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Monday, November 21, 2011

The Virtue Of Giving Thanks

Psalms 100:4

With our national holiday we call Thanksgiving approaching this Thursday it is hard to pass up the opportunity to address the virtue of giving thanks.  Genuine thanksgiving is the result of a heart that has been renewed to see things differently.  Anyone can make a list of things they like in their lives and call them blessings and say they are thankful.  It is not that I am against listing the things for which we are thankful but I am saying that thanksgiving, the giving of thanks, is a much deeper concept than the ability to compile a list.

While we all consider the things we are thankful for this year let us carefully consider whether we are thankful people.

It is almost like thanksgiving takes place in a vacuum.  I am thankful degenerates into it makes me happy to have this or that or to have experienced this or that.  To be truly thankful necessitates recognition of a benefactor.  It is not so much about what we are thankful for as it is to whom we are thankful.  If we are not careful we can be thankful to no one for a lot of things, which really defies the essence of thanksgiving.

Our text even addresses this issue when it says:

                “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving”
                “be thankful unto him”

There is the recognition of both the blessing and the benefactor.  Only in this context can true thanksgiving be experienced.  It is not simply a matter of being thankful for things but being thankful to someone.  Giving of thanks without an eye to the provider seems shallow at best and selfish at worst.

So this week let us not only consider for what we have to be thankful but to whom we have to be thankful.  In other words, “be thankful unto him”

 I began, this week, to wonder if we start in the wrong place related to thanksgiving.  Having started in the wrong place it is easy to end up on the wrong place.   We start out thinking about what we have and end up being thankful for what we have.  The focus starts on what we have and ends on what we have.  Consequently we find it difficult to ever get focused on the one who gave us richly all things to enjoy.

 Maybe we should start out thinking about what we deserve.  What do I deserve?  Temporally or spiritually what do I deserve?  The Bible tells me what I deserve.  Let me set the stage by first asking a question.  Have you ever committed on single sin?  

 Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death . . . .
 Romans 5:12 - . . . .so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Revelation 21:8 - . . . . and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Because we have all sinned what we deserve is to die and burn in the lake of fire for all of eternity.  We don't deserve our last breath.  We did not deserve to ever see the light of day.

 When I realize what I deserve and compare that to what I have it is only then when I begin to realize that I should be thankful!   Not disaffected comparing what I have to what others have.  But thankful comparing what I have to what I deserve!  I should bless his name every day that I am not getting what I deserve!  (mercy)   I should bless his name ever day that I am in possession of so much that I don’t deserve!  (grace)

Genuine thanksgiving is not about a day.  Don’t misunderstand I am thankful to God that I live in a country that celebrates a day of Thanksgiving.  But, celebrating a day of thanksgiving does not make us a thankful people.  The sad reality is that the day of Thanksgiving has mutated into a day of indulgence.  Instead of the focus being on God it is on food and football.  Somehow as a nation we have come to believe that we can indulge the flesh make a show of bounty and at the end of the day consider our self a thankful people???  Is it really that noble to make a pretense of being thankful by feeding the flesh, both literally and figuratively and every other day of the year we have a murmur or complaint on our tongue.  I am not against food or football but we should be careful about spending a day pursuing those things and then believing because we called it Thanksgiving Day that we are thankful.

Genuine thanksgiving is about a lifestyle.  It really starts by learning to say “thank you” for kindnesses that people show us.  Not simply being thankful for what they gave us or did for us but being thankful to them!  Not a “thank you” that is required by etiquette but a thank you that comes from a heart that feels undeserving.  So often times we never take our eye off the gift and place it on the giver.  We love the thing but are not truly thankful to the benefactor.  We are thankful for things but we are not thankful to anyone.  Maybe this week we can find two, or three, or four people that we can communicate to in some manner and say to them, “I want to thank you for ________________!

I am talking about cultivating the virtue of giving thanks.

Ephesians 5:20 - Giving thanks always.
Psalms 34:1 - I will bless the LORD at all times.

Just learning to be truly thankful not just for things but to God and others remembering how undeserving we are.  Or, to put it another way, remember what we deserve!

We should be thankful to God for all that you judge to be good in your life.

James 1:17 - Every good gift . . . cometh down from the Father of lights . . . .
1Timothy 6:17 - . . . . the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; . . . .

Are there some good things in your life today?  Remember they come from God.  God gave them to you to enjoy.  But they came from him.  Remember what you deserve and then consider what he has given you.  And we have trouble being thankful to him???

 Acts 17:25 - . . . . he (the true God) giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

God has given you everything.  He has given you life.  He has given you breath.  He has given you all things. While you are being thankful for the all things you might want to be thankful to Him!   Be careful about developing a sense of entitlement that God owes.  He owes nothing, we owe everything!

We should be thankful to God for all that you judge to be bad in your life.

Are there some things you have judged to be bad in your life?  Probably.  Things don't always go right.  There are disappointments and trials, and tribulations.  It is important to remember though that we judge them to be bad.  We are not always good judges of such matters.  What we deem to be bad may in fact be good.  We certainly know that he intends to use it for good.

1 Peter 1:6,7 - Wherein ye greatly rejoice though . . . ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: . . . .
James 1:2,3 - . . . . count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations . . . .

Be careful about becoming embittered because of the difficulties, disappointments and discouragements of life!  Our minds must be brought into subjection to Christ so that everything that happens we can be found giving thanks.

Ephesians 5:20 - Giving thanks . . . for all things unto God . . . .
Notice giving thanks for (the gift) and unto (the benefactor).

Job is the prime example of giving thanks for everything one judges to be bad in their lives.  The rose on a prosperous godly man.  It set that same day on a destitute godly man.  His fortune and his family (children) lost.

 Job 1:20-22 – The Lord gave, the Lord taketh away.

We always want a Lord who gives but do not tend to be thrilled with a Lord that takes away.  We are thankful when he is giving, but what about when he is taking away?  At the end of the day when Job had lost everything we are told that he worshipped!

Job 2:9,10 – Shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil?  Great question posed by a great man!

Murmuring is a symptom that suggest the absence of giving thanks.  A couple of important things to note
about murmuring.

The Lord hears our murmuring.  Exodus 16:9 - . . . . Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your
murmurings.  Don't think he does not hear it.  Just because you are talking or typing to someone else does
not mean he does not hear it.

 All murmuring is against the Lord.  Exodus 16:8 - . . . . your murmurings are not against us, but against the
LORD.  We think we are murmuring against the situation, the difficulty, the weather, the health problem, the
other person.  The Bible says we are murmuring against God.  It only makes sense.  Who do you think
allowed the situation, or the difficulty, or the weather, or the health problem, or the other person?  You don't
like what happening or what this or that person is doing?  Before you begin to murmur remember what you
deserve!  There is a reason why the Bible says in Philippians 2:14 - Do all things without murmurings and
disputings: . . . .

Complaining which is closely related to murmuring is a symptom that also suggest the absence of giving
thanks.  A couple of important things to note about complainers.

Complainers are people who walk after their own lusts.  Jude 16 - These are murmurers, complainers,
walking after their own lusts; . . . .

Complaining displeases the LORD.  Numbers 11:1 - And when the people complained, it displeased the
LORD: . . . .

Complaining can become chronic.  Psalms 77:1-3 – Refused to be comforted and I complained and was
overwhelmed.  Those who cultivate the virtue of giving thanks hardly ever refuse to be comforted,
complaining is kept to a minimum and they hardly ever feel overwhelmed.

Lamentations 3:39 - Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?  We might
want to think about this and in doing so we might find ourselves being more thankful to God and others. 
And it is just a few verses earlier where we find these sobering words in Lamentations 3:22 - It is of the
LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  Which brings us back to the
starting point and a vital question if we are to be genuinely thankful not just for things but to God.  What do I
deserve?  When you ask yourself this question be sure to remember that it is of the LORD’S mercies that
we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not!

In conclusion maybe this week we can preface everything that we are thankful for with the words, "I am
thankful to God for ___________"  Thereby shifting some of the focus from the blessing to the benefactor. 
And, maybe we can also communicate to one or two people every day by saying, "Thank you for

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