Every year around this time we are asked by people “what’s on your Christmas List?” It is a simple question from someone who would like to honor you with a gift at Christmastime . . . not any old gift, but a gift that would be especially suited to you . . .something you’d really like to have. We may not actually sit down and make such a list anymore but we probably have one in our heads.
It is unfortunate that Thanksgiving now comes smack dab in the middle of the Christmas season. Oh, it wasn’t always this way but each year the decorations go up early. We have reached a point now where Thanksgiving Day has become a rest stop on the way to Christmas. This is unfortunate since Thanksgiving is still one of those holidays where blessings are acknowledged and we give God a nod.
This morning I want to do something different from the norm. I want to quickly and simply give you a list of some of the things we should be grateful for. My process has been simple, I went through the Bible and looked at every verse that used the word: thank, thankful, thanksgiving, gratitude, and praise. I wanted to see what the inspired writers thanked God for.
I admit I was tempted to go with a twenty point message . . . but I’ve tried to select some of the verses under four general headings. I am keenly aware of the danger of stringing a bunch of verses together . . . there is great possibility misinterpretation and taking the Scripture out of context. So, I share with caution and encourage you to check these texts out for yourselves.
WE SHOULD THANK GOD FOR HIS CHARACTER
When sending out birthday notes I like to try to affirm people not only for what they do but also for who they are. I want to recognize the extraordinary traits that people possess. I think we should do this with God as well. In the interest of time let me keep my list small:
Goodness and Love-
(2 Chronicles 7:3) When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.”
Admittedly, it would be easier to respond to God’s greatness if we saw fire coming down and the glory of the Lord . . .but, we can still be grateful for His goodness and love. We need to thank God for His consistency. We never have to wonder about His motives. God always is and does what is good and loving . . . . even if we don’t understand it at the time. There is no one who is more constant in their love than our Father in Heaven.
(Psalm 100:5) For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
God is never fickle. We can take Him at His Word . . . what He promises, He will do. Isn’t it great to know that our Savior is not changing like the wind? On occasion we sing about this faithfulness,
Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee: Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
It’s a crude analogy but hopefully one you will understand. . . . one of the great things about dogs is their faithfulness. They watch for you out the window when you are gone. They draw close regardless of your mood . . . and even when you don’t feel like playing, they are ready to come back instantaneously if you call. They sense when you are down and seem to share in the joyful times. . . . now that is the faithfulness of a dog. God’s faithfulness is far superior.
His Power and Strength
(Psalm 21:13) Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength; we will sing and praise your might.
Our God is the one who made the world by speaking a Word. He parted the sea, made it possible for women past child-bearing years to have children. He made the sun stand still for a day, made a wall fall down at the sound of a trumpet. He feed a multitude with five loaves and two fish. As God said to Abraham, “Is anything to hard for the Lord?” It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is no.
When I played some basketball in a church league I had perfected the drawing of a charging call. In other words, I got real good at getting in someone’s way and then falling down when they got there. On one occasion we were playing this tough group of kids (I wouldn’t have been surprised if they were gang members.) Their toughest guy came down the floor with the ball . . . I stood there and as he started to go around me I stuck out my knee every so slightly (which would make the foul on me) and I did a great “flop”. The young man was called for an offensive foul . . . but he took exception . . . and he wanted to take my head off! Guess what I did? I found the toughest guy on our team (also a gang member . . . he wasn’t a Christian but I wasn’t looking for someone to lead a Bible Study at that moment) and I stood behind him. He defended me because his strength was greater than the opponent (by the way, I confessed to the ref that the foul should have been called on me. . . . our tough guy didn’t like that!)
The point of this trip down memory lane is simple: God’s strength becomes our shelter and our defense. Our God is strong enough to protect us from any enemy. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John “no one can take us from him” Romans 8 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Time will not permit us to mention God’s other character traits: His Holiness, His Sovereignty, His righteousness, His Knowledge, His ever-presence, His Justice, His mercy and much more. A detailed study of God’s attributes would be a good study at any time . . a great study at Thanksgiving.
WE SHOULD THANK GOD FOR HIS ACTIVITY
His Creative Genius
(Psalm 19:1) “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
Don’t you love standing outside on nice dark night to look up at the myriad of stars. It is astounding to me that God created the beauty that I see all around me. I think about God’s creative genius when I see a man with a woman. I like sitting at the mall and just watching people. They are all so different, so unique and God made them all. Take a look at a brilliant sunset and realize how great God is. When you see, give thanks
(Psalm 107:8,9) Let them 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.
Every breath we take is from His hand. He makes the sun shine, He gives us wisdom when we are confused, strength when we are weak. Just look around and you will see all kinds of things God has provided. Many of the declarations of thanks Jesus gave was for food received. Let me ask you: have you planned to return thanks to God before you start eating on Thanksgiving Day? Do you do it every day? It is only polite when someone gives something to you.
His answers to Prayer
(Psalm 118:21) I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
Look back at your life and think of the times you uttered a cry for help . . . remember how He helped you. Remember the pleas for guidance and the direction that was given. Remember the times when the quiet time of prayer led to God’s sweeping peace. Remember the times you thought God had deserted you because He didn’t give you what you asked for . . . .and in time you saw the wisdom of His choice.
(Psalm 56:10,11) In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise– in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
God has seen fit to reveal Himself through the Word of God. What a rich blessing we have in our Bibles. It is there we see God’s heart, God’s plan, and God’s will for us. The Word of God always speaks a timely word. Give thanks for the times when God’s Word became clear in your mind. Give thanks that we still have the freedom to read our Bible.
WE SHOULD THANK GOD FOR HIS FOLLOWERS
As you read through the verses on giving thanks you find that many of the words are reserved for other people.” Paul thanks God for those he writes to, for those who provide for him, for those who pray for Him. We are to thank God for,
- The faithful. In Romans 1:8 we read: First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. We should thank God for those who faithfully serve. They honor God and they enrich us. I love sitting in my office at home or at the church and look at the books on my shelf and begin to thank God for these faithful people who have enriched my life. I’m sure your life has been molded by those who have been faithful laborers. Give thanks for those who shared the gospel with you, those who demonstrated faith by their living, those who instructed you in the things of faith.
- The Compassionate.(2 Corinthians 8:16) I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. Is it any wonder that Paul thanked God for these folks every time he thought about them. We all need people like this in our lives. . . those who will support us and stand by us. They are gifts from God. They are the people who will listen to you and help you. They will stand with you in tough times and won’t “rain on your parade” in the good times. We’re grateful for our friends.
- The Co-Workers – (Philippians 1:3-5) I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, ” We need to take time to thank God for those who work alongside us: other churches and ministries; and also those who serve faithfully right here: the musicians, the leaders, the other members of the staff, our families. These are our partners in ministry. Look around this morning and consider how many people have been a part of this morning’s worship. Then thank God for those folks.
- The Leaders – Paul urges Timothy (1 Timothy 2:1-3), I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior,” We are called to lift up our leaders. The Lord does not say just lift up those leaders you like . . . in truth the others need our prayers most. We are to give thanks for the leaders He has given us . . . even when we don’t agree with them.
WE SHOULD THANK GOD FOR HIS GRACE
- 1 Cor. 15:57-But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- 2 Cor. 9:15 -Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
When we make our lists of blessings we can come up with many things, experiences, and people we are grateful for. But certainly the greatest blessing to give thanks for this Thanksgiving Day is the gift of His grace.
We were lost, dead, unable to respond. God has reached out to us. He has “chosen us before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph. 1:4). We deserved Hell and He offered Heaven; we deserved to be sent to debtors prison, He canceled our debt of sin; We deserved to be shunned . . .He embraced us. He sent the Savior to die for our sin. Surely this is the greatest blessing we could have ever received. We need to remember where we were before we met Christ and then remember that we are now children of the Almighty. A high privilege, a great blessing.
I encourage you to do a few things this Thanksgiving week.
1. Find a quiet place to make a Thanksgiving List.
2. Be determined to look beyond the blessings we think of easily . . .the material things. Look Heavenward.
3. Make it a point to express your thanks to those people who are special to you…people who are your partners in the gospel, those who serve faithfully, often in the shadows.
4. Write a letter to someone who made a difference in your life: a teacher, a friend, a spiritual influence. Be specific in your thanksgiving. It will mean the world to them.
It is true that every day should be Thanksgiving Day. It is also true that we often forget to be grateful. So, while we are thinking about gratitude . . . let’s do it right.