Thanksgiving – A gift to enjoy

A man was pushing a pram with a child in the pram. The child was creating trouble and screaming and throwing tantrums. The man who was pushing the pram kept repeating at regular intervals “ Keep cool Andrew.. Keep cool Andrew” A passer by woman was impressed at this duo and could not keep herself from commenting. She bent down and played with the child and said “ Good Boy Andrew.. you have a great dad!!”. The man quickly corrected her. “Madam.. his name is Anthony.. I am Andrew”

If some thing I say today is going to make any of you angry .. remember to say to yourselves.. “Keep cool…”

During the last couple of months I have been watching the financial statement of the BBF and have been disturbed at the ‘not so good’ state of the Tithes and offerings. So when an opportunity was given to me to preach on this Thanksgiving Day, I had made up my mind to preach on Tithing and Giving. I said to myself, what a great opportunity to remind the congregation about our duties to tithe and to give thanks. So I went about collecting material on Tithing and was preparing a great sermon on how it is our duty to tithe and to give generously, what are the good reasons for us to tithe and what are the wrong reasons for us to tithe, how tithing is not just an old testament ritual, how the new testament takes it to the level of sacrificial giving etc etc… And then some thing happened. God kept on speaking to me and questioning me. This is Thanksgiving day and God asked me “ Hey.. are you going to whine about the finances of the church? Have I not been faithful to you and met your needs? Are you Thankful for what you have? Are you thankful for the numerous miracles that surround you? Are you thankful for this congregation and the fellowship that you can enjoy in my name?” God was opening my eyes to some thing that is so basic of all human nature.. but before I get into that let us see a short movie clip.

This clip is taken from the You Tube. This is from one of Conan O’Brien’s talk shows entitled “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy,” with guest comedian Louis C.K. The person speaking is the comedian C K Louis. I have edited to remove some of the non churchy language and to add some subtitled messages and music to the clip. Did you associate yourselves with the comments made on the show? Have we not complained a lot the last time a flight was delayed or the in flight entertainment system failed, or the seat was not going back completely? Do we not complain when our laptops or computers or mobile phones, or internet do not respond within milliseconds.. or; for some youngsters microseconds? Have we not fallen into that category of men and women who think the world owes us some thing that we did not know even existed 10 seconds back?

What is the message here? Is it impossible for human being to be grateful? Let me repeat it . Is it impossible for human beings, by themselves, to be grateful? Is it a basic human nature to be ungrateful, and forget about the goodness that surrounds us? Do we often nurture what I call thanks-killing vices like anger, lust, and greed? The secular world is full of clichés and canned messages like, “look for the silver lining among the dark clouds”, “see the glass half full, and not half empty” “count your blessings” . The secular world is full of successful motivational speakers, and writers. This shows only one thing. Common thanksgiving, or as the editor of Christianity Today, Mark Galli, put it “ Pedestrian Thanksgiving” is itself a difficult task.

How about us Christians? Where does Thanksgiving stand as a Christian Characteristic? Let us read Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” To state the obvious, we become Christians when we receive Jesus Christ, and Paul says when we receive Jesus Christ , we must live in Him, how? Through faith and “overflowing with Thankfulness”. The message bible puts it even more succinctly for me. “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving”. Let your living spill over into thanksgiving. Do you see where this is taking us? The Christian life should begin with Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving should be a fundamental activity of the church of Christ.

When we look at Paul’s ministry, we can clearly see that Thanksgiving is a central part of his ministry.

For example, to the Colossians (Colossians 1:11-12) he writes, “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” .To the Thessalonians he says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). And there are many other examples

And he practices what he preaches. To the Romans, he says, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you” (Romans 1:8). In his first letter to Corinth, he writes, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4). To the Ephesians he explains, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16). And on it goes.

Those of us who know Paul’s life cannot say that it was all easy for Paul.. he has had a very difficult life compared to many of us. But he is so gung ho on thanksgiving because he understands that thankfulness is not one of many virtues that characterize the Christian life, but the characteristic of faith.

Paul also looks at it from the other side: According to Paul, it is not pride nor greed nor lust but ungratefulness that has caused so much confusion and despair on the planet. Let us open our bibles to the book of Romans 1:21-31 “For although they knew God,” Paul writes of humanity, “they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21). From there, he describes how things just got worse and worse and worse, so that in the end, he can only describe humankind as “foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (1:31). And it all begins with ungratefulness.

We can probably understand all that, and try to be grateful when things are going well, when our prayers get answered, when we get what we ask for. But Paul makes it really difficult for us in Ephesians 5:20, when he says “giving thanks always and in everything to God the Father..” Always and in everything reminds me of a story.

There’s a little old Christian lady living next door to an atheist. Every morning the lady comes out onto her front porch and shouts “Praise the Lord!”.

The atheist yells back, “There is no God”.

She does this every morning with the same result. As time goes on, the lady runs into financial difficulties and has trouble buying food. She goes out onto the porch and asks God for help with groceries, then says “Praise the Lord”.

The next morning she goes out onto the porch and there’s the groceries she asked for, and of course, she shouts “Praise the Lord!!!”.

The atheist jumps out from behind a bush and says, “Ha, I bought those groceries – there is no God”.

The lady looks at him and smiles, she shouts “Praise the Lord, not only did you provide for me Lord, you made Satan pay for the groceries!!”

Jokes apart , let us get back to reality. Paul says give thanks always and for everything. This is where most of us will draw the line. Give Thanks always? When I feel low, when I have wake up early on a Sunday morning to go to a boring church service? When I have to travel every day through Bangalore traffic to go for a job I hate? And then Give thanks in everything? For my abusive husband? For my unfaithful wife? For the sickness of my child? For the bullying boss I have in the office? For the cancer that I am suffering from? You see it is getting more and more difficult to be always thankful and in everything. This is really when we realise that Thankfulness is an impossibility for human kind. This is when we realise that ungratefulness is a state of being, a sickness at the very core of souls, something that defines our personality; it’s what theologians call original sin—a signal of something desperately, desperately wrong with us. This is when we start believing that Thankfulness needs a miracle.

And Paul knew that too. Paul knew that to be grateful for human beings needs a miracle, and he inserts a phrase in this advice to show that the miracle exists. The miracle phrase is some thing that we introduce in every prayer of ours, a phrase so common that some times we forget to even notice it. Let us go back to Ephesians 5:20. How does the verse end? “.. in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

That’s the miracle phrase, but what exactly does it mean? Well, it sums up the substance of the Christian life, so it means many things. But let us look at just one important thing it means. To give thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ means to recognize that Christian gratefulness begins with an affirmation of a great negative: we simply can’t thank God in the manner congruent with his love. We can’t do it always. We can’t do it for everything. To give thanks in the name of the Lord Jesus begins with admitting we are powerless over our ungratefulness, and that our lives have become unmanageable—that is, we are unable to do the very thing we are called to do: to live thankfully in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ always and in everything.

And that’s precisely when things turn around. When this realisation hits us, when we admit this, God comes to us whiners, and comes to us in our Lord Jesus Christ. He comes to do a work of thanksgiving in us, revealing to us that it’s less important that we cannot do anything in the name of the Lord Jesus than that the Lord Jesus has done something in and for us. This is when we realise that Thankfulness is a gift that was given by God through His son Jesus Christ, even when we were ungrateful and selfish (to paraphrase Romans 5:6-8) . This is when we realise that even though our calling to live and breathe thanksgiving is high, so high as to be humanly impossible. Even though we will fall far short of it in this life, and fall short time and again, we will remember that the Lord Jesus Christ has done something extraordinary in and for us, something that affects us in everything and for always.

This Thanksgiving Sunday our Lord Jesus is asking us to receive this gift of Thankfulness. He knows that we cannot do it alone. This morning He is calling us to “live in Him” so that he can make it possible for us, and in us. Each one of us may be in a different phase in our personal relationship with Jesus, but wherever we are can we commit to the Lord that we will allow Him to work in us, so that we can give Thanks always and in everything? And for those of us who are yet to make up our minds about accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and saviour, may I suggest that this is the only way that we can live a life of thankfulness.

Let us pray.

Benediction

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen 

This message is also available in audio / pod cast version. Click here to listen to this message.

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