Tag Archives: give thanks

Thankful for…

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, as Christians, we have much to be thankful for. God has provided so wonderfully for everything we need towards life and godliness. He has given us salvation by grace through faith. He has given us His word that teaches such things. He has given us His Son, who is our King, our Redeemer and our Friend. He has given us His Holy Spirit to teach and guide us. Our thanksgiving is not limited to the material, but includes the spiritual. Evangelist Michael Yousef says: “Biblical thanksgiving doesn’t focus on our circumstances, but on the goodness of God. Since God’s qualities are not hidden, Thanksgiving is not optional.” Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

And yet, we know that it takes just a little more effort to express thanks. It is not something we come by naturally. Hence, the story of Jesus and the healing of the ten lepers. This is an interesting, yet short story, found in Luke 17. Positioned where in the gospel of Luke. They lived in or near Galilee, which means that they witnessed some of Jesus’ ministry. They knew of Jesus’ miracles. They knew what He could do. They also called Him, “Master.” It says in Luke 17:13: “…and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Jesus healed another leper in Luke 5:14. This was in the face of a culture that wanted nothing to do with lepers. The Mosaic Law required lepers not to mingle with others. Leviticus 13:45 tells us: “The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.” (Compare with Numbers 5:2-4).

Having leprosy in Jesus’ time was a very difficult matter. Those with the disease suffered from their condition, both physically and socially. By New Testament times, except in a walled town, a leper was allowed to live among his neighbors, providing he had a house to himself.

In Jesus’ day, leprosy was truly a helpless condition. The disease is caused by an infection and involves the loss of feeling. It was thought to be a malady that only God could heal. For example, on the occasion of Naaman’s healing in 2 Kings 5:7 we read: “As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy?” It was a death wish, maybe even much worse as AIDS or the Ebola virus. Donald Carson states: “The Jews abhorred it, not only because of the illness itself, but because it rendered the sufferer and all with whom he came in direct contact ceremonially unclean. To be a leper was interpreted as being cursed by God. Healings were rare and considered as difficult as raising the dead.”

But notice that Jesus is not made unclean by touching these lepers. Rather, the leper is cleansed by Jesus’ touch! The Lord instructed them to go to the priest to be “inspected,” and if healed, welcomed back into the community. But only one recognized the gift of God. Ironically, it was the one least suspected, the foreigner, the Samaritan!

This story teaches us that it is not human nature to say, “Thank you.” Gratitude is something that must be taught. Many of us were taught from a young age the importance of saying: “Please and thank you.” But here, that old manner lesson has spiritual consequences.

As the holiday approaches, I’m sure that there are many things for which you are thankful. For instance, you should be thankful for what you have. Acts 14:17 tells us: “Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

Consider the many material blessings that you enjoy whether it is food, clothing, drinking water, etc. There are many parts of the world that do not have these basic necessities. I was speaking with Rev. Ebenezer Browne, who is a church planter in Monrovia, Liberia. God has used Ebenezer to plant 22 churches in that city. I asked him what the biggest needs in his community were. He said without hesitation: Clean drinking water, food, medical personnel and supplies to deal with the Ebola crisis. It occurred to me that we are so fortunate to live in a part of the world in which we have plenty of those things. We are a privileged nation and an advantaged people.

Also, be thankful for what you do not have. Have you ever considered the restraining hand of God in prohibiting you from being given certain things? It could be that the very thing you wish for is an idol and that you would fall deeper into idolatry if you were given it! 1 Timothy 6:9 tells us: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.”

Consider the following who have won the lottery (REBECCA CATALANELLO, “HITTING LOTTERY CAN BE A CURSE” SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 2010. Tampa Bay Times,).

Jack Whittaker, a West Virginia businessman won a then record-breaking $315 million Powerball jackpot in 2002 at age 55. He soon became a target for solicitors, thieves and lawsuits. Within years, his marriage dissolved, he got a DUI and his granddaughter died of a drug overdose. In late 2009, his daughter was also discovered dead. In an interview with ABC’s Nightline he called the winnings his curse.

Billie Bob Harrell Jr., a Home Depot stock clerk, won $31 million in the Texas lottery in 1997. Then 47, he bought a ranch, gave to family, his church, strangers. Within two years, his marriage was in shambles and his money gone. He was found dead in what detectives determined to be a suicide. His family disagreed over the cause of death. Some believe he was the victim of foul play.

Abraham Shakespeare won $30 million from a Florida lottery in 2006. Then 41, he became very generous with his winnings, giving to family, friends and strangers. He paid off mortgages, bought himself a house and trusted a woman who deputies now say killed him in April 2009. In January, his body was found buried under concrete on a plot of land in eastern Hillsborough County.

Do you recognize what God has protected you from?

Also, be thankful for who you are. If you have trusted Christ, you are rich. God has blessed you with everything you need. Ephesians 1:3 says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” What follows is a list of things like election, adoption, redemption, forgiveness, the gospel, its hearing and understanding, and the sealing of God’s Spirit.

When you were baptized, you were cleansed, forgiven, redeemed and transformed. You were raised to walk in the newness of life. You were made new. You are different. You are cleansed. You are forgiven. And most importantly, you are His!

We sit in a privileged place in history. The gospel is clearer now, than it was before Jesus came; and spread farther than the first century. It is available everywhere and understood with all kinds of resources, churches, teachers, etc. God has placed you at this point in human history to hear His Son. Hebrews 1:1: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”

Lastly, be thankful for who you are not. By this, I’m not encouraging you to be smug or arrogant. But I am asking us to recognize the privilege many of us possess. Jesus said in Matthew 26:11: “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”

Last Sunday, you heard about Daniel Kamaraj, a young pastor from India. You heard of how he was the first person to become a Christian from his Hindu family. When it came time to sacrifice to the Hindu gods, he would not eat the meat prepared for such rituals, obeying his conscience rather than going with the flow. Being the oldest son out of seven children, he was chided for his faith, and eventually left. After his parents passed away, and it came time to settle the estate with the authorities, Daniel discovered that he had been disowned by the family that he loved. But what his parents gave up, the kingdom of God has gained!

I remember a conversation I had with my dad while he was a high school guidance counselor. We were talking about a boy who had gone through some rough times. His grades were poor. He was in and out of trouble with the law. His home life was difficult. Dad began to relate his situation to me. And he remarked with a tear in his eye: “He doesn’t have a chance!”

Some don’t have a chance. They are exposed to horrific treatment, and forced into slavery. Consider the following statistics from Women at Risk. Here are some disturbing facts about human trafficking in the United States and around the world…

• 800,000 people from the U.S. and around the world are illegally trafficked each year. About half of these are children. This is the fastest growing organized crime in the United States.
• 70% of trafficked women become sexual slaves.
• 300 children are sold in Atlanta, GA each month and around the world; babies are being sold for $25.00.
• Women and girls are frequently the victims of domestic violence and rape.
• Anywhere from 100,000-300,000 children are missing worldwide.
Be thankful who you are not; but use your gifts, your resources and your place of privilege to bless those who are disadvantaged!

The challenge is for you to recognize God’s hand in your life. God has given you so much!

Dr. Ronnie Floyd, a Baptist pastor in Arkansas in his book How to Pray, writes: “Thanksgiving is expressing to God our gratefulness for all of the things He has done for us. Thanksgiving is offering God thanks for the way He has moved in your life and for how He has provided your every need.”

Do not be like the nine who failed to recognize what God had done. Be the one who came back and said: “Thank you, Jesus!”

Giving Thanks, Regardless

The following message is based on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and addresses why we should be grateful. It was shared on November 19, 2013.

What are you thankful for? Being grateful is a state of mind. The story of Jesus healing the ten leprous men in Luke 17 has compelled me to give thanks to God often. He told them to show themselves to the priest and on the way, they were healed. Only one came back and glorified God. Verse 15 tells us: “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him– and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’” So it is good for us to glorify God by recognizing what He has given us and how He has worked in our lives.

Growing up in Southwest Missouri, I was the youngest of five kids. I went to kindergarten when my oldest sister left for college. Holiday time was special, because everybody came back. At Thanksgiving, after the prayer, we usually went around the table and stated what we were particularly grateful for. Unfortunately, it is human nature to forget how we are blessed. It is good for the soul to “…count our many blessings, name them one by one; then it will surprise us to see what God has done.” This morning, I’d like to encourage you with Paul’s words from 1 Thessalonians 5. This instruction comes amidst various exhortations at the end of the letter. The Apostle has gone into detail about the events pertaining to the second coming of Jesus, and how we can be prepared for it. In this final section, he is rounding out the letter. The things he mentions constitute the attitude of the Christian, three things that influence outlook. He says: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. “

All three deal with an ongoing attitude, a frame of mind. Paul mentions here that we are to “rejoice at all times.” What does it mean “to rejoice?” This is not to be confused with just thinking positively. Rather, it is a joy based not on our circumstances, but on God, what He has done and what He is doing. I must say that I struggle with this just as much as anyone. It is hard to be full of joy always; but then again, I know it has to do with how I look at this world and how I look at Christ.

One key to joy is the presence of prayer. That is why Paul instructs us to “Pray without ceasing.” What does it mean to “pray without ceasing?” One commentator states that it is a mental attitude of prayerfulness, continued personal fellowship with God and consciousness of being in God’s presence throughout each day.” One of the greatest examples of this is a man commonly known as Brother Laurence. He lived in France in the 17th century. Working in the kitchen of a monastery, he is known for how he practiced the presence of God. Common, everyday tasks could be opportunities for worship and thanksgiving. He wrote: “”Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.” He seemed to live out Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

And if we keep a prayerful frame of mind, we will be able to give thanks often. The English Standard Version states that we should, “give thanks in all circumstances.” Christians are to be marked by thanksgiving. Many Scriptures suggest this, such as the following. First, thanksgiving is a counter to sinful speech. Ephesians 5:4: “…and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” Secondly, gratitude pervades all of life’s blessings and circumstances. Ephesians 5:20: “…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father… .” Thirdly, gratitude is the out flowing of the heart that has been given to Christ. Colossians 2:7: “…having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” Colossians 4:2: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving….”

This reminds me that sometimes we must perform a sacrifice of thanksgiving. I think it means being thankful, even when it hurts. There is plenty to be depressed over. There’s an overabundance of stuff to rob our joy. Sometimes, we just need to make a conscious decision by faith that we are going to trust God and be grateful for His blessings, even when the tide of emotions would take us elsewhere.

What I’d like to do in the rest of time is to encourage you to “…give thanks, in all circumstances….” First of all, let us be thankful, in the midst of disappointment. In other words, be thankful, even if things are not the best. Recognize the many needs around you. Think on these words: broken families, homelessness, disease, and finally: the Philippines, where over 5,000 have been killed by the Typhoon and hundreds of thousands are homeless.

Maybe it is a job that you hate. Charles Spurgeon, the English Baptist Preacher of the late 1800’s said: “Never mind where you work; care more about how you work!” Having steady work is a blessing. Work is honorable. I know a man who faced difficulty with his job several years ago. In an act of faith, he decided to venture out on his own. Now, he has more work than he can ask for. God has given us our qualities and gifts. He also provides our resources as we have need.

Or maybe there’s a relationship that is strained. Many times we are ungrateful by our idealism. We focus on how we want the situation, rather than what God could be doing is we would turn it over to Him. I have a friend that just lost a brother to cancer. At the time, he was having trouble with his loved one. One day, the brother went to emergency room with stomach and back pains. After a biopsy, the doctors discovered that he had advanced stage of a very aggressive form of cancer. The doctors gave him 6-8 months, he made it 17 days. He was 47. If you are at odds with a person, don’t dwell on the hurt and let it paralyze you. Maybe it is time to express thanksgiving for and to that person. Ask how you might offer thanks to God for them, and improve what you can; in His timing and by His grace.

Be thankful, even when you haven’t as much as your neighbor. Chances are you and I have more than
most. The following comes from a number of reliable sources and asks the question: “Am I Rich?” (See
http://irememberthepoor.org/3/).
• Got $2200? In this world, you’re rich. Assets (not cash) of $2200 per adult place a person in the top
50% of the world’s wealthiest.*
• If you made $1500 last year, you’re in the top 20% of the world’s income earners.**
• If you have sufficient food, decent clothes, live in a house or apartment, and have a reasonably reliable means of transportation, you are among the top 15% of the world’s wealthy. **
• Have $61,000 in assets? You’re among the richest 10% of the adults in the world.*
• If you earn $25,000 or more annually, you are in the top 10% of the world’s income-earners.***
• If you have any money saved, a hobby that requires some equipment or supplies, a variety of clothes in your closet, two cars (in any condition), and live in your own home, you are in the top 5% of the world’s wealthy. **
• If you earn more than $50,000 annually, you are in the top 1% of the world’s income earners.***
• If you have more than $500,000 in assets, you’re part of the richest 1% of the world.*

What does God want you to do with your resources? More than just spending it on yourself. Paul wrote the Corinthians: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God (II Corinthians 9:11).”

Be thankful for the small things. This might be a sunset, a favorite food, a friend, mobility, education, etc. I will have another birthday in a couple of weeks. After yesterday’s dodge ball tournament, I’m reminded that I don’t bounce back like I once did. I know that time marches on. I must be thankful for today and the blessings I have. I am in relatively good health. I have people who love me. I shouldn’t take these for granted.
Be thankful for spiritual blessings, not just material ones. Do you ever stop and thank God for the spiritual blessings He has given you? Ephesians 1:3 tells us: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Things like forgiveness, adoption, a new heart, His word? I’ve shared with you before how a pastor told me: “Every day there is reason to stop and thank Jesus for what He did for you on the cross.”

Lastly, be thankful for today. Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” This struck hard recently. Last week we received word that Linda’s 57 year old uncle suffered a massive heart attack. This was a man that worked hard all his life and provided for his family, in a new country, having to learn the language and adapt to a new way of life, after his marriage dissolved in Korea, He came to the US and had to raise two children on his own.

One day last week, he woke up and attended an early morning prayer meeting. As he was leaving, he collapsed and was taken to a Los Angeles area hospital. While in the ER, had another series of heart attacks and passed away.
Distance and time had become obstacles to our seeing this uncle over the last couple of years. At the funeral, there was an outpouring of love toward Linda’s uncle and family. When it came time for the message, the pastor, had considerable difficulty making it through his message. Later that evening, over dinner, Linda asked the pastor: “Did you know my uncle well?” He responded in broken English: “He was a faithful church member. He really tried to change his life for Jesus Christ. He was a good… friend.” You never know when your day will come. So you must be ready and be grateful for each day you have. I ran across this thought recently. Someone once said: “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”