness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God perhaps will give them repentance …leading to the knowledge of the truth; (26) And that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him....at his will.
Notice that acknowledging the Truth involves repentance. And repentance is not forgiveness, as so many people think – repentance is… having true guilt and remorse before a Holy God, confessing your sin and turning away from it, leaving it behind….
The truth is…….. that Jesus Christ is real…. He is our Saviour…. He died for our sins.
The truth is… that if you don’t belong to Jesus Christ, then you belong to the devil. There is no in between. Without Jesus, being a good and kind person means absolutely nothing in the eyes of a God Almighty.
The truth is…. that in Jesus and in Jesus Christ only, can we be saved and escape the prison of the devil.
And this can only happen …. IF we repent. Jesus said in Luke 13 that unless we repent, we will perish, we will never see the Kingdom of Heaven.
Today I pray that we can truly acknowledge this Truth and apply it in our lives.
And the Apostle Paul says that being unthankful is as bad as being a homosexual… or a blasphemer… or just plain unholy…. And he also says that being disobedient to your parents is equally as bad… I hope you guys in youth are listening.
Now, the Bible commands us to "Give thanks unto the Lord." It says it over and over. In fact, the Bible mentions Give thanks unto the Lord 68 times! And it mentions thanks and thanksgiving another 100 times! You’ll be thankful to know that I’m not going to go through all of them, but here are a couple of important Scriptures:
Psalm 106:1 says: Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy.. endures.. forever.
What a great and comforting truth!
Psalm 100:4 says Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
You enter into the Lord’s presence, with thanksgiving and praise.
And yet, how is it that when the Bible says something just twice, we are ready to build an entire doctrine on it. But when it says something 68 times or even 100 times, like “Give thanks unto the Lord” – we often choose to ignore it, we are still so ungrateful.
Isn’t it amazing, and I’m sure this is true about most of us sitting here today, how quickly we forget the Lord’s mercy in our lives. Think back in your life, to a time and place where you were almost down and out, completely bankrupt. And I’m not talking here about being financially bankrupt, but about being spiritually bankrupt. Before we were born again, we were completely and utterly worthless. Worthless, buried in sin and on our way to hell! Do you remember those times?
Are you born again?
And let me remind those of you who are not born again… that Jesus said in John 3:3 that unless you are born again, you will not see the Kingdom of heaven. Unfortunately, this is not negotiable, people. You have to be born again – which means coming to a realization that you are dead in your sins and that there is nothing you can do to save yourself. You need a Saviour. You see, to believe in Jesus is not enough. Satan believes in Jesus. Jesus says: You must be born again.
Now many of you in the youth group have reached an age where you are no longer considered to be children. You’re now young adults and have become personally accountable and responsible for your own sin. It’s an age where you have to make a conscious decision – either to ask the Lord to save you and become born again, or to remain dead in your empty lifestyle, serving Satan. There is no in between.
When you go before the Lord and truly confess that you are lost without Him, when you become born again, the Holy Spirit will come and live inside you – that’s a promise Jesus made Himself. And the Holy Spirit, our great comforter, will change your life forever.
Because of His love for you, you will have a newfound love for Jesus, for the Bible, for the Word of God……..
you will want to serve Jesus, not just because your parents tell you to,
you will want to serve others, not only because your parents tell you to,
you will want to change your ways, so much so, that when you do, people will actually notice the change in you.
Being cool and accepted amongst your friends will no longer be that important to you.
The things of this world will no longer be that important to you.
To do the right thing in the eyes of Jesus will suddenly become very important to you.
You have to choose people, Heaven or Hell. You have to be born again. This morning I ask you, what’s it going to be?
But returning to thankfulness …. and how quickly we forget the Lord’s mercy in our lives…..
Looking back then, before we were born again, we were worthless, buried in sin, on our way to hell. But through the Lord’s perfect grace and mercy… many of us were born again… and just take a long look at yourself now – each one of us more valuable than all the gold and money on this earth put together – as children and sons of God, we are more valuable than any human can even contemplate! There is no more valuable a possession than that! The possession of the knowledge of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen?
Turn with me to 1 Peter 2…
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light:
Now the words “a peculiar people” are better translated by the words:
A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION;
A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION!! Wow!
The knowledge that we are God’s very own possessions. Now isn’t that something to be grateful for?
And if we really were grateful, we would want to follow the will of God, right? Keep your place in 1 Peter and turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 5…, where it tells us what the will of God is, in our lives:
1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice evermore. (17) Pray without ceasing. (18) In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning …you.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 says that we are to thank God without ceasing, and
Ephesians 5:20 says… Give thanks always.. for all things.. unto God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
It is the will of God that we rejoice forever and that we pray without ceasing. But it is also the will of God in Christ that we give thanks at all times for everything.
Of course, it’s very easy to give thanks when we get what we want. But Scripture tells us to give thanks at all times and in all circumstances. This is difficult to do, but not impossible.
And it only becomes possible when we understand that God will allow tests and trials to come our way in order to improve our faith and our relationship with Him.
Go back to 1 Peter 1….
1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, (7) so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ….
Greatly rejoice in your trials….Go forward to 1 Peter 4…..
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you…. for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; (13) but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. (14) If you are reviled or insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
Remember that if people mock you or insult you for your faith, you are blessed – it’s called persecution.
And be very careful of people who tell you that Christians should be rich, healthy and successful. This is not what the Bible teaches. Nowhere did Jesus say that Christianity would be easy. Instead He says Pick up your cross and follow me. The Bible promises that if you call yourself Christian, you WILL be tested. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you’re not being tested, then perhaps you’re not following the will of God in your life. The Bible says all Christians will face tests and trials, and sometimes those tests are almost unbearable to overcome.
But know that those tests are put there for a reason. They are put there for your own good. Just as gold is refined in the fire, so our faith is refined by overcoming our tests and trials. And if you don’t overcome the test, know that the Lord is very, very patient. Know for sure that He will test you again and again and again, until your faith is refined, until you pass the test. You see, the Lord knows what’s best for you – your plans for your life and His plans for your life are very often, very different. So when the Lord tests you, He knows what you need, He knows what’s best for you. He knows that He tests you for your own good. He wants you to pass the test. He wants you to be thankful, while you are being tested. He wants you to rejoice, during your trials – because then you are following His will.
Turn with me to Philipians 4…..
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (5) Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. (6) Worry about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with ….thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Prayer with thanksgiving. And when you do this, when you give thanks to the Lord for your tests and trials and during your tests and trials, you will find that something absolutely amazing happens. Verse 7…
(7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
By giving thanks during your trials, the peace that surpasses all understanding comes upon you! Your spirit is so filled with God’s peace and contentment, that you cannot even hope to understand it. It is a peace that we cannot even imagine, it’s beyond comprehension. And this is one of the great things about Christianity that separates it from all other religions. Notice too, that this peace, it guards our hearts and minds from anything that causes us to worry. No worries. No anxiety. What more could we ask for and be thankful for? The peace that surpasses all understanding.
Turn to James 1….
James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience or endurance. (4) And let patience have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Your trials are there to improve your faith, to teach you a specific lesson, but whatever the trial is that you have to face, the Lord wants you to learn patience and endurance by showing Joy, by being thankful, so that in the end, you might lack nothing ….
A Sacrifice offering
Biblically, Giving thanks is actually a Sacrifice offering. In the Old testament days, on the day of atonement, the High Priest entered into the Holy Of Holies to be in the presence of God so that he could make a sin offering for the sins of Israel. When Israel’s sins were forgiven, they offered another sacrifice in Thanksgiving. How thankful they were is described in Psalm 116.
Psalm 116:17 To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, And call upon the name of the LORD. (18) I shall pay my vows to the LORD, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people, (19) In the courts of the LORD'S house, In the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!
And Psalm 100…
Psalm 100:1-5 Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. (2) Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. (3) Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. (4) Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. (5) For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.
This is how thankful the Israelites were when they knew their sins were forgiven. But we are so much more blessed than even this… we don’t have to bring sacrifices of blood, or offerings of silver and gold for atonement – Jesus has done all of that for us already, completely and perfectly, once and for all. Instead, He wants us to bring him a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving from our lips.
Turn with me to Hebrews 13…
Heb 13:15 Through Him then (that is Jesus), let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (16) And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
If you want to please God, then offer Him thanks continually with the fruit of your lips.
A great example of an offering of thanksgiving can be found in the book of Jonah.
Turn to Jonah 2.
We can learn a lot from how Jonah behaved during his tests and trials.
Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, (2) and he said, "I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of hell; You heard my voice. (3) "For You had cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and waves passed over me. (4) "So I said, 'I have been cast from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.' (5) "Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, Weeds were wrapped around my head. (6) "I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. (7) "While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple. (8) "Those who regard vain idols Forsake their faithfulness, (9) But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of… thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD”
Just listen to Jonah’s words: " From the pit of hell, he cried for help….You cast me into the deep... the current engulfed me… Your waves passed over me... Water encompassed me to the point of death… The great deep engulfed me... The earth was like a prison around me forever." Jonah had hit rock bottom, drowning in the belly of a whale. He was in a battle for his life, close to death. Filled with despair, shame and guilt and on the verge of losing consciousness, he was literally as low as a person could get. He even thought that God had abandoned him by saying: 'I have been cast from Your sight. And how often do we feel like that?
When you feel like you just can’t carry on, follow the path that Jonah took. Jonah passed his test!
Verse 7 "When my soul fainted within me …I remembered …the Lord... and then what did he do.. he prayed and in verse 9: I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving...".
Jonah was in a hopeless situation, with everything about him pitch black with gloom. He was ready to give up…. and in the throes of death…. he gave thanks to the Lord.
In the midst of all his troubles, Jonah entered into the Lord's presence by giving thanks!
And the result of his thanksgiving is in verse 10, "The Lord spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land".
Do you want deliverance from your trials and tribulations? Then do the right thing and give thanks unto the Lord, not only afterwards, but during your trials and tribulations.
It’s a difficult thing to scream at the taxi while you’re giving thanks!
It’s important therefore, to give thanks for your salvation, for it is the greatest gift, but we need to remember to give thanks in good times and in bad.
Philipians 2:14 Do all things without grumbling, murmuring, complaining;
But even with so great a gift as our salvation, we still grumble and murmur, we still complain…despite all our blessings, we still want more….
if only I had this, then things would be different…
If only I had more money… then things would be ok…..
If only I had a better job…if only I had a better boss…. if only… if only… if only.
Isn’t it amazing how we humans are never quite happy with what we’ve got? That despite all our blessings, we still want more. We are quick to forget the Lord’s mercy in our lives.
You might even say that you’re quite thankful. But let me put things into perspective for you:
- If you woke up this morning, (are all still awake?), you are more blessed than the million people who didn’t survive last week.
- Did you eat something yesterday? During the last breath that you just took, the last breath that God just lent you, 2 children just died of starvation. Every day, more than 16,000 children die from starvation in the world. How blessed are you?
- If you are healthy enough to be here, you are more blessed than the 11 million children who will die this year from preventable diseases before they reach their fifth birthday.
- If your parents are still alive, you are more blessed than 12 million children who were orphaned this year in southern Africa due to AIDS alone.
- If you earn more than R130 a month, you are more blessed than 1.2 billion people who currently live on less than $1 per day. How blessed are you?
- If you have a bank account with some money in it, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthiest people.
- If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 80% of this world’s population.
- If you can worship God without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are ahead of 20 million real Christians around the world, who face these threats on a daily basis.
- If you own a Bible and can read it, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that never even had the opportunity to learn how to read.
So I ask you, How blessed are you? All of us sitting here are more blessed than we will ever know. But what’s more important is… how thankful are we?
For the most perfect act of thanksgiving in the Bible, turn with me to Luke 22….
Luke 22 :17And Jesus took the cup, and…. Gave… thanks ... and v 19 And Jesus took bread, and ….gave… thanks ...
Jesus was perfectly aware of what these symbols stood for. They represented His blood and His broken body. They represented His suffering and His death. And yet - wonder of wonders! He gave thanks at a time like this. Just pause awhile and try to appreciate the attitude required for such an act. It indicates a height of perfection that we can only aspire to. But it also tells of a truth that we can all understand.
It tells us that no matter how difficult our circumstances,
no matter how painful the prospect,
no matter how bleak the future,
we can - and should - give thanks unto the Lord, at all times, for all things...
Amen and thankyou for your time.