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Sunday, November 18, 2018

When Giving Thanks Is Tough




This is the manuscript of a sermon I preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA on Sunday November 18, 2018.  This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving Day.  You hear all the time, and it’s certainly true, that you don’t need a turkey, dressing, greens, pumpkin and sweet potato pies to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for people of faith represents more than an annual holiday, it serves as a reminder that giving thanks is part of who we are as believers because we demonstrate faith when we are grateful.  But when times are tough it's hard sometimes to be thankful.To hear the audio click on the YouTube image at the end of the manuscript.  


This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving Day.  You hear all the time, and it’s certainly true, that you don’t need a turkey, dressing, greens, pumpkin and sweet potato pies to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for people of faith represents more than an annual holiday, it serves as a reminder that giving thanks is part of who we are as believers because we demonstrate faith when we are grateful.

All you need is a reason, and God has given us plenty of reasons to be grateful.

Start with what you see—the clothes you’re wearing, the food in the fridge, the beauty of a fall day (and we have a lot of those in Los Angeles). Then think about the people you love and how they’ve touched your life. Next, think about the things God has given you that can’t be held in your hands—things like hope, forgiveness, freedom, salvation, and your future home in heaven. Stopping to say thanks will remind you of how big God is and how good your life is, no matter what’s going on.  
You can’t separate gratitude and faith. Giving thanks=gratitude… Giving God thanks (or gratitude)  is an expression of your faith in His Sovereignty.

It is impossible to understand and receive all that Christ did for us on the cross and not be grateful. For those of us who have been given so much, it is important that we continually express our genuine appreciation to our Heavenly Father both in words and by the way we live our lives.  For the Christian, every day should be a day of thanksgiving…

THE MEANING OF THANKFULNESS

Thankfulness is a mental and/or verbal expression of one's acknowledgement and appreciation of God's person, His grace, His blessings, and His sovereign work in our livea and the world.
Thankfulness is a skill we can develop with practice. It’s just a matter of pausing and noticing the abundance with which God has filled our lives.
We can choose to view life through the lens of deprivation (noticing everything we don’t have and worrying that there is never enough for us) or through the lens of abundance (noticing everything we do have and trusting that a good God will provide for us).
When Should We Give Thanks?

      We should give thanks whenever we pray.  The reason we should give thanks when we pray is because when we are thankful we take our eyes of ourselves and our problems so we can focus on others and on God. 
Look at these examples from the apostle Paul:
Ephesians 1:15-17 (NKJV)15  Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,16  do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:17  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NKJV)2  We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,3  remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,
When we pray with thanksgiving it helps us to see life through the perspective of God, His principles, His promises, His plan, His provisions, and His purposes. This focus on God promotes faith and courage in the face of the trying and painful situations that we all eventually face. 
      Second, we should always give thanks in everything and for everything
Ephesians 5:20 (NKJV)20  giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)18  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
This means that there is no limit on the time or the  extent of our thanksgiving.  God’s will for us includes constant joy, ceaseless prayer, and boundless thanks.
But when times are tough it's hard sometimes to be thankful.
That’s what I want to talk about today.  When giving thanks is tough.
 When Giving Thanks Is Tough

One night the Biblical scholar Matthew Henry was robbed. When he got home he was still trembling with fear. Yet, he regained his calm as he prayed This is the prayer he offered and wrote in his journal: "Father, I thank You first because I was never robbed before; second, I thank You because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, I thank You because although they took everything I had, it was not very much; and fourth, I thank You because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed"

One of the greatest marks of spiritual maturity is the ability to give thanks when it's tough. This is what Paul meant in;

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Here is something that I read once.   "The greatest lesson I have learned is to take things with gratitude and not take them for granted. "You say grace before meals,  but I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, walking, playing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink."

Throughout the Scripture, we hear the call to give thanks.

Thanksgiving is really faith in action:

1 Chronicles 16:8 NIV Give praise to the Lord , proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

When you give thanks in tough times, it does three things...

I. Cultivates Your Character

Did you notice that the Scripture that we read from 1 Thessalonians says that giving thanks is is the will of God.
Cicero, the Roman poet, observed: "Thanksgiving is not only the greatest of all virtues, it is the parent of all virtues."
Talking about parents, they recognize this principle when raising children. One of the first virtues they try to instill in their children is the virtue of thanksgiving. Without it, they grow up to be selfish, narcissistic, manipulative, complaining, and thinking that the world owes them a living.
Remember the hymn that says;
 "Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done?" When we do that we are look at what we do have not what we don't have.  
As the psalmist said,
Psalms 103:1-5 NKJV 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 iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So  that  your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

II. Thanksgiving Increases Your Joy


Again number one; giving thanks cultivates your character.  Number 2 giving thanks increases your joy.
Notice the connection between verses 16 and 18 in I Thessalonians 5 verse 16 says; “Rejoice always”, and verse 18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances”.

The words thanksgiving and joy come from the same Greek root, charis, meaning "grace."
Thanksgiving is eucharis, and joy is chara. If you don't give thanks, what will you give? Anger, resentment, doubt, complaint? The secret to abounding joy is the gratitude attitude or thanks.
Gratitude is the world’s healthiest human emotion. It actually increases your immunity to sickness. There are studies that show that happier people are healthier people.
 Ungrateful people tend to be unhappy people. Nothing ever satisfies them. They never have enough. They are “when-and-then” people who think, “When such and such happens, then I’ll be happy.”

But the Bible gives us another way.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 GW Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.

Gratitude can change everything. For example, try this: If you’re feeling depressed, make a list of 50 things you can be grateful for. Your gratefulness will help shift your focus away from your problems and toward everything good God has done and is doing in your life.

We take too much for granted. Develop the attitude of gratitude and watch your stress level go down—because there is always something to be grateful for.

III. Thanksgiving Conquers Your Problems


Okay number one; giving thanks cultivates your character,  number 2 giving thanks increases your joy, and number 3 giving thanks conquers your problems.
No, I don't mean that all your problems go away when you give thanks. I mean that your problems stop being such a problem. You live from the inside out. What goes on around you no longer controls the condition of the world within you.
You can't control the problems that come into your life but you can control how you respond to them.
There's a saying; "Bitterness comes to all. It sours some; it sweetens others”. Use the bitterness of your problems to sweeten your spirit even in the midst of them through thanksgiving and praising God.  Not for the problems but in the middle of them.  When we praise God and thank Him the focus is on God and no longer on the problem. 
Thanking God delivers us from a victim mentality and gives us a victor's mentality.
Romans 8:31-39 NKJV What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can  be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It  is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It  is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I once read that nothing can help the person with the wrong mental attitude, and nothing can stop a person with the right mental attitude. The right mental attitude to overcome your obstacles and win your battles is thanksgiving.
Change your way of thinking;
Philippians 4:8 NKJV Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are  noble, whatever things are  just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are  lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there  is any virtue and if there  is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
And thank God.

Giving thanks cultivates your character, increases your joy, and conquers your problems.
A friend sent me this a couple of years ago. 

“Imagine the God of the universe speaking these words to you… ;Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything. There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience—at times, blind obedience. To people who don’t know Me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank Me for heartrending hardships. Nonetheless, those who obey Me in this way are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain.

Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective. It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting from adversity.

Being thankful in all things doesn't mean faking it either but we'll talk about that next week. We

Thanksgiving is more than a one-day family gathering with lots of good food.   It’s a way of living, a daily act of expressing gratitude to our Maker who first gave to us.
 There's no better thanksgiving wisdom than that found in;
 Psalms 100:1-5 NKJV 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.

In this one Psalm there are a number of instructions listed that can help us live our Thanksgiving . .

     Make a glad sound to the Lord
     Give worship to the Lord with joy
     Come before him with a song
     Be certain that you acknowledge that the Lord is God
     Come into his presence with joy, and into his house with praise
     [Remember] for the Lord is good . . . his mercy is never-ending . . . his faith is unchanging

Let me end with the thing that we should thank God most for …….. salvation. 

The Bible tells us that we are separated from God because we have sinned.
Isaiah 59:1-2 NKJV Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

Romans 3:23 NIV for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 6:23 NKJV For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 118 is a song of thanksgiving to God for His salvation, verse 14 of that Psalm says

Psalms 118:14 NKJV The Lord  is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.

That salvation is by the grace of God and our faith in which we acknowledge the sacrifice of Jesus to atone or pay the penalty for our sins. 

God loves us—He loves you, He loves me—and He wants us to be part of His family forever. He loves us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to die as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. All we need to do is reach out in faith and accept Christ as our Savior and Lord:
Romans 10:9-10 NIV If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Have you opened your heart to Jesus Christ? If not, turn to Him with a simple prayer of repentance and faith, and thank Him for what He has done for you. If you have never done this we can do it now. Come on down and I’ll help and lead you in a prayer of repentance and faith.   If you’re shy and don’t want to come up here that’s OK come talk to me after service and we can do it where there’s nobody but you and me and Jesus. 
If you do know Christ, how long has it been since you thanked God for your salvation? We should not let a day go by without thanking God for His mercy and His grace to us in Jesus Christ. 
"Lord, teach me to offer you a heart of thanksgiving and praise in all my daily experiences of life. Teach me to be joyful always, to pray continually and to give thanks in all my circumstances. I accept them as Your will for my life (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). I long to bring pleasure to Your heart daily. Break the power of the enemy in my life. Defeat Him through my sacrifice of praise. Change my outlook and attitude into one of joyful contentment with my present circumstances.
Jesus, I want to be like You who obeyed the Father without complaint. You embraced the chains of humanity when You walked this earth. Convict me whenever I complain or compare myself with others. Give me Your attitude of humility and thankful acceptance. I want to be like the Apostle Paul who learned contentment in every circumstance. I choose to continually offer You a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that give praise to Your name (Hebrews 13:15). I long to bring a smile to Your face. Teach me the power of a thankful heart. I know that Your truth dwells in a thankful heart.
 “I will give thanks to the LORD because of His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens” (Psalm 7:17-18:1). In Jesus’ name, Amen."

The Lord bless you, and keep you:. The Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you:. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace Numbers 6:24-26.

Sermon Audio