Give Thanks

November 23, 2014   Colossians 3:15 – 17   Thanksgiving 


       In verses 15 to 17 the bible tells us be thankful, sing with gratitude in our hearts to the Lord and in whatever we do give thanks to God the father through Jesus.   I want to speak on thanksgiving this morning.   I like this time of year and I like the reminder to be thankful and personally it is something that I have been working on this year.   It is good to take a minute or two to remember our roots as a nation.

      I want to read part of George Washington’s public proclamation.   Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, & humbly to implore His protection & favor, and "Whereas, Both Houses of Congress" (Did you hear that, "Both Houses of Congress?") "have by their joint committee requested me `to recommend to the people of the United States a day of Public Thanksgiving & Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God. . .’  "Now, Therefore I do recommend & assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great & glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. . ." So read the very first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation.  That is very offensive to many today.  Those were the good old days when the government recognized God and were united in many important issues. 

      Thanksgiving Day is a distinctive holiday. It doesn’t commemorate a battle or anyone’s birthday or anniversary.  It was set up simply as a day for people to set aside to express our thanks to God.   There are only 2 countries in the whole world which at least started to celebrate it as thanksgiving to God.   The two countries are the United States and Canada.   Not all the eastern provinces of Canada celebrate it.    Sadly, originally in Canada God’s name was mentioned but now it is pretty much secular as it is for many in America.   Other nations have similar celebrations but not the same.  

    I think there are different family traditions that families celebrate on thanksgiving.   Do any of you have one that you would like to share?  Here is a different twist on it.   Back in the 70’s, a woman wrote an article that is interesting.  She said that her cousin had invited them to “Come for a thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, March 20th.”   She wrote: “She was not celebrating an early Thanksgiving.   She was saying that all was well with her husband, who had finished a battery of hospital tests.  “In our family,” she said “we sometimes have as many as ten thanksgivings in one year.   They mark happy events for which there are no formal celebration dates: a job promotion, a graduate degree, a good medical report.  Sometimes we celebrate with a dinner party, sometimes with a picnic or outing, but always with as many members of our clan as we can round up.”  That is a good idea. 

     Celebrations and traditions are important.   God told Israel to celebrate the Passover.   It was to remind them of what God did for them.   Many Christians make a tradition of going to church.  It is important to go to church.   We share what God has done in our life.   We take communion and are reminded what Jesus did for us.   We worship God by giving and by singing with our voices.    We need to celebrate because we can forget.  So when you are in fellowship it brings us back and reminds us to do what Jesus has told us to do.   Often the Israelites in the Old Testament forgot God and turned their back on Him just as America is doing today.   Our lives are better when God is the center of our life. 

     For many folks Thanksgiving is just a time to eat and watch football and drink. .   It is also a great time to connect with family.  I know it is a time for many to relax and catch their breath.   For many folks it is a time to shop and tackle that Christmas list.   I have heard that many stores stay profitable because of the sales they make during this time frame.  That is when they make their profit.  Without the sales at this time they would go out of business.

     It means so much more to the Christian.   It is a time to be thankful to God and to bless God.  As God’s people we have so much to thank God for.   I like the reminder to be thankful.  The optimist says the cup is half full. The pessimist says the cup is half empty. The child of God says; my cup runneth over.   People who are truly thankful don’t complain they find a reason to be grateful.  Here is a great example of that.   Matthew Henry, who wrote a commentary on every book of the Bible, was once robbed.  The thieves took everything of value that he had.   Later that evening he wrote in his diary these words, “I am thankful that during these years I have never been robbed before. Also, even though they took my money, they did not take my life.   Although they took all I had, it was not much.  Finally, I am grateful that it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”  You got to love that kind of spirit.  You do not get that kind of spirit from the world. 

   I suppose some folks would measure Thanksgiving by how much they have.   I just saw on the news this week where they were saying social media is making many feel like 2nd class parents.   On face book many will write of their purchases of clothes or a vehicle or their vacations.   One 6 year old girl told her mother mom when we get enough money I would like that.  The media and face book are starting to give people a complex.   It is not keep up with the joneses but keep up with the e-joneses.   It is keeping up with everything that we see the Joneses buying that they have posted face book or the internet.

           Dr. Dale Robbins writes, “I used to think people complained because they had a lot of problems. But I have come to realize that they have problems because they complain.   Complaining doesn’t change anything or make situations better. It amplifies frustration, spreads discontent and discord, and can invoke an invitation for the devil to cause havoc with our lives.” Complaining makes us miserable so let’s do what God said in the bible – give thanks sing with gratitude.  

    Thanksgiving should not be measured by how much we have.   Our life should not be measured by how much we have. Thanksgiving should not be how much money we have nor how big the meal is or how well the kids are or how the job is going.   The tendency is to measure life by things.    The more that people have the more is expected.  Some always look at what they do not have rather than be thankful what they have.   Adam and Eve looked at what they did not have rather than all the good things that they had and they got themselves in a pickle and a mess.  The Christian measures life differently.    We see life through our Lord.   We are so blessed today.   You are blessed today.   Certainly these days are difficult but we do not spend all our time thinking about how difficult life is because we focus on Jesus.   Being thankful is not something that is natural to human beings.   It is something that is learned.   It is something that we develop.   When a mother feeds a baby they do not express thankfulness.  A child that eats dinner does not say thank you unless they have been taught to do that and so at meals Christians chose to pray and give thanks.  It is good to pray at meals to thank God for the food and to express thanks for the labor of love that prepared it.  

   If any country in the world should be thankful to God it is us.   It is America.    I remember reading a few years ago that America is 6% of the world’s population and that we consume 35% of the world’s goods.   I read 4 or 5 years ago that the world consumes 88 million barrels of oil a day and that the United States consumes 22 million barrels a day.  God has blessed this country.  We are blessed with farm land, oil, climate, water lakes and rivers.   Minnesota is known as the state with 10,000 lakes.   We are blessed with minerals.  As a nation we have forgotten that every good gift comes from God.   Every perfect gift is from God and we need to remember God.    One person said that he put a frog on the top of a pole.   When he was asked why he put it there he said when I get to thinking too highly of myself I look at the frog and remember that the frog did not get there by himself.   I like that.

      I did not get everything that I have all by myself.   It is a gift from God and it all belongs to God.   I Corinthians 4:7 says for who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?    The living bible puts it this way what are you so puffed up about?   What do you have that God hasn’t given you?  And if all you have is from God why act as though you are so great and as though you have accomplished something on your own?   We have so much to be thankful for and for Christians we direct our thanks to God first.  We can focus more on the giver of all that we are blessed with and less on the gifts.    Even if a person has greatly blessed you God provided that person in your life.  Our good spouses and children are a gift.   If any person should be thankful to God shouldn’t it be you?   It is sad that a lot of people do not see it that way.     God is the source of our blessings and we need to be thankful to Him. 

     We might ask ourselves what if God treated us like we treat him sometimes?   What if God did not bless us today because we did not ask him to?   What if God stopped blessing us because we did not return thanks to him?   How would we do if God ignored us?  God is not like that.   God is so good and so gracious.   Because of His love he does not treat us as we treat him.  We are blessed because God blesses us.  The Psalmist said it well O Lord do not treat us as our sins deserve.   Never ask God for total justice.  We delight and are thankful for God’s abundance grace. 

      In Luke 17 we read about ten men who were healed by Jesus of their leprosy. Out of those ten men only one came back to give thanks and Jesus said, "Where are the other nine?"   He was the only one willing to take time to go back and say "thank you." Because of that Jesus said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."  Have you ever wondered why Jesus said that?    All 10 of them were healed from the time they went to show themselves to the priest of leprosy and Jesus said your faith has made you well.    There is a wellness that comes from being thankful.  It seems obvious that Jesus was talking about something other than physical healing.    We too are made whole by our thanksgiving. Psychologists today tell us that sincere gratitude, thanksgiving, is the healthiest of all human emotions.  

     There is a lot of value and good when a person gives thanks.  Romans 1 says "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."  From there man got deeper and deeper into sin just because they did not thank and glorify God.   It seems to indicate that when people are not thankful and glorify God that they fall away. 

    A few years ago Dr. Nick Stinnett of the Univ. of Nebraska conducted a series of studies in an attempt to discover what characteristics were common in strong families. He and his researchers discovered six qualities. And the first quality and one of the most important to be found in strong families was that of appreciation. They concluded that families which were strong were strong because family members expressed appreciation for what each member did and for who they were.  When we thank God we express appreciation to Him. 

    When you are thankful you are not worried.   When you are thankful you are not angry.   When you give God thanks it can lift you from a state of depression.    It keeps us from being negative.   It creates a positive mental state.   It helps us appreciate life and all that God has done for us.       It would be good for us to think about ways that we can thank God.   In a way that is an interesting comment because God owns and has everything.  We can thank God by verbal praise and worship.   For many people their only verbal worship is really done in church.   How we live our lives is worship also.  In this passage Paul tells us that whatever we do words and deeds do it in the name of the Lord and give thanks.   We should give thanks as we pray.   Our lives are better and richer as we give thanks.