And Be Thankful

And Be Thankful

Recently, we have meditated on trusting God and receiving His joy and peace. These are fruit that abide in us when the Holy Spirit is ruling our lives—no matter what is happening—no matter what circumstance surround us. There is something we should add to this.

Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Many years ago, the Peanuts cartoon pictured Charlie Brown bringing out Snoopy’s dinner on Thanksgiving Day. But it was just his usual dog food in a bowl. Snoopy took one look at the dog food and said, "This isn’t fair. The rest of the world is eating turkey with all the trimmings, and because I’m a dog, all I get is dog food." He stood there and stared at his dog food for a moment, and said, "I guess I should be thankful. I could be a turkey."

There was very little joy in Snoopy’s thankfulness, for his thankfulness was based on a comparison. His thankfulness was based on the fact that he was better off than the turkey. Therein lies a small lesson, in that, when we’re down in the dumps and full of complaints because life isn’t fair, we should recognize that there are so many others far worse off.

However, thankfulness is so much more than a comparison of our own situation to someone else’s. Thankfulness is so much more than having enough food to eat, a nice, warm home to live in, good health, or financial security, because each of those circumstances can be taken from us in an instant. Thankfulness is a state of being and a way of life, and we usually fail to live in a state of thankfulness because we take our blessings for granted and forget about God.

That is not God’s will. God’s will for us is to be joyful and thankful in all circumstances.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

Notice that it doesn’t say, "Give thanks FOR all circumstances," but rather, "give thanks IN all circumstances." No matter how terrible some of the circumstances of life may be, it is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus to be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks to God. We can stop looking for some big important ministry to fulfill God’s will now that we know what it is. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, we can be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. That lifestyle will glorify Jesus Christ and draw others to Him.

If we began to make a list of the things for which we are thankful, we would find that we have much more for which to be thankful than just our material possessions. With Jesus we have much to give thanks for! As you think about everything He has given you, it should make you just want to burst out with praise and thanksgiving.

Psalm 103:1-5 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

We can be thankful that the Lord does “not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Ps 103:10)  Instead, God has provided the way for our sins to be forgiven through His Son’s atonement on the Cross. We are precious in God’s sight! What a tremendous gift of love, for this gift gives meaning and purpose to life, but not everyone is taught this.

Rather than acknowledge or teach there is a God from whom all blessings flow, to whom we should give thanks, many parents and public schools refer to Thanksgiving Day as “Turkey Day”. They don’t’ want to offend anyone who doesn’t believe in God. So, they tell children about the Pilgrims eating a turkey and thanking the Indians for teaching them how to survive in their new home. They leave God out of the feast. How sad. Without God, life is meaningless and without purpose.

As a result, we read about cheating, bullying, sexting, hazing, molestation, suicide, drug abuse, assault, and murder in America’s schools and colleges. It’s quite clear the problem is not that there’s too much God in children’s lives or in the classroom. The problem is that there isn’t nearly enough of Him.

The great difference between God’s people and all the rest is that we have nothing to fear. Regardless of what is happening in the world (or to us) we have His joy, peace, and comfort.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

God does not expect us to be grateful for crime, disease or death, but thankful that we have His love and presence through these trials. The key to being thankful is to understand what is really important, and to focus on those blessings in our life. Quit focusing on things you don’t have.

Still, some of us will have an empty chair at our Thanksgiving dinner because a family member died recently. Can we be thankful at a time like that?  Yes, as we continue to pray and get God’s grace.  Remember, it is not natural to be thankful.  But, God does not command us to do something that He does not enable us to do through His Spirit.  He commands what is good for us.  Giving thanks is for our benefit, so that we can have His peace and joy. 

Therefore, we can thank God for the time we had with our loved one. It is better to have loved someone, and to have been loved, than to never have known that love at all. We can be thankful for the relationships we still have in this world, for each person who is still around our Thanksgiving table. Giving thanks will turn your sorrow into joy.

We can be thankful death is not the end of things. We can be thankful Jesus has delivered us from death and given us eternal life. Remember what Jesus said, John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

With the comfort God gives us, we can show our thanksgiving by comforting others. Everyone hurts. The great difference is that when we hurt, God, the Holy Spirit, is here to help us through those difficult moments of life. We can thank God for His comfort by leading hurting people to Jesus, who will help them, too.

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  

A thankful spirit in “all” circumstances sets Christians apart from the rest of world. It makes us different, because most people are not experiencing joy and peace, even if they have everything they need. Without joy and peace of the Holy Spirit, expressed by thanksgiving, we have nothing to offer the world because we act just like them.

One of our difficulties in 21st-century America is that we live in an entitlement culture. We have so much wealth as a society that we tend to take for granted things like food, clothing, shelter, and health care. We believe these things are not just something good or desirable, but something we deserve. Many believe these things are something our government should provide and not something God provides through work that He gives us to do.

Most people today consider a color television and a cell phone to be necessities rather than luxuries. What we consider to be ‘poverty’ today is far above the quality of life that most people enjoyed fifty years ago. From a material point of view, we’re better off now than we’ve ever been, and this inevitably affects our attitude. We don’t see all these things as blessings, as gifts to us from a loving and gracious heavenly Father. Even though most people in the world see us as incredibly wealthy, we tend to view all of this abundance and prosperity as simply our birthright. And if, for some reason, we are temporarily deprived of the standard of living we expect, we feel we are being denied what is rightfully ours.

The danger of living in prosperity, especially for those who are seeking to follow Christ, is that prosperity dulls our sense of gratitude and thankfulness toward God. Because paradoxically, the more we have, the less we seem to appreciate it. This attitude of a “spoiled child” and is one of the evils of our society. We need to examine ourselves to see if we are infected with it?

Because, it is possible to be blessed by God and not have true faith. It is possible to receive help from Jesus Christ and not know Him. The fact that God has done something good in our life is not a guarantee that we have a relationship with Him. The indicator is not how God has blessed us, but whether we are responding to Him with faith, praise, thanksgiving, and love in all circumstances.

Many people come to Christ for His blessings but they don’t really want Him. They don’t want a relationship with Jesus. They don’t want to know Christ and be known by Him. They don’t want to follow Him. They don’t want to be disciples. They don’t want Him to rule their lives. They just want something from Him.

Maybe they want money. Maybe they want to be healed of some disease. Maybe they want to be delivered from some addiction. Maybe they need help with depression, anger, or some sin in their life. Maybe they just want to escape Hell, or be part of a loving church. But when they get the blessing, they’re satisfied. That’s all they want from God. They get their blessing, and that’s the end of it. They don’t really want Christ. They don’t want Him to be Lord over their lives. They don’t spend time with Him in prayer, worship, praise, or reading His Word. They just want what He can do for them.

I hope that does not describe you. But if there’s no gratitude, no thankfulness, no love toward Jesus for all He’s done for you, if there’s no desire to know Christ, then you need to examine your heart. Because the whole purpose for God’s blessings is to draw us to Himself. If we’re missing that, we’re missing everything.

To illustrate the importance of this, let me use the husband and wife relationship. Men, if all you want is what a woman can do for you – cook, clean, take care of the children, and share the bed – then you don’t really want a wife. You want a cook, a maid, a nanny, and a prostitute, and that is how you make her feel. To have a love relationship, you have to want her, not just what she can do for you. Likewise women, if all you want is a man to take care of you – fix things around the house, keep the car running, and bring home money for you to spend, then you don’t really want a husband—you want a handy man, a mechanic, and a sugar-daddy, and that is how you make him feel. To have a love relationship, you have to want him, not just what he can do for you.

I don’t mean to be crude, I’m trying to get you to understand how God feels. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord God with ALL our heart, soul, mind, and strength. To only desire Jesus for what He can do for us, is to treat Him like He is a mythical Santa Claus instead of a genuine loving Savior and Almighty God.

That is why giving thanks in all circumstances is so important. Gratitude and thankfulness are essential, because they cause us to love and appreciate Christ for who He is, rather than just seek blessings from Him. If there is little or no thankfulness, there is little or no faith, and little or no love for Christ.

I’m not suggesting that we should pretend that everything’s “fine”, but what we focus upon matters. The Word tells us that in the midst of everything, our focus should be on God’s goodness toward us in Christ, and our trust should be in Him.

Thankfulness should be a constant attitude of the heart. No matter what we are doing, no matter what’s going on in our life, no matter what our circumstances, we should be thankful.

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Therefore, whether we are eating dinner at a nice restaurant or cleaning the toilet, give thanks. Whether we get a promotion and raise, or get a pink slip and shown the door, be thankful. Whether we are strong and healthy and full of life, or sick and diseased, give thanks. Whether our marriage is rewarding or a struggle, be grateful. (God and our spouse will appreciate it.)

In every situation, we are to have an attitude of thankfulness toward God. But how can we worship and praise Him when things are bad? We can’t, unless we are full of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, ask the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit and turn your eyes upon Him.

Ephesians 5:17-20 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Many people will be focused on football games this Thanksgiving. When we are in the team spirit, we don’t have any problems shouting praise during a football game. Likewise, when we are full of the Holy Spirit, we are not too shy or reserved say “Praise the Lord!” anywhere and in any circumstance. After all, which is more important—football or God? Who deserves our praise—someone who scores a goal or someone who gives up their life so we can live? We should be thankful and joyful about who Jesus is, what He has done, what He is doing, and what He is going to do.

Colossians 2:6-7 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

All the possessions we have in this world will remain here when we die. The only thing we possess for eternity is our relationship with the Lord. The Lord is good. His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations, even when we are unfaithful. Those are plenty of reasons to express thanksgiving and to praise Him.

This morning, if you are here and you are going through the trials of life without the help of Jesus, then we want you to know that you don’t have to continue down that lonesome road any longer. God sent His Son into the world, as the atoning sacrifice for your sin. You don’t have to go to Hell. Your debt has been paid. Your life has meaning and a purpose. You can find that comfort, meaning, and purpose by choosing to enter into a love relationship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross. Repent of being your own boss and be baptized to receive forgiveness of your sins through the precious blood of Jesus. The Holy Spirit will give you a new life filled with thanksgiving, peace, and joy. Then you can begin your list of blessings this Thanksgiving Day with "I thank God that He has forgiven me of all my sin!"