I'm thankful for Jesus at this Thanksgiving Season. He's the reason for the season. He's the reason for our lives. I'm thankful that Jesus has given us this church, and you who are so faithful in coming. We have a larger attendance than membership. What a great privilege.
A family got a Thanksgiving card in the mail and it showed a pilgrim family on their way to church. So the mother showed it to her almost teenage children. The mother said: "see, the Pilgrim children were happy going to church with their parents." "Oh, yeah?" said her boy, "Then why is the dad carrying that rifle?" Well I'm glad we have young people here today that want to be here. How thrilling that is! It is a wonderful thing. And I want to bring these young people to Jesus. That's why we bring them to church. I'm thankful they're here.
Did you enjoy a nice lunch on Thanksgiving Day? You know, in America in the early Pilgrim times, we've taken time out to give thanks to God. We ought to do it every day, actually. We probably eat too much on Thanksgiving. You know, nobody in the world eats like this. If people could eat like this, they would probably think they were in Heaven. And we need to take time out of our busy lives to thank the Lord. Thanksgiving aught not be just one day a year. It aught to be a constant, daily attitude.
Come over here to I Thessalonians 5:16-18 it speaks about thanksgiving. It says, be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances. for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. That's great, isn't it.
Paul is not speaking here about something we only do on Sabbath but about something we do every day of the week it's a perpetual attitude of gratitude. We always have something to be thankful for. You may say, "Well, I'm not thankful for my kids. My kids have disappointed me." "Well, I'm not thankful for my aches and pains." You might think you have nothing to be thankful for, but we all do. Things could be even worse than they are.
A college girl wrote home one day:
"Dear Mom: Everything is going well here at college. Sorry I haven't written sooner. My arm really has been broken. I broke it, and my left leg, when I jumped from he second floor of my dormitory when we had the fire. We were lucky. A young service station attendant saw the blaze and called the Fire Department. They were there in minutes.
"I was in the hospital for a few days. Paul, the service station attendant, came to see me every day. And because it was taking so long to get our dormitory liveable again, I moved in with him. He has been so nice to me. I must admit that I am pregnant. Paul and I plan to get married just as soon as he can get a divorce. I hope things are fine at home. I'm doing fine. I'll will write more when I get the chance. Love, Your daughter, Susie
"PS: None of the above is true. But I did get a 'C' in Sociology and I flunked Chemistry. I just wanted you to receive this news in its proper perspective!"
You know, there is always something you can be thankful for. You can be thankful it is not worse. Ephesians 5:19,20 says, . . . Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We should always give thanks.
In order to give thanks, you have to have a proper perspective on life. You may say, "Well, my husband is home sick." Or, "my wife is sick." You have to have a proper perspective on things in order to be thankful. We need to have an attitude of gratitude at all times, we need a proper perspective. Things could be worse. I believe there are at least three attitudes that prevent, or steal away our gratitude. There are three things that keep us from being thankful.
A bumper sticker said: "I couldn't have done it without Me." Without me? Why not a bumper sticker saying: "I couldn't have done it without Jesus!" The wicked take all the credit for themselves that God deserves. The Bible says that in Psalm 10:4, where it talks about the wicked: In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. Wicked people are proud of themselves. "I did it all. Without me, nothing would have happened." Wicked people can't seem to remember the source of their blessings, and that Source is Jesus.
We get so accustomed to things. Never get so accustomed to God's blessings that you forget to be thankful for them.
The children of Israel murmured against the Lord. They said, "We're hungry!" And so God gave them manna. And they were so thankful for the first week or two or three. Finally they began to complain because the menu was always the same:
I think that whatever we need to do, we need to " AVOID COMPLAINING." Avoid it. It is a plague. A critical spirit is a major roadblock to a praising spirit. Come back here to Numbers 11:1. It says, Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when He heard them His anger was aroused. You know, God doesn't like to hear complaining. When you complain, God could get angry over that. That's what the Bible says. And when you complain about the way things are going in the church, you complain about the leadership, you are destroying your spiritual connection with Jesus. David says in Psalm 77:3(KJV) I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Why was he overwhelmed? Because he complained. A complaining attitude will destroy your spirit. You might say, "I've lost my husband, and this and that and the other thing." Yes, we have things we could complain about, but if you complain all the time, you are going to lose your spirit and your spirit will be overwhelmed. And if we are ever going to develop strong spiritual power in our lives, then we need to stop complaining and be positive.
Even as children, we complain so quickly. A ten year old that went to summer camp and discovered that things weren't like he thought. So, he sent his mother a postcard. It said, "Dear Mom, please send me lots of food. I need food. All we get here is breakfast, lunch and supper." We complain so much! We need to not complain!
A THANKFUL ATTITUDE IS A HEALTHY ATTITUDE! We need to learn to be thankful of the least of what we have. You might not have your wife anymore, you may even be divorced. You may have lost some money. But you have a lot: there's a lot left. That is the attitude you want to have. Express your gratitude. An attitude of thanksgiving will improve your well being. Psychologists have studied stress. They have studied people's attitude, and they have discovered that if you have an attitude of gratitude that you will have a profound experience in your life. You attitude makes you what you are. You can bemoan the fact that you aren't tall enough, or thin enough, or this-or-that enough, you know you can bemoan all that, but just be in a good attitude with what you've got. These psychologists have shown that sincere gratitude, of all the human emotions, can have the most profound effect on our life. On our thinking of ourselves. Hans Selye studied stress. He concluded that when you express gratitude, it produces an emotional change in your life greater than anything else you can do to give yourself emotional energy and mental strength. And ungratefulness, or withholding appreciation can have a bad influence on your life.
The Bible brings this out in Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. What the Bible seems to be saying here in Romans is that when you are ungrateful to God, when you have a critical attitude, your heart becomes hard, and your perspective on life becomes dark and gloomy. That's what it's saying, and that's what the researchers found. Your thinking will become futile. The eventual outcome will be that you drop away from the Lord.
Now you might be thinking: "I don't have anything to be thankful for." Yes, you do. A young mother with three very young children wrote a note. Someone had given her a gift and she wrote a note of thanks. On the card, she wrote: "Many thanks for the play pen. I use the playpen everyday. From two to three o'clock in the afternoon, I get in it to read and my small children can't get near me." There is always something you can be thankful for.
Paul had a painful thorn in his flesh. Was he a complainer? He complained once, but God didn't take it away. He didn't pray any more about it. He was beaten, he was imprisoned, he was stoned, he was shipwrecked, yet Paul maintained a thankful attitude. Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us...
Sometimes I run into folks that want to help me by criticizing me. I would rather they try to ruin me by praise than by criticism. Nobody appreciates criticism. We spend our days taking things for granted. We ought to spend our days appreciating what God gives us. Colossians 4:2 says that we are to be devoted to giving thanks. Be devoted to giving thanks. Most of us have a prayer list, but do we have a praise list? We should have a praise list, things that we are thankful for.
You don't want to criticize anybody. You know, sometimes I wish folks would ruin me by praise rather than try to save me by criticism. It would be easier. We spend our days taking things for granted. Everyday many people spend countless hours for our benefit but we rarely pause to thank them. Think of the mailman, and so many others. Don't save your flowers for your funeral.
Colossians 4:2 says that we are to be devoted to giving thanks. Most of us have a prayer list, but do we have a Praise List? Do you have a Praise List? We ought to. I read of an experiment on time where an advertising firm hired a man to pretend that he was blind. They dressed him in shabby clothes and put him in New York Central Park. The first day they put a sign around his neck that read, "I'm Blind." They gave him a container to hold out for money. That day he collected $4.00. The next day they dressed him the same way, placed him in the same place but changed the sign to read, "It's Spring and I'm Blind." That day he collected nearly $40.00. A thousand percent increase. Why would that be? Because people got to thinking, "You know it's spring, and he is blind. I can see the flowers and the beautiful blossoms and the things that are going on our here, and he can't." So they gave because they were thankful for what they had. Be appreciating of the blessings you have. If you can feel the gentle breeze on your face, if you can see the smile on a new born baby's face, if you can taste your wife's rich cooking, if you can hear when someone tells you that they love you, then you can be thankful. You've got some good things there.
GOD WANTS US TO BE THANKFUL.
Philippians 4:6 says we are to do . . . everything with prayer and thanksgiving . . . Everything. Not just one day a week. So, have a smile on your face all the time.
Babies are not very grateful people. Babies are born selfish. They don't care what they do. I remember when one of our children where little babies. One of them had colic. We would pick up that child and carry that child by the hour, it seemed. Trying to comfort and console. We'd put the baby back down and the crying would just increase. There was never a word of thanks. Babies don't say, "Thank You." We didn't expect it because the child can't produce it. They have to be taught. How many of you parents have asked your children after they receive a gift, "Now what do you say?" Have you ever said that? We have to teach them to be thankful. We are not thankful people automatically. We have to be taught to be thankful. Nobody is born being thankful. A thankful heart does not come naturally. We are born being greedy. If you put two children in a playpen with one rattle, they are going to fight over that one rattle. "I want it!" "I want it!" We have to teach our children to be thankful.
Psalm 116:17 makes an interesting statement. It speaks about our whole life. It says we are to make our lives a thanksgiving offering to the Lord. Our whole life, everyday, every word, aught to be a thanksgiving offering to the Lord. Yet we are so unthankful.
WHY ARE WE SO UNTHANKFUL? I really don't know.
Former NBA Basketball star Charles Barkley made his mother very angry because he voted for George Bush, a republican in the recent election. She said, "Why would you vote for George Bush? He is the president of the rich people." He answered, "But Mom, we are the rich people."
You know, we get to thinking that we are poor. We think bad about ourselves when actually, when you've got a car, you've got a television, you've got more than one set of clothes, you're rich! You really are rich. We have a beautiful church here. We have it made. In comparison with ninety percent of the rest of the world, we are very rich. They would never dream of eating a meal like we ate this past Thursday. I dare say that there are many people in the world that have never even sen a meal like that. We're ahead of most of the world. We ought to be the most thankful people in the world. We really should. How many of you have a TV and a car? How many of you go out to eat at fine restraints? How many have a computer, fly in airplanes? Our church is beautiful and we live in homes with heat and most every modern contraption we want. Most of the time we go around thinking we are poor. We aren't poor.
When we get rich, wealth can make us dissatisfied with what we have. As Christians we must be content with what we have. The Bible says in Philippians 4:11 . . . for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Be content.
I think one thing that spoils our attitude of gratitude is we have to hang around people that are kind of negative all the time. Do you know that that can rub off on you? Some folks are not thankful because of who they have to live with every day. The Bible brings that out. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 it says, Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." So be careful who you hang around with. If you choose to associate with sour people you will soon become tart. So the next time you go to the barber shop, or auto mechanic or go jogging with your jogging partner, if they are habitual grouches, you need to realize you are on your way to becoming a grump. So change friends who don't want to change, and get some friends that want to be positive. Don't be a critical person yourself.
We become addicted to our negativism like an alcoholic to his alcohol. We drive up to church and park in the parking lot. They never notice that the parking lot is so nice and fresh and newly paved. They never notice that someone swept all the leaves out of here yesterday and spen hours and hours doing it. They notice the leaves that just blew in this morning. And they may drive up and say, "I surely hope the music today is not contemporary." "I sure hope the sermon isn't on giving again." "I sure hope it is not freezing in that place again." "I sure hope the biggest person in the church doesn't sit right in front of little old me like they always do. I can't see anything ever." You know, we can get in a negative pattern. When you enter the doors of the church, leave your negativism behind. Psalm 100:4 says, Enter his gates with thanksgiving. Not with criticism. (Psalm 101:4 says, Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with them.) That is what the Bible says. Don't enter the church with a negative spirit. In fact, don't even enter your house with a negative spirit. When you come in, be a happy person, and your whole family will be changed.
Jerry was always in a good mood. He owned a restaurant. People would say "how are you today"? Jerry would say, "If I was any better I'd be twins. I'm just having a good day." And they would ask how can you be so positive all the time? Jerry said, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, 'Jerry you have two choices today: you can either choose to be in a good mood or choose to be in a bad mood.' And I choose the good mood."
Several years ago, Jerry was at his restaurant and some thieves broke in. And they had guns with them and they shot Jerry and robbed his store. After they left, somebody called the ambulance. The ambulance came rushed him to the emergency room. He spent eighteen hours on the operating table. He spent weeks in intensive care. But, he survived.
He said, "When I was lying on the floor waiting for the ambulance to come, I had two choices, I could choose to live or I could choose to die. And when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the looks on the faces of the doctors and nurses I made up my mind to live. A nurse asked, 'Sir, are you allergic to anything?' 'Yes,' I replied. And the doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. 'Well, what are you allergic to?' 'I'm allergic to bullets,' I answered. And over their laughter I yelled, 'I'm choosing to live, so you operate on me, because I want to live. I don't want to die.'"
Jerry did live, and he gave thanks to the skill of the doctors, the grace of God and his positive attitude. Francie Swartz ( Chicken soup for the Soul at Work), who tells this story said: "I saw Jerry six months after the accident and asked him how he was doing. He said: 'If I was any better, I'd be twins.'" Just choose to have a good attitude as good as you can, and be thankful with what you've got. You can do that. If you've got Jesus Christ living in your heart you can have a positive attitude about life, because you've got Jesus. If you've got Jesus, you've got everything. You see how that works.
Let's turn to our closing text over here in Philippians. This is a beautiful text in the Bible I want you to see this. You might even want to underline this. This is really good. Philippians 2:14. It says, Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. How do you become blameless and pure? Don't complain. How can you shine like a star? If you've got Jesus you can keep your attitude positive. Thanks giving should not happen for Christians just once a year, but thanks giving should happen every day. You can choose an attitude of gratitude. And I call it "ThanksLiving". That's what Jesus can do for you.
Hymn of Praise: #559, Now Thank We All Our God Scripture: Luke 17:15-19 Hymn of Response: #560, Let All Things Now Living
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last updated November 29, 2004 by Bob Beckett.