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Be Thankful

Be Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving Sunday. The Sunday before our national Thanksgiving Day. A day set aside to remember to be thankful.

Thankful for what? That question can seem valid. There is so much turmoil all around. We know of people who are sick, or maybe we are. There have been deaths of loved ones even in our own midst this year. Has anyone experienced discouragement recently? Is anyone having some financial shortfalls? And there are all sorts of national and international difficulties.

Problems abound. Yet the call is to be thankful. In this message, I have a list of things for which we can be thankful, each one based on the Bible. I will do most of the talking. However, toward the end of the message - right before a closing comment - you will have an opportunity to share one or two things for which you are thankful, based on the list to be mentioned.

There are five things on the list. Five things for which we can be thankful.

First, thank God for the material blessings He gives.

Maybe you - maybe I - maybe we - do not have as many material blessings others have, but do we have the necessities? Food, water, shelter, clothing? If so, we can be thankful. Thankful to God. Thankfulness expressed this way by King David, recorded in I Chronicles 29. “Riches and honor come from You, O God. Therefore we thank You and praise Your glorious name. All things comes from You, O LORD.”

There is an experience shared by the late Billy Graham. 

Some years ago he visited a man who was successful and wealthy. The man was the envy of all his friends and business associates. However, as the man and Billy Graham talked, the man broke down in tears, confessing he was miserable inside. Wealth had not been able to fill the empty place in his heart.

A few hours later, Graham visited another man. That man’s dwelling was a humble cottage. He had almost nothing in the way of worldly possessions. Yet his face was radiant as he told about the work he was doing for Jesus and how the Lord had filled his life with meaning and purpose. 

It is the second man who was rich. Although he did not have much of the world’s goods, he had learned to be thankful for everything that had been given to him by God.

There is a New Testament figure who was also rich in that way. Listen to what the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

For Paul and for David, for the poor man Billie Graham visited, and hopefully for us, the spirit of thankfulness makes all the difference. So the challenge. Thank God for the material blessings you have from Him.

Second, thank God for the people in your life.

They include family people - parents, spouses, children, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and in-laws. We need to remember the danger of taking any of those closest to us for granted and the danger of taking out our frustrations on family members rather than those who are really bothering us. 

When I meet with couples preparing for marriage, I challenge them to be at least as nice to their husband or wife as they are to everyone else. Of course it is easier to yell at - or give the silent treatment to - your immediate family. They will be more likely to forgive. But that is not right. Our families should be treated the kindest.

Thinking of people God puts in our lives, there are others besides family. Coworkers come to mind. And friends. Here is a list of things one man is thankful for that a friend of his provides.

Sharing. How good it is to have a relationship close enough to allow even opinions to be shared. 

Honesty. Sometimes that can be hurtful, but friends should be able to share both good and difficult comments with one another.

Being supportive. Being honest might mean dissuading someone from doing what that someone wants to do, but being supportive extends to encouragement when decisions are made, providing positive feedback rather than reminding your friend of how others have failed.

Being there. Any time of day or night, willing to give advice or just be a listening ear.

Being loyal. Knowing someone has your back in case things do not go well.

Believing in me. Here is what the man wrote. “Many others doubted my ability and questioned my actions, but not you. You believed in me, that I could make a difference in the world and become who I am supposed to be. You did not envy me or try to talk me out of amazing possibilities. Instead, you motivated me and encouraged me to keep going, even when the odds against me seemed huge. You believed in me and made sure I succeeded.”

Other people in our lives include this, our church family. Speaking personally, what a wonderful congregation this is. So supportive and encouraging and kind. I can relate to what Paul wrote in I Corinthians. I am thankful to God for those in this congregation. I share that with others often.

Just as God is the giver of the material blessings we have, He is the giver of the people in our lives. The challenge. Thank God for those people. Also let them know you appreciate them, family members and others alike. I hope I do that regularly. It is important to be thankful for the people God puts in our lives.

Third, thank God in the midst of trials. 

This one takes a turn, does it not? Material blessings are great. People in our lives who help us are great. Trials? Not so great.

However, none of us is exempt from some kinds of troubles, so the call is to be thankful even in trying times.

That is taught many, many places in the Bible. 

For instance, Paul wrote in I Thessalonians, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

James wrote, “Count it all joy when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” We can be thankful for the spiritual growth suffering can bring us.

Peter also wrote of spiritual growth that can come from troubled times. He wrote, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace will restore, establish, and strengthen you.”

Christians in some other nations suffer persecution. While we pray for them, which we of course should do, I have read that they are also praying for us, concerned that we are weak because we have so little to fight against to build up our perseverance.

Biblical examples of those who thanked God during difficult times?

How about Paul? Again referring to Philippians 4, where he wrote, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want,” I doubt Paul was happy to be hungry or in want in other ways. He was also beaten and imprisoned numerous times. I doubt either of those things made him happy. But he knew that as he experienced trials, he became stronger in his faith. He was thankful for that.

How about Jesus Himself? I am surmising this perhaps, but remember the temptations the Lord faced at the very start of His earthly ministry? The temptations to turn stones into bread, to jump off the Temple in Jerusalem, and to be given all the kingdoms of the world? Those temptations came after a 40-day fast, so He was very hungry. That was a troubled time for Jesus, but He survived and became stronger, allowing Him to face and overcome more and more temptations over the next three years.

Whatever trials you are facing, God knows, and He will help you survive and grow. So the challenge. Have a spirit of thankfulness even in the midst of trials. Be thankful for God’s help and His strengthening.

Fourth, thank God for salvation in Jesus.

In addition to material blessings and even if we had none of them, and in addition to having important people in our lives and even if we were completely alone, and even in the midst of any and all trials, the most important thing for which we can thank God is Jesus and the salvation His death and resurrection provides us. Salvation we who believe in Jesus have.

We know believing in Jesus brings salvation. That is proved by John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus that whosoever [those with and those without material blessings, those with and those without important people in their lives, those having easy lives and those going through trials] whosoever believeth in Jesus shall not perish spiritually, but have eternal, everlasting life.”

What a wonderful thing salvation is. As it is worded by Paul in II Corinthians, “thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift.”

The challenge. Have you opened your heart to Jesus Christ? If not, turn to Him with a simple prayer of repentance and faith. Then thank Him for what He has done for you. If you do know Christ as your Savior, how long has it been since you thanked God for your salvation? 

It can be easy to take salvation for granted. To not think about that inexpressible gift. Let’s not do that. Every day - not just this Thanksgiving Sunday or Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day - but every day, thank God for His mercy and grace, offered to us through Jesus.

Fifth, thank God for His continued presence and power in your life.

Here is an important statement. When we come to Christ, it is not the end, but the beginning of a whole new life. He offers to be with us. He wants to help us follow Him and His Word.

God’s presence and power are critical because in ourselves we do not have the strength we need to live the way God wants us to live, but, as Paul wrote in Philippians, “God is at work in us” so His will can be our will and so our actions will be directed by and pleasing to Him. 

We know that having God’s presence and power is possible because of what God said and what Jesus promised. 

God’s word in Jeremiah. “I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore, I have continued My faithfulness to you.”

The promise from Jesus was for His disciples, but it can be applied to any Christian of any time, including now. Jesus said, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. I am with you always, to the close of the age.” The promise extends to the fact Jesus will share His authority with us so we can benefit from His presence and power.

The challenge. Accept God’s presence and power. Be thankful for those gifts.

Now it is your turn.

Our material blessings, the people God puts in our lives, God’s help in times of trial, salvation in Jesus, and God’s presence and power. Those are five things for which we can be thankful. Practice being thankful. List and share your thanks, giving specific examples of a material blessing or a friend or family member important to you or how God has helped you through a troubled time or how salvation has helped you or an example of God’s presence and power.

Be specific as you list and share why you are thankful. May this be good practice for being thankful all the time.

*       *       *       *       *

Those things for which we can be thankful are offered to all of us. They are recognized as blessings by those who accept Jesus as Savior. All we have to do to have each one of them in our lives is to accept Jesus, then live according to His teachings. 

And, as we are reminded today and this week, we need to be thankful, which leads to this final Thanksgiving thought, based on a passage from the Bible that is often highlighted during the Thanksgiving season.

The passage is in Luke, chapter 17.

This was late in Jesus’ earthly ministry. He was on His way to Jerusalem. Jesus knew that when He arrived there, He would be arrested, tortured, and crucified, yet He was still willing to help those in need.

As Jesus entered a village, He was met by ten men afflicted with leprosy, a horrible disease that causes pain, disfigurement, and social isolation. 

The ten lepers, right outside the village, cried out to Jesus. They asked Jesus for mercy, which Jesus knew was a plea for healing. Apparently Jesus’ reputation was well-known by the ten. They knew Jesus was the one who could heal them.

Jesus answered them, directing them to go to the priests in the village and show themselves.

That did not make sense. Lepers were not allowed into villages. Plus, what would there be to show the priests except their leprosy?

However, there must have been something about how Jesus told the lepers what to do. Something that at least hinted healing them was His plan. So it was that all ten took off.

As they went, all ten were healed. All ten were cleansed of their leprosy. Being cured, they were welcome in the village and by the priests, which nine of the ten took advantage of.

One, though, delayed his trip to the priests. That one turned back and went to Jesus. On the way, he praised God. That one then fell down before Jesus and thanked Him.

In one of the few times Jesus expressed disappointment, He asked, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” Jesus told the thankful one to rise and go his way. That his faith had made him well. But it seems Jesus was disappointed that all who were healed did not express thanks.

Let’s be like the thankful one. Let’s be thankful for all things given to us and done for us by Jesus, including our material blessings, the people God puts in our lives, God’s help in times of trial, salvation in Jesus, and God’s presence and power.

The closing song for today is In Thanksgiving Let Us Praise Him.

From the first bright light of morning,

To the last warm glow of dusk,

Ev’ry breath we take is sacred,

For it is God’s gift to us.

In thanksgiving, let us praise Him;

In thanksgiving, let us sing

Songs of praise and adoration

To our gracious Lord and King.

In the season of our plenty,

In the season of our need,

We will find His grace sufficient,

We will find His love complete.

In thanksgiving, let us praise Him;

In thanksgiving, let us sing

Songs of praise and adoration

To our gracious Lord and King.

Safe within His hand that guides us,

Hidden in His healing wings,

Day by day His love provides us

Ev’ry good and perfect thing.

In thanksgiving, let us praise Him;

In thanksgiving, let us sing

Songs of praise and adoration

To our gracious Lord and King.

Today’s benediction is Ephesians 5:20. Let’s say it together. “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

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