Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered November 29, 2003 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.


Thanksgiving is a good time. One man said: "This is the greatest holiday ever invented. We don't have to send cards, we don't have to send expensive gifts. We don't even have to go to church. All we have to do is eat and drink and stay at home. It is my day for my bird, my belly, my booze and my ball game." You know, if that's all that Thanksgiving is you've missed it. You know, it's a day to be thankful to our Creator and all the wonderful things He has given to us. I'm thankful to have Christian parents. I'm thankful to have such noble friends, that's you. And I'm especially thankful for Jesus Christ.

In Bible times, there was a feast similar to our Thanksgiving. See if this doesn't describe much of what we ought to see at this season.

Come over here to Deuteronomy 16:13-15. Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. Be joyful at your Feast--you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the Feast to the Lord your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.

That sort of sounds like Thanksgiving, doesn't it. It is okay to feast, but not to overeat. Rejoice at your hearty meal. Invite hungry people to your table. Share. Praise God. Pray. Be thankful to God for His rich blessings.

Gratitude is a rare commodity. Maybe that's why it's so precious. I think things that are rare are precious. That's why gold is valuable, it's rare. And silver and platinum and diamonds and things like that, and gratefulness is rare. Therefore, it is valuable. It's better to say "Thank you." and not mean it than to err on that side than to it is not even to express it because, how many people do you know that are able to read their own tomb stone? So, say it before they die.

We tend to appreciate those who appreciate us. Come to Jeremiah 29 because God appreciates us the most. And notice His thoughts toward us. Here's what God really thinks of you. Put your name in this text. Jeremiah 29:11 (KJV). "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you," saith the Lord, "thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." To give you hope and a bright future, some of the versions say. So, Hi true attitude toward you is one of gratefulness. He's thankful for you. We tend to appreciate people who appreciate us. And God appreciates us the most. Gratitude is one of the rarest but one of the most beautiful virtues. Good leaders need to use it. We all want to hear kind words.

Someone said, "I grumbled because I had to get up every morning--until one morning I couldn't get up." So, why do we grumble so much? You know, if you had money in the bank, and you have money in your wallet, and you have a little money in a dish someplace back in your house somewhere, you are among the top eight percent of the world's wealthy people. Some count their blessings on their fingers and their miseries on their calculator. It should be just the opposite, shouldn't it.

When John Quincy Adams was celebrating his 80th birthday a friend asked him how he was. He could have grumbled or complained but He said: "I thank you for asking. John Quincy Adams is well, but the house in which he lives at present is becoming dilapidated. It is tottering upon its foundation. Time and the seasons have nearly destroyed it. It's roof is pretty well worn out. It's walls are much shattered, and it trembles with every wind. I think John Quincy Adams will have to move out of it soon. But he himself is quite well."

Colossians 3:15 says, Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." You know, sometimes we have to be thankful for what is gone. I don't know about you, but this fall, we've been having a problem with ants at our house. Have you ever had a problem with ants coming into your house? It's awful. We've been doing combat. And I found out they like breakfast cereal. In Proverbs 6:6 it says Go to the ant... consider its ways and be wise! Now, ants have a habit, which is a good habit, but it's a bad habit, too, especially when it's raiding your house. The good habit is referred to in the Bible. A habit that people ought to have. Proverbs 30:25 (New Living Translation) Ants they aren't strong, but they store up food for the winter.

The trouble is that they store up my food. Before the cold winds and the freezing weather, you'd better watch out, the ants go into high gear. Now, we have a home with a full basement and our kitchen is on the upper level and in the middle of the house, sort of, not near an outside wall. One day I noticed a few little ants crawling around on the counter top. I thought, "Well, that's okay. I'll get that one and that one, but I didn't get them all. Apparently they were Pathfinders. They were scouting out the territory. And the first thing, you know, they found our cereal.

And so came the ants. They were in the cereal by the thousands. A few days after the scouts arrived, we saw a convoy of ants coming into our house. I followed where they were coming from. Across the carpet on a diagonal to the fireplace up on the hearth and down through a little crack in the bricks and apparently all the way down to the base of the fireplace outdoors, and somewhere out in the yard was their nest. I estimated it would take a round-trip time of at least an hour for one ant to leave the nest, come up and get a little morsel of my cereal and return to their nest.

To make matters worse, the next day my son said, "Dad, look up there!" We have crown molding around the ceiling and there were ants coming out of the crown molding, out of a little pinhole in the crown mold and coming down the kitchen wall across the counter and down to that same cereal box. Now, we had two convoys that had invaded from two separate directions and I followed them and they came up wall across the attic, down to the garage, across the garage, out the driveway, and way off in the bushes someplace.

I thought, "This is bad. We've got ants on both sides of the house descending upon us." We did a lot of combat. We did some things you don't want to know about. I'm thankful that they were not fire ants. I'm thankful that we had other cereal that we could eat. I am thankful that I still have a house to shelter me from the rain. And, I'm thankful that they are gone. You can be thankful for a lot of things, right? You can be thankful for things that are gone.

I can only imagine how thankful we will be when we get to heaven and there is no more cancer, no more death, no more pain, no more bills, no more troubles. The list could go on and on, couldn't it? We'll all be able to see perfectly. We will all be able to hear perfectly. I think we need to be thankful today for God's great blessings that we do enjoy. With the Apostle Paul, I am supremely thankful for Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:12, Paul is writing to Timothy and he makes this statement: I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to His service. I am thankful for the beautiful flock God has entrusted into my hands and my heart.

I suppose the main thing we are really thankful for is our wonderful God and His Son Jesus. We should give thanks to God for His goodness and His great Love. Psalm 106:1 Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Maybe If Christians praised God more, the world would doubt him less.

God is a really nice person. Have you thought of how openhanded and unselfish He is? David said in Psalm 65:9-13,

    You care for
the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. 
   The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with
grain, for so you have ordained it.
   You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers
and bless its crops.
   You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with
   The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with
   The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with
grain; they shout for joy and sing.
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! What a great God that we have!

Appreciation. If we just appreciated our Lord more. Be thankful for the things that you escaped this year. I'm thankful to live here in America. I'm thankful for the great liberties and freedoms we enjoy here.

Be thankful that you can read. Did you know that two billion people in the world can't read anything at all. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, then you are more blessed than the one million people who won't live the next seven days.

If you have never experienced the dangers of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of the twenty million people that are in this world that have experienced those things.

If you attend church regularly without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death, you are ore blessed than three billion people in the world who have.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, you are richer than seventy-five percent of the world.

We've got a lot to be thankful for, don't we. Be thankful for God's great gifts.

It is better to appreciate things you don't have than to have things you don't appreciate. I'm glad we don't have a text in the bible that says, "You shall receive whatsoever you really appreciate, but you shall receive nothing at all for which you are not grateful." Is there a text like that in the Bible? You know, God bestows His blessings on us whether or not we appreciate them.

If we were required to appreciate His blessings before receiving more, how many blessings would we have? How many of us would still have a job? How many of us would lose our spouse due to a lack of appreciation for him or her? How many church steeples would cease to dot the landscape if we Christians had to appreciate them enough to support them or we would lose them? How many good books would be left in our homes if we lost all that we do not appreciate enough to read and heed? Let's turn off our "Wanters" and turn on our "Appreciators".

The next time you make a trip to your refrigerator, think about world-wide starvation. Approximately twenty children die of malnutrition every MINUTE. Most of them will die before they are 10. Prov 21:13. If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. Psalm 103:2. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. The richest people in the church are those who are content with what they have and own a spirit of appreciation and of gratitude. If you forget the language of gratitude you are not likely to be on speaking terms with God. A thankful heart enjoys blessings twice--when they're received and when they're remembered.

My wife and I were walking through a store this week before Thanksgiving and it was all decorated up for Christmas. "Jingle Bells" was playing over the store PA system. The Salvation Army man was out front ringing his bell. It wasn't even Thanksgiving yet! Isn't it a slap in the face of God to put Christmas presents before being Thankful? Why is it that we modern people have such a hard time being thankful? Folk decorate up their houses for halloween and Christmas but largely skip Thanksgiving decorations.

Our Kids were the same. Many times I remember giving our children gifts and they tore off the wrapping paper with glee and began to play with the prizes inside. My wife would pull our child over and whisper into their ear: "Now What do you say?" Then they would rush over and say thanks. God our father has the same problem with His kids: us. We are His Children. Let's be more thankful.

One Christmas a farmer made his annual trip to church. The text the preacher chose was Isaiah 1:3 (NLT). Even the animals--the donkey and the ox--know their owner and appreciate his care, but not my people Israel. No matter what I do for them, they still do not understand.

After church the farmer returned home and stood among his cows in the warm barn. He stood there looking at his cows. As he was standing there, one of his cows began to lick his hand. He thought about the cow. He thought, "How true the Bible really is. My cow appreciates me. Man is dumber than the animals. Standing there he began to weep. He thought, God has done so much more for me than I have ever done for my cows. All I ever do is feed them hay and give them water. Yet I have never thanked God. My cow is far more grateful than I am. I've never given her much more than hay and water." And he became a Christian. Why can't we be more thankful?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says, In everything give thanks.

Several of you asked, "Where have you been?" In fact, one person said, "You need to sign the guest book. You weren't here last Sabbath." Well, I was down at the Southern Union in Leadership Counsel in Daytona, Florida last week. Sabbath afternoon they gave us some time off of all things. So, I was standing on the beach watching the birds last Sabbath afternoon. The waves would come in and roll up on the sand. As the waves receded the little birds, there were thousands of little birds out there, the birds would run out and peck things out of the sand and eat them. I thought, "What are they eating?" So, one bird got particularly lucky and managed to get a fairly big chunk of what looked like good old rotten meat. It didn't look appetizing to me, of course, I don't even eat meat. That stuff didn't look good at all. The bird thought it was a prize. And so he ran off and tried to get a solitary place where he could pick off some chunks and swallow them. But the other birds found out and desired to do the same thing. So, they followed him and what I saw before my eyes was "dog eat dog," only they were birds. I thought of preaching a sermon to them on thankfulness and unselfishness, and sharing.

Let's face it, we ought to be less grasping and more grateful. That bird could have shared. To make matters worse, to my observing eye He already looked round and chubby, he was a big bird. Yet he wanted a little bit more! To share his great windfall was the last thing in his mind. What a bird brained bird he was! Then my thoughts jumped to people. And I thought, "We humans are just like that bird." When we get a windfall, and our first thought is to consume it ourselves. Not to share it, not to thank God, not to share our windfall with his cause. Maybe I should be more liberal with what God has given me. Maye I should be more grateful to My Lord. And less selfish. So those are the toughts I had on the beach last Sabbath afternoon.

I want to conclude with my final text in Ephesians 5:20. ...always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, at all times let us be thankful for the blessings, the great rich blessings that God gives to each of us.

Reference materials:
Stories for Speakers and Writers, by E. L. McDonald.

Hymn of Praise: #16, All People That on Earth Do dwell
Scripture: Psalm 106:1
Hymn of Response: #577, My Faith Looks Up to Thee


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