DON'T FORGET TO BE THANKFUL
A pastor friend and I were talking recently about how much easier it is to complain than to be thankful. Through the economic crunch and gas being so high, most of us never missed any of our appointments. In fact, most of us still went where we wanted to go, and most of us complained more than we thanked God for our blessings.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS.
You know, it is easy to be thankful when we get what we want. We feel good emotions, perhaps excitement. Giving thanks is easy at this level. But the Bible pushes us to go beyond this level; to give thanks in all things.
Notice it said "In All Things".
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
The trouble is that sometimes we don't give God the right of way to work in all our things. We trust Him in some things but not all things. If we are only thankful when we get what we want, we can develop an "Entitlement Mentality", as if we have earned some blessing. "God, I gave, so now bless me." "God, I fasted, now give me what I want." There is a danger of becoming like the Pharisee in Luke's Gospel.
Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
The person who is only thankful when he gets what he wants will often develop a "forgetful spirit".
Deuteronomy 6:10 And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, 6:11 And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; 6:12 Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
And you know, that is exactly what they did.
Nehemiah 9:24 So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would. 9:25 And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness. 9:26 Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.
Deuteronomy 32:15 But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. 32:16 They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. 32:17 They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. 32:18 Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.
And God said in verse 20 And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.
Being unthankful and forgetful of the Lord's goodness will hide you from His blessing. Many times if I am unthankful it is because my vision is centered on myself. I think it is all about me and my vision is just on the Now.
Well I better move on. Let's talk about being grateful when you get what you don't want.
Our opening text plainly tells us in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thess. 5:18)
It's not hard to thank God for getting what we want, but how wonderful to learn to thank Him in what we'd rather not experience. Sometimes we get upset and angry because undesirable and painful circumstances invade our lives. It's hard to give thanks for getting things we don't want. It's hard to give thanks in time of tragedies. It's hard to give thanks in bad circumstances. It goes counter to our nature, but we are told to give thanks under every circumstance of life. (See Ephesians 5:20)
Let me share something with you that it took me a really long time to understand. God gave us commands so we could have a tool to overcome our flesh. Obedience to the command will override how I feel. God didn't give us commandments just so He could be the Boss. He gave us commandments so we could have tools to make the right decision when the flesh and the feelings want to do the opposite.
I don't think Paul and Silas felt so much like singing and praising that night in prison, but when they did God broke the chains. And out of their painful experience came the salvation of the jailer and his family. Had they not have sung and praised it would not have happened. You can't live outside the Word and expect the blessing. Out of their temporary suffering came a blessing that was eternal.
Listen, in sickness we can be thankful because we have hope because God is the healer. If we are in need give thanks because He is the provider. In sorrow He is the Comforter. Even in death we can be thankful of the promise of eternal life.
WE CAN BE GRATEFUL FOR NOT GETTING WHAT WE DESERVE!
If we grasp that we deserve hell and hell alone, then we'll be filled with gratitude for everything we get that we do not deserve: from our salvation, home in heaven, the sun and rain, our food, our house, our car, our health, our appliances, our comforts, and the people in our lives. It's all God's grace to us. We deserve none of it.
Anything less than overwhelming gratitude should be unthinkable. God owes us nothing. We owe Him everything. Christ took the hell He didn't deserve to give us the multitude of good things we don't deserve!
Have you ever noticed that people who are habitually ungrateful are strangers to happiness?
The Scottish Minister Alexander Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something to be thankful for. One Sunday morning, the weather was stormy and dark. One of the deacons said, "The preacher won't be able to thank God for anything on a day like this. It's absolutely horrible outside!" But much to his surprise Rev. Whyte began the service by praying, "We thank thee, O God, that it is not always like this."
Rev. Whyte understood the truth of our Bible lesson. We should thank God no matter what!
Matthew Henry came home to find that his home had been broken into and he had been robbed. When he was asked about what his feelings were he said, "I am thankful". "What are you thankful for?", he was asked. He said, "First that I was not at home, so my life was not in peril. Next that in all my years this is the only time I have been robbed. But most of all," he said, "I am thankful that I was the one who was robbed and not the robber."
Give thanks in all circumstances. Paul, the man who wrote these words, woke up every day of his life in danger, spent years and years in prison because of his faith, and suffered the loss of all that he had to preach Jesus. He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and snake-bit. He understood about painful circumstances.
I want to encourage you today. Whatever you are going through, thank God for what you still have.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the six million who will not survive the week.
If you have food in the fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world.
If you can attend a church service without fear of persecution, arrest, torture or death, you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.