Perspective on Thanksgiving

Points Covered: This blog gives us three simple perspective on thanksgiving. Be expressive & Be expansive.

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Ephesians 5:19-20 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Pray

We have come to the second last day of 2012. How thankful we must be for every day of this year. Today, I want to present you a right perspective on thanksgiving so that we can end this year with thanks and enter 2013 with praise.

Illustration: Rudyard Kipling was a great writer and poet who made a lot of money for his writings. One time a newspaper reporter came up to him and said, “Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over a hundred dollars a word; Mr. Kipling raised his eyebrows and said, “Really, I certainly wasn’t aware of that.” The reporter cynically reached down into his pocket and pulled out a one hundred dollar bill and gave it to Kipling and said, “Here’s a hundred dollar bill, Mr. Kipling. Now, you give me one of your hundred dollar words.” Mr. Kipling looked at that hundred dollar bill for a moment, took it, folded it up, and put it in his pocket and said, “Thanks.”

He’s right! The word ‘thanks’ is certainly more than a hundred dollar word. I would say it is more like a million dollar word. Thank you is one word that is too seldom heard, too rarely spoken, and too often forgotten. If we would all adopt an attitude of thanksgiving into our lives – our lives would be changed. We would cherish each day.

The Bible speaks to us from various portions to have a thankful heart. While the worldly thanksgiving is for benefits received, the Word of God insists us to always give thanks to God in all circumstances of life. Both in Ephesians 5 and 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul is talking about thanksgiving.

Ephesians 5:19-20 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

It sounds as if Paul is talking about a church service here, but he isn’t. He is talking about a continual attitude of a Christian – an attitude of the heart to be thankful in all circumstances

If giving thanks is important, why are people not thankful to others? I believe there are at least three human attitudes that steal away our gratitude. They are:

A proud heart. This is the attitude that says nobody ever gave me anything; I worked hard for everything I have. For years I studied hard and now it is finally paying off. With this kind of attitude, we feel that we have no one to thank but ourselves.

A critical spirit. Another attitude that keeps us from being thankful is a critical spirit or constant complaining. Instead of being grateful, this person will always find something to complain about.

Illustration: 
1. A lady known as a grumbler constantly complained about everything. At last her pastor thought he had found something about which she would be happy because that year the harvest of her potatoes was the finest in the town. When he met her, he said with a beaming smile, “You must be very happy Mary. Everyone is saying how healthy your potatoes look this year.” “True they’re pretty good, but what am I going to do when I need the bad ones to feed the pigs.” Some cannot enjoy life and be thankful because of a negative attitude.

2. We happened to go to a beautiful house once. They brought the tea and snacks and as we were having them I commented, “Sister you have a beautiful house.” She said, “Pastor, you do not know the trouble to maintain this house.” God blessed them with a beautiful house but they find something to complain about God’s blessings.

An attitude of carelessness. Many times we are so busy that we do not care to acknowledge what God has done in our lives.

Illustration: One lady asked the other, “Do you take time to look at the stars and thank God for the beauty he displays at night?” The other woman replied, “If the stars only came out once a year, we would stay out all night to watch them. But they are there every night and there is nothing special about them.”

Look at the Israelites. When they had no food and grumbled, God miraculously sent them the manna. The Bible says manna tasted like wafers made out of honey. Very soon the same Israelites again grumbled because everyday they had the same food, manna to eat. They had a miracle straight from God every day but were no longer satisfied.

A person with pride, who is carelessness, and with a critical spirit will never be thankful in their life.

How can we be thankful? This morning I would like to further share with you three things we learn about thanksgiving from the Bible.

1. BE EXPRESSIVE.

The psalmist says in: Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 107:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

The Bible speaks of expressive thanksgiving. Every time we come to the presence of God we are to proclaim his goodness and thank him. In Luke 17 we read about 10 men who were healed by Jesus of their leprosy. Only one of those 10 men came back to express thanks. Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?”

The following are some of the suggested reasons why the nine did not return based on how people respond:
One said, “I will wait to see if the cure was real, I want to see whether it will last.”
One said, “I will see Jesus later, anytime I can meet him.”
One said, “I never had leprosy.”
One said, “I was already improving, so I would have gotten well anyway, why thanks?”
One said, “The moment the priest saw me, they welcomed me. O, Jesus didn’t really do anything.”
One said, “Any rabbi could have done it.”

There was 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? I mean like the others, this man was already healed of his leprosy from the time they went to show themselves to the priest. But when Jesus says to this one man, “Your faith has made you well,” he wasn’t just talking about physical healing. He was talking about whole healing; spiritual one, an emotional one, and a physical one. He was completely made whole when he expressed his thanks. We too are made whole by our thanksgiving.

A study says that a sincere gratitude or thanksgiving, is the healthiest of all human emotions. Hans Selye, who is considered the father of stress studies, said: “Gratitude produces more positive emotional energy than any other attitude in life.” Thanking is not only good for the giver but also the receiver enjoys it. God appreciates our thanksgiving. It draws us closer to him. God expects us to thank him.

Romans 1:21 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. This passage seems to imply that people who are ungrateful to God will soon fall away – their hearts will become hardened. Let’s learn to express our thanks to God first. Also let’s take time to thank people who have been good to us this year. Call them, send them an sms and say how you appreciate their love before this year ends.

2. BE EXPANSIVE.

If we look around there are so many things that God has done in our lives to give thanks to God for. Give thanks to God for even the minutest thing that has happened in our life. As we think to expand our thanksgiving, it should include:

a. Thank Him for the blessings. Our prayers are often very general. We say, “Thank you God for all your blessings” but what blessings are we really thankful for? The song says: Count your blessings…name them one by one and see what God has done.

Illustration: Sisters, after the family meal at night when you see your kitchen sink overflowing with dirty dishes what is your attitude? Do you curse for the workload? Do you curse others who ate the food? A sink full of dirty dishes usually mean that we have been blessed by God with daily food and water. Do you realize that two-thirds of the world goes to bed hungry every night?

Brothers when you come back from work and see the children spread toys all around and mess up the house, when you see all the washed clothes in the bed which your wife did not get time to rearrange in the cupboard, do you shout and yell at them or are you thankful for the children, the toys, the clothes that God has blessed you with? I am not telling it is okay and don’t correct them, no. What I am telling is in the midst of all this you can still find ways to thank God for the blessings, and if you have such a heart you can correct with love without hurting others.

Thank God for the blessings.

 b. Thank God for the burdens of life. Life is not an easy journey, sometimes life can be tough.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 5:20 – always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When the Apostle Paul wrote about giving thanks to the churches, he was not sitting in the comfort of life. Paul suffered from a very difficult problem and once he said he has a thorn in the flesh. He also had been run out of town, beaten, imprisoned, betrayed by friends, hungry shipwrecked, and stoned because of his faith. Yet, Paul never stopped giving thanks to God. How can he do that? When we read the writings of Paul we understand that he had the proper perspective of the burdens of life.

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
2 Corinthians 12:10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Philippians 1:12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.

When we have the proper perspective in our troubles like Paul, we too can give thanks to God in all circumstances of life. Listen, I don’t believe Paul is saying that we have to be thankful for our problems but be thankful in them; and being thankful in them allows God to turn them around for our good.

Do you remember the time when Paul and Silas were in chains in the jail? They were singing and praising God. God sent a violent earthquake and the prison doors were opened. The jailer was ready to take his life because the earthquake freed the prisoners but what saved him was the attitude of Paul and Silas during their difficult imprisonment. They were singing and praising God even though they were in chains. They knew God and that he would help them through. Because of their joy the jailer and his household became Christians.

Understand the concept: Firstly, when we thank God, God will change our situations around. Secondly, others can come to Christ because of your example especially in the midst of difficult times.

 c. Thank God for the benefits of life. Many times we either get so caught up with our blessings or get so surrounded with our problems that we forget the general benefits that God showers us with everyday. We have a tendency of always wanting more blessings and increase our prayer needs. It will be good if we can add points to our thanks and praise list rather than add adding points to our prayer and wish list.

Do you understand that in spite of our difficulties, in spite of our shortcomings God has still showered his general blessings on us in 2012? The very fact we are alive is a blessing from God. We have day and night, we see the sunlight, we feel the wind, many of us have become parents, others have become grandparents, some have been married, some got promotions; all these are the general benefits of life. Thank God for it.

Illustration: An experiment was done in New York’s Central Park where an advertizing firm dressed a man up as a blind man and gave him a cup to collect money. The first day they put a sign around his neck that read, “I’m Blind.” On that day he collected only about $4. The next day they dressed him the same way, placed him in the same place but changed the sign to read, “It’s Springtime and I’m Blind.” That day he collected nearly $40. That day, the people realized how blessed they were to have the beautiful flowers, birds, the sunrise and sunset for the season and they realized they were also blessed to see them.

CONCLUSION: Brothers and sister, there are other benefits of life. Even though some of you feel you have not been blessed this year, you are indeed blessed and God is waiting to receive our thanks. Can we take time today to give thanks to God for 2012? Let’s be expressive and expansive in our words.

We say thank God when:
a. When we decide to spend time with Him (not just 1 hr a week) every day of our lives.
b. When we forgive others.
c. When we serve in His church.
d. When we share His Plan of salvation with others.
e. When we reach out to hurting people.
f. When we give God the best of our time, talent, and finances to support God’s work.

Let’s pray.