Thanksgiving

SCRIPTURE TEXT:

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.

INTRODUCTION

As a general rule, I don’t speak to the occasion because I am normally engaged in a series but I’m going to make an exception with THANKSGIVING. Actually, I was inspired by two factors; [1] The Children are with us today and my series subject would have been the UNPARDONABLE SIN which I don’t think is appropriate for them [2] and the LCBS lesson inspired me. Let’s be honest, it is hard to get too much of Psalm 100.

There are several things I want to say today about THANKSGIVING…Things connected to THANKSGIVING…

[1] The connection between THANKSGIVING and Acknowledgment.

For Thanksgiving to be thanks giving, we have to acknowledge to God what we are thankful for and we need to be specific. Have you paid attention to the words of the old hymn COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS…Counting or naming your blessings is the key to thanksgiving. Note the words…

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

I want you to notice the highlighted words…Tempest tossed, discouraged, thinking all is lost, burdened with a load of care, heavy cross to bear, amid conflict, disheartened…the entire setting of the song is amid the conflict.

  • Are you tempest tossed today? You feel like you are reeling from one side of the deck to the other. Every time you get your balance, here comes another wave and it knocks you off your feet.
  • Are you discouraged today? Have you been getting more bad news than good? Do you have problems that seem overwhelming?
  • Are you about ready to throw in the towel? Ready to count it a loss? Ready to give up?
  • Are you burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
  • Are you in the middle of conflict? Is your family being torn apart by the ravages of sin? I have never seen a time when families were so torn as they are today.
  • Are you so disheartened that you think that things are out of control? Evil is winning and no one can stop it.

If you feel any of these things: you need to stop and count your blessing. You can’t count them if you don’t name them. Naming them is very important.

The Pilgrams landed at Plymouth Rock on December 16 – much too late to plant or prepare for winter. Without enough food or protection from the cold, families watched their loved ones suffer. In December, 6 of the 102 pilgrims died. In January, 8 more passed. In February, 17 more people died. In March, 13 passed away. At one point, only 7 people were well enough to care for everyone else who was sick. By spring, just over half of the original pilgrims remained. I read a story on the internet a couple of nights ago about the Pilgrims calling a meeting. They were recounting all the adverse things that had happened to the colony and contemplating whether or not to stay in America. They were very discouraged and on the verge of giving up when one Pilgrim stood and suggested they count their blessings, from this sprang the idea of having a three day festival of thanksgiving. I don’t know if the story is legend or fact but I do know this: counting our blessings is the key to maintaining a proper attitude.

[2] There is a vital connection between THANKSGIVING and JOY.

I love to read Matthew Henry’s commentary of the scripture and have been doing so since 1969. The first set of commentaries that I had in my possession was given to me by my father in the ministry [Calvin C. Inman] and it was a six volume set of Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry was robbed on one occasion and this is what he entered in his journal that night…“Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.” Matthew Henry incarnated I Thessalonians 5:18…In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Remember, it is always God’s will for us to be thankful.

Dr. Jack Taylor, one of my favorite preachers of yesteryear, tells the story of the woman who was dying with cancer. She was filled with bitterness and despair. She had reached the point that no one could stand to be around her which made a bad situation worse. Someone as Dr. Taylor to pay her a visit. When he went in, she unloaded on him. She counted all her problems and named them one by one. After she had finished telling him all the things that were wrong, he asked her this simple question, “Have you given God thanks?” She said, “Are you crazy, who in their right mind could give God thanks for cancer?” He said, “I am not asking you to give God thanks for cancer; I am asking you to give Him thanks in the midst of your cancer. The bible says, In all things give thanks, not for all things but in all things. So what I am asking you to do is stop right here in the middle of this bout with cancer and give God thanks.” Suddenly, a light came on and she saw the truth of I Thessalonians 5:18, “In all things give thanks.” She bowed her head and starting giving thanks and her life was literally transformed. People could not believe the difference, this bitter woman became sweet; this unhappy and miserable person became joyful even though her cancer was not healed in this life. She was promoted a few months later but she departed this world a happy soul. Folks, we are all going to die physically with something, is it not better to depart with a happy spirit than to be bitter, cynical, sour and filled with self-pity? I can guarantee you that if you do not give thanks, you are not a happy person. God has made it impossible for an unthankful person to be happy.

[3] The third connection that I want to mention is THANKSGIVING and Grace.

The very first Max Lucado book that I read was IN THE GRIP OF GRACE. I gleamed several new insights from the book but the one that changed my life was the understanding of the connection between THANKSGIVING and GRACE. I don’t know that Max stated the insight is so many words but as I read the book, it became very clear. Legalistic people are never thankful where as gracious people or people who understand grace are always thankful. What it boils down to is this: a legalist [a Pharisee type] is on a point system. They believe that God’s love and favor must be earned. These people are “Record Keepers” and “Fault Finders.” They will remember every offense while forgetting all the acts of kindness and it is all because they do not understand grace.

Grace means God’s salvation and forgiveness are a gift which cannot be earned. I deserve death and hell. No matter what I do from this day forward, I deserved death and hell. I am a death and hell deserving sinner but I have been pardoned by HIS amazing grace. When a person understands this truth, they have to be thankful: they can be no other. I deserve hell but by the grace of God I am going to heaven–how can I not be thankful! Understanding grace means we put the emphasis on Christ. The emphasis is on what HE HAS DONE not on what WE DO! Honestly, can I be thankful for Jack? I can tell you exactly what Jack is: He is depraved, he is capable of any sin and he deserved to die an excruciating death and spend eternity in hell. Should I preach Jack? Who would be edified or changed if I did? When people scoff at my preaching, I can take no personal offense because I am preaching Jesus. They hatred is not so much against me as it is HIM. Why should I get my feelings hurt? Do people hate and despise me? Sure they do but I can’t get hung up on side issues and it is not about me. Those who despise me have missed the point. If you are all hung up on what some preacher did or didn’t do, you have missed the point. If you hate or despise anyone, you have missed the point. No one deserves to go to heaven and that includes preachers. If we put all the preachers together, their composite righteousness would not be enough to send one person to heaven.

Let me tell you the gospel truth: any person who hates, despises, or keeps a record of the wrongs you have committed does not understand and has not experienced GRACE. A person who has experienced Grace is always THANKFUL, not critical, not judgmental but THANKFUL.

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