How to Offer True Thanksgiving
by Cooper Abrams
Introduction: Governor Bradford of Massachusetts made this first Thanksgiving Proclamation three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth in 1623:
"Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at the meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings." -- William Bradford
These folks had gone through a time of great difficulty, yet they never lost sight of being thankful to God who is the source and giver of life
Have you ever had someone do something for you that was really special. You wanted to express you gratitude and yet found the only thing you could do was to say "thank you". Even as you said it you felt so inadequate to really express you gratitude.
I think most of us feel that way when we think of all that God had done for us. We would like to say express our gratitude....but we struggle with knowing how to do it.
ILLUS: August 9, 1995, marked the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. What you may not realize is that Nagasaki was the center of Japanese Christianity. A substantial Christian community had survived three centuries of persecution. They worshipped underground and endured martyrdom. They were only allowed to live their faith in public at the turn of the century. Then, in 60 seconds, they were wiped out.
But the survivors' response wasn't anger. Takashi Nagai, who lost his wife in the blast and who later died from the effects of radiation, said that the 8,000 Christians who died instantly in the blast had been specially chosen by God as an expiation from all sins committed during the war. Nagai said, "Let us give thanks that through this sacrifice, peace was given to the world and freedom of religion to Japan."
Where there is a true understanding of biblical thanksgiving there is forgiveness and peace. That is the product of thanksgiving. The Bible has much to say about being grateful and offering thanksgiving to the Lord.
I. ONE WAY TO SHOW OUR THANKFULNESS IS IN PUBLIC WORSHIP SERVICES. IT IS GOOD TO GIVE THANKS UNTO TO THE LORD. Psa. 92:1
I think many times we are so caught up in our busy
lives we do not consider the part that being thankful should play in our
We might even think that it is not that important.
ILLUS: I once was ask to preach the funeral of someone who was not a member of our church. The funeral home directed them to me because they did not attend any church. As I talked with them they spoke in glowing terms of their parent who had taught them right from wrong and made sure they went to church. But the parent did not go to church. The children then explained to me that it was not important where or if you went to church. It was only important to have faith and do the best you can. Clearly this person did not think worshipping the Lord was important.
Sadly, this person missed something that God says is important in the life of a believer...that is public worship and the fellowship of other believers, and the means to show others of our gratefulness to God and in doing that testifying to God's Grace.
A. David who the Bible says, "was a man after God's own heart", meaning he was a spiritual man. He had many get achievements in his life for the Lord, and also many failures and trials. He was a man acquainted with great victories, but he experienced many tragedies also.
He knew the value of being thankful and publicly expressing it.
1. This song was, as its title denotes, a song that was sung on the Sabbath day, which was a day set aside for public and private worship of God.
2. Giving thanks to God was an important act of worship. Singing praises in song, even as we did this morning, is an act of worship.
3. Singing hymns which express the greatest of God, keeps it before us least we should forget. In the Bible worship is shown most often as an act of a congregation.
a. It has the benefit for the individual.
b. It has benefit in that it teaches our children that we truly do love God and are grateful.
c. It teaches us all young and old to be grateful.
4. Note that the worship was done in the morning and evening. It was an every waking hour privilege and attitude.
5. Note also verse 3, which says the instruments were played with a solemn sound. The word "solemn" means "appointed." This refers to an appointed or special sound that was marked for religious gravity and importance. This clearly speaks against the modern so called "Christian rock." It gives us a principle: What is offered in worship to God should be set aside to be used only to worship God. Taking some Christian lyrics and setting it to rock or contemporary music does not meet the qualifications listed here.
B. So..one way we can so gratitude is in faithfully attending worship services and as a church worship the Lord with song and the preaching of His Word.
1. The Bible teaches that we honor the Lord and show gratitude in having a special time to offer praises.
2. Publicly offering thanksgiving is actually a witness for the Lord.
II. WE CAN SHOW OUR GRATITUDE TO THE LORD BY PROCLAIMING GOD'S GREATEST AND PRAISE TO OTHERS. Psa. 107:1-2.
A. We can show our thankfulness by telling others what God has done.
1. By telling others who he it.
2. A true friend will share with others their good fortune. By telling others of Christ Jesus we honor and praise the Lord and it is a witness to others.
B. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! It God has saved you then tell others.
1. Lots of folks think that witnessing for the Lord is a hard and difficult thing to do.
2. Lots of books written on "how to witness".
3. Yet, the most effective way and simplest way to just to tell folks what God has done for you.
4. Think for a moment. If we have an attitude of telling folks about the Lord....it will have the added effect of keeping us living as we should.
C. You honor God and spread the Gospel when you tell people the truth....God is good, He loves each person and wants to see all men everywhere saved and having received forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
D. God is honored when you show genuine gratitude to God before others. It is a very effect way to worship the Lord and be a testimony.
ILLUS: A lady named Elsie Linton, tells this story: My niece took her two small children Christmas shopping and as a special treat took them into Kresges for lunch. They clambered up on two stools at the crowded lunch counter and ordered french fries and strawberry sodas. As soon as they were served, they each grabbed a french fry, popped them into their mouths, then reached out for the sodas. Suddenly Chris called out, "Tammy, we forgot the blessing," and immediately, two head bowed and their small voices rang out clearly, "Thank you for the world so sweet. Thank you for the food we eat. Thank you for the birds that sing. Thank you, Lord, for everything. Amen."
As the little prayer progressed, the hubbub around the counter ceased. The lady sitting next to them about to light a cigarette, snapped the lighter shut; forks and spoons were poised, and even the girl frying the hamburgers stood still--all of this observed from the half-bowed head and partially closed eyes of my somewhat ill-at-ease niece. (Elsie Linton, Hamilton, Ontario. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare.")
1. Question? Do you think that those at the lunch counter realized that this was a Christian family and loved the Lord?
2. It was a testimony to the faithfulness of a parents who loved the Lord and taught their children to respect the Lord and to show their gratitude.
3. This little incident honored the Lord. How many Christians are too embarrassed to pay publicly. I do not mean to make a show of it, but to quietly and respectfully bow one's head and express one's gratitude to God His provision.
ILLUS: My wife once worked for a large chemical company as the Asst. CEO. As a corporate employee see often had meals with other executives in public restaurants. She would often fly the corporate jet to other cities where the company had other offices and meet with company officials and strangers. She never made a show of it, but each time no matter what the circumstances or who was present she silently bowed her head and gave thanks to God for the meal. None of the other executives were Christians, but in time as they watched her they showed a sincere respect for her faith and belief in God. They knew she prayed and on several occasions ask her to pray for them all. She had a tremendous testimony with all those people. They occasionally would have suppers for the whole company and Carolyn and I would attend. This was the only time they ever prayed at these outing, but I was ask to lead them in prayer.
III. WE CAN SHOW OUR GRATITUDE TO THE LORD BY GIVING OFFERINGS TO THE LORD. Prov. 3:9-10
A. You cannot in fact give anything to the Lord. It is His already.
1. Yet, he lets us be stewards of material things on this earth.
2. Not all receive the same, yet all receive something. Thus, all have a reason and much to be thankful for.
B. God wants your best..the first fruits. It is a shame the way we have been taught to think of giving to the Lord.
1. "Give your junk to Jesus".
2. Many times, we offer to serve the Lord only if it is convenient and not to much trouble.
3. Only if nothing interferes.
4. Only if we feel like it or feel comfortable.
5. I thank all would agree...this is not giving of our first fruits.
C. You can not out give God. The more you give the more God gives you.
A. W. Tozer once said, "Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it."
1. Without a grateful heart you cannot be a good steward what God gives us. If you are a good steward of small things then He makes you stewards of greater and greater things.
2. God promises to those who show their thankfulness to God by giving...to make them prosper.
Your barns will be full and your presses shall burst out with new wine. (grape juice)
"And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed". Joel 2:26
ILLUS: Anne Keegan a reporter for the Chicago Tribune Magazine wrote an article titled "Blue Christmas" which was a collection of Christmas stories told by Chicago police officers. One was the story of George White.
George lived in a rented room at the YMCA. He had one set of clothes, shoes wrapped with rubber bands to keep the soles from flopping, and a threadbare black overcoat. He spent his mornings napping in an old metal chair by the heater in the back of the 18th District office.
Two officers, Kitowski and Mitch, took an interest in the old man, occasionally slipping him a few bucks. They found out that Billy the Greek over at the G&W grill gave him a hot breakfast every morning, no charge.
The two policemen and their families decided to have George as their guest for Christmas dinner. They gave him presents, which he unwrapped carefully.
As they drove him back to the YMCA, George asked, "Are these presents really mine to keep?" They assured him they were. George then said, "Then we must stop at the G&W before I go home." . With that, George began rewrapping his presents.
When they walked into the restaurant, Billy the Greek was there as always. "You been good to me, Billy," said George. "Now I can be good to you. Merry Christmas." George gave all his presents away on the spot.
Generosity is natural when a grateful attitude prevails.
(-- Chicago Tribune Magazine ,12/24/95)
IV. WE CAN SHOW OUR GRATITUDE BY PRAYING AND ASKING GOD TO MEET OUR NEEDS.
A. This is a matter of living by faith.
1. The word "be careful", means do not be overly anxious and worry.
2. It has a two fold ill effect. (1) On us and how we feel and act. (2) On those around us who look to us for strength. We have a great responsibility to those around us.
"It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things" (Rom. 15:27).
3. You can't be much help to your husband or wife when you are worried and depressed yourself.
4. Everyone will at times be worried. It is normal, but this is talking about one whose pattern of their life is to worry.
B. The verse says with thanksgiving let your requests be know unto the Lord.
1. We need to be dependent on the Lord. In fact God wants us to be totally dependent on Him.
2. We do it in many ways.
By asking, expressing our needs and desires.
"Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psa 37:5
ILLUS: A mother and her little daughter were both very sick. The little girl had measles and the mother the flu. The husband was away on a trip and it seemed everything was going wrong for them. The mother tucked her daughter into bed and as usual she took time to pray with her. Her daughter said, "Mom, I don't know how to pray tonight, everything has gone wrong." The mother then said, "Honey, lets thank God it was not worse and that the day is over" and that is what they did.
V. BEING GRATEFUL IS AN ATTITUDE OF THE HEART.
A. Showing thankfulness and being thankful are not something that comes automatically to man.
1. Man is selfish and self-centered.
2. Being grateful is something that is learned and cultivated. It must be taught to children and adults.
B. Showing gratitude is not based on having material blessing or having things "going our way." It is based on our understanding of God's grace to us...no matter what our circumstance.
C. Whatever we have, we have because God in his grace and generosity has given it to us. When we realize this, there comes into our lives a joyful gratitude for what we do have, and we are freed from resentment and anxiety over what we don't have.
ILLUS: While on a short-term missions trip, a Pastor named Jack Hinton was leading worship at a leper colony on the island of Tobago. A woman who had been facing away from the pulpit turned around. "It was the most hideous face I had ever seen," Hinton said. "The woman's nose and ears were entirely gone. She lifted a fingerless hand in the air and asked, 'Can we sing Count Your Many Blessings?' "
Overcome with emotion, Hinton left the service. He was followed by a team member who said, "I guess you'll never be able to sing that song again."
"Yes I will," he replied, "but I'll never sing it the same way."
VI. WE CAN SHOW OUR GRATITUDE TO GOD BY GIVING TO OTHERS.
A. READ James 2:15-17. God shows us here that true faith is one that works and puts their faith into action. The illustration used shows us also that wishing someone well is worthless unless we take action to meet another's need.
We need sensitive hearts to those around us.
ILLUS: This story told by H.J. Duffy, illustrates the point. He said, my four-year-old was standing on a kitchen chair pulled close to the wall, intensely staring at the familiar "Our Daily Bread" painting of the older man praying over a small loaf.
"What are you doing, Honey?" I asked.
"Looking," she said with a catch in her voice.
Noticing tears under her dark lashes, I probed deeper. "What are you thinking?"
With a heartfelt sigh, she replied, "He doesn't have any peanut butter." (H.J. Duffy, Livingston, Texas. Christian Reader, "Kids of the Kingdom.")
B. I have looked at copies of that very picture many times, but I never saw what this little girl saw. She looked with a heart sensitive to the need of another.
1. It just boils down to this: The best way to show God we are grateful is to live our lives as He wants us to.
2. To meet together and worship as a church family.
To tell others of God's love and all He has done for us.
To give our tithes and offerings and give our very best to the Lord. Material things and also in our service.
To live by faith. Trusting in the Lord, being dependent on him for all things.
To share what ever we have, small or great with others.
3. Is being grateful a part of your life? Is being thankful to God and showing Him you are important to you?
It should be.... He came to this earth with the sole purpose to go to that old rugged cross and there to suffer the agony of paying the penalty for all the sins of the world. That means you and I. Because he loved us....we can have life, forgiveness of sin and heaven. Nothing compares to what our God and our Savior did for us.
Surely....surely...we must show Him honor and gratitude, by accepting Him as a Lord and Savior and living a life of eternal gratitude thanking Him for doing so much for us.
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