Becoming Thanksgiving People

Randall Caselman
Bella Vista Church of Christ
11/23/97

Becoming Thanksgiving People

Reading 1 Chronicles 16.8-12; 23-25; 34 & 36


Look around you this morning.. Who are the
- Happiest,
- Most joyous,
- Most secure
- And fulfilled
People you know?

Right now, think of those you know:  who have it all together, whose life cup always seems full and overflowing, regardless of their situation and circumstances.

Now, what common denominator do you find in their lives? What do these kind of folks have in common? RIGHT!... They are thankful people.
When someone walks up to you and says;
- How are you?
- Howís things going?
What floods your thoughts?
- Gratitude,
- Thankfulness,
- Counting our blessings?
OR
- Griping,
- Complaining,
- Finding fault with people or lifeís circumstances?

Here it is, are we a people and person of GRATITUDE or INGRATITUDE?
- It shows on our faces.
- Our attitude is heard on our lips.
- And is demonstrated in the way we live daily.
We can either live in the continuum of an ongoing pity party or in continual thanksgiving. Church, we must strive to rise above our current circumstances and situation. Our happiness, our joy in living, is not in circumstances, but in attitude. Scripture says, as a man thinks in our heart so is he... What we think, we are. We must know this morning that changing,
- Jobs,
- Houses,
- Wives,
- Or churches
Will not change our hearts.

Donít wait on the world to get better... It wonít happen. Change your heart. Become thankful people!
- Thankful for what we have.
- Thankful for what we are.
- Thankful for where we can do.

We must find our place in the current set of circumstances and learn to be content. Paul tells us this is the scriptural way, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 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.

Becoming contented, thanksgiving people is Godís will in our lives. Church, THANKSGIVING is a direct command from God... Did you know that?... It is!

Listen as I read some scriptures that reflect this fact:
1 Chronicles 16.8, Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Psalm 7.17, I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

Psalm 107.8-9, Let us give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Psalm 136.1, Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures for ever.

Psalm 92.2, Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.

Colossians 3.15, Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, because you were called to peace. And be thankful.

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.

Paul says, be joyful, give thanks in all circumstances... Are we LISTENING NOW?... For this is Godís will for you. No, Paul did not say, give thanks FOR all circumstances. He said, give thanks IN all circumstances... There is a difference, isnít there? As children of God, we are commanded to become a people and person of gratitude. The church of Jesus Christ is commanded to become a thanksgiving people.

Just as gratitude and thankfulness are commanded in Scripture, INGRATITUDE is condemned.

Let me read Romans 1, beginning with the verse numbered 21, For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor did they gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles... They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is for ever praised.

Now to verse 28, Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents.

Did you notice it?... Paul maintains that those who do not give thanks TO GOD are fools. He places those who are unthankful among such sinners as:
- Idolators,
- Homosexuals,
- Murderers,
- Gossips,
- And ruthless God haters.

Even though they knew God, they chose not to: Glorify Him as God, and give His thanks.  The Holy Spirit calls such people FOOLS.

Well, the question is WHY?  What is it, in our humanity, that would cause us to become THANKLESS, UNGRATEFUL people?

FIRST, LET ME SUGGEST FAMILIARITY... JUST TAKING OUR BLESSINGS FOR GRANTED.
We have been: So blessed, So long, In so many ways, that we forget how really blessed we are.  We forget:
- The sunshine,
- The rain,
- The air we breathe,
- The harvest,
- Money,
- Jobs,
- Health,
- Family,
- Food,
- Shelter,
- Warmth,
- Light,
- Darkness,
- Rest
- Our country,
- Freedom,
- Liberty,
- Happiness.
On and on, we could go, and we havenít even touched the spiritual blessings we enjoy.

Church, have you ever noticed how that the most unfortunate people are usually the most grateful ones. The most thankful folk, are those who have less than most of us to be thankful for. There is an interesting verse in Proverbs which says;
- Lord, donít make me so POOR that I steal from or mistreat my brother,
- BUT, donít make me so RICH that I forget you.

You see, we have been:
- So blessed,
- So long,
- In so many ways, that we take our blessings for granted. We forget that ALL good blessings come from God the Father.

SECONDLY, HUMAN PRIDE, A LACK OF HUMILITY, ALSO KEEPS US FROM THANKSGIVING.
Remember the Pharisee and the Publican of Luke 18... Praying in the Temple? The Phariseeís thankfulness, his gratitude, was not accepted by God as genuine, because of (WHAT?)... PRIDE!
- I thank you Lord that I am not like other men,
- I fast twice a week,
- I give a 10th of all my income,
- I thank you Lord that I am not like that Publican, that sinner.
Whatís wrong here?... No humility!

Remember the church at Laodicea?... They said:
- We are rich,
- We are in need of nothing...
- We are self-sufficient.
Jesus said, No! No! You are poor, wretched and naked.

Church, our most sinister sin, is to think we need nothing from God. Itís called, boot strap religion. Thanksgiving without humility is never acceptable by the Lord. The individual who does not recognize his unworthiness before God can never correctly observe a day called Thanksgiving. God acceptable thanksgiving is born out of genuine humility.

SELFISHNESS ALSO INHIBITS OUR GRATITUDE.
How can we determine if our gratitude is being suppressed by selfishness? I know no better way than in:
- Our fault finding,
- Our criticizing,
- And grumbling.

Find me:
- A grumbler,
- A complainer;
- One that is constantly critical of other people and of lifeís circumstances... And Iíll show you someone who is selfish.

Do we grumble more than we give thanks?.. Do we? Sometime just count them in a dayís time... How many times are we found being critical versus giving thanks? Our Biblical example of SELFISH INGRATITUDE is Israel in the wilderness. God had miraculously:
- Led them safely through the Red Sea.
- Destroyed their enemies.
- Guided them day and night with His presence in the pillar of fire and smoke.
- Fed them with manna and quail.
- Gave them fresh water to drink.
- Revealed His law at Sinai.
- Their sandals never rotted,
- Their clothes never wore out.

Yet they grumbled, complained and found fault with: God, one another, their leadership and their circumstances throughout the 40 year journey. There were times that they even wanted to be back in Egyptian bondage.

Question! Do we grumble against:
- God,
- Our leadership.
- Our position,
- Time,
- Health,
- Wealth, or what we perceive as a lack of it.?
INDEED, selfishness destroys our thanksgiving.

Here is another insight... The flip side of this is also true... Genuine gratitude forces us to destroy our selfishness Genuine gratitude exhibits itself in thanksgiving.

Letís finish the lesson by noting some ways we can express our gratitude.  Some ways thanksgiving can best be celebrated.

FIRST, BY LOYALTY TO CHRIST.
As Christians, our commitment to God must begin with an understand that we belong to Him;
- Once by creation,
- Once by salvation.

He brought us into this world... He sustains us daily. And he sent His Son to die to save us. Acts 17.28 tells us that it is in HIM that we live, move and have our being. We owe our existence to God. First Corinthians 6 says, Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
- Our bodies are Godís because he created them and sustains them.
- Our souls belong to God, because He saved them.

PRAISE GOD!!... Give Him thanks for these blessings. Of course, we demonstrate our loyalty to Him by being the kind of people and person He has called us to be... By doing what He asked us to do through His word. This is genuine thanksgiving.

THANKSGIVING IS CELEBRATED BY TEACHING AND SERVING OTHERS.
Our greatest blessing, this morning, is our salvation. God has asked us to share that blessing by telling others. Are we showing, demonstrating our Christianity to anyone?
- Our children?
- Our neighbors?
- The sick and shut-in.
- The lonely and disenfranchised of our world?

Remember the parable of the forgiving master. A servant was forgiven his debt, but refused to forgive his brother.
- As those who have been blessed by God,
- As those who have been forgiven by God,
We ought to do the same toward others. Jesus said, as often as you do it unto the least of these my brethren, you did it unto Me. We are demonstrating our gratitude to God for sending His Son, when we teach and serve.

THANKS GIVING IS CELEBRATED BY GIVING AND SHARING.
In fund raising, I have observed something interesting.  There are many reasons people give. What is it that motivates us to give?
- Because we are commanded.
- Because we love the lost and want them saved.
- Because we love the church and want to see it grow.
- Because someone asked us to give, perhaps; the elders, preacher, a friend.
- Because the church has a budget, expenses that must be met.
- Because someone else has given and we donít want to be left out.
- Because we want recognition.

Audience, do you know what the greatest motivation is for giving?... AS AN EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE. The contribution time on Sunday morning is a time of thanksgiving. We will give more out of gratitude than we will for any other reason. Isnít this Paulís instruction to the church at Corinth... Give as you have been blessed, give as you have prospered. Paul is telling them and us to count our blessing and then give accordingly.

Someone has rightly said,
- We make a living by what we earn.
- We make a life by what we give to others.

Church, when was the last time we gave thanks to God by sharing:
- Our blessings,
- Our forgiveness,
- Our salvation, with others?

Well, we must stop, but I want us to see that thanksgiving is not something we celebrate once each year on the fourth Thursday in November, itís an attitude we should have each day we live. Thanksgiving didnít originate with our forefathers in New England in 1621, but within the heart of God... Let us give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds.

ďFather, we thank Thee:
For peace within our favored land,
For plenty from Thy bounteous hand,
For means to give to those in need,
For grace to help in thought and deed,
For faith to walk, our hand in Thine,
For truth to know Thy law divine,
For strength to work with voice and pen,
For love to serve our fellow man.
For light the goal ahead to see,
For life to use alone for Thee..
Father, we thank Thee.Ē

If youíre here this morning and not a child of God, the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is by doing what He asks of you... Become His child by:
- Faith,
- Repentance,
- And New Testament baptism, immersion in water for the forgiveness of your sins.

The challenge for those of us who are His children, is to become a Thanksgiving people.  Will you be thankful?

Written By

Bella Vista Church of Christ

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