Pulpit Today Sermon
by Robert D Pace
Today I’m speaking on the subject of thanks. Thanks toward our great and compassionate God. As I pondered a title for this message I considered three that would be appropriate:
1. The first I assigned to this message was, “Living with Thanksgiving.” But for no other reason than sounding somewhat overused I decided against it.
2. Secondly is the title, “Living” Thanksgiving! I’m fascinated with this title because it suggests that our gratitude should be alive, vibrant, and pulsating with the Zoe/life of God! As such, it’s “Living” Thanksgiving.
3. But my final and favorite title is summed up with two words: “Thanksgiving Living.” Do you hear the poetic “ring” of that phrase? “Thanksgiving Living!” When you repeat it several times you’ll hear its poetic cadence. But most importantly, this phrase, “Thanksgiving Living” describes a Christian that practices gratitude in every adventure of life.
This is the substance of Paul’s remarks in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 when he says, “give thanks in all circumstances.”
(Transition) So as I launch into this message about giving God thanks, my first thought I’d like to develop is this: God Offers Christians Plentiful Opportunities to Thank Him.
God Offers Christians Plentiful Opportunities to Thank Him
Do you realize that God has given us boundless opportunities to exhibit gratitude? So much so, that these endless occasions present, “Thanksgiving without Borders!” Each step we take in life offers us another opportunity to bless the Lord:
We can thank him for the air we breathe; the water we drink; and the food we eat. There’s thanks we can offer as we delight in God’s Creation: the mountains, hills, and valleys; the oceans, rivers, streams, and lakes. There’s thanks to ascribe to the Lord for beasts of the field, creatures that swim, or birds that soar and float in the sky.
I don’t know about you, but I’m especially grateful to be a product of the 20th and 21st centuries!
I’m thankful that God has blessed mankind with medical and scientific breakthroughs unknown to civilization back to Adam. I’m especially appreciative for the medical breakthroughs that can reattach limbs, tiptoe over brain neurons, or implant a heart from one patient to another.
I’m thankful for the automobile that can maneuver through mega-cities, to the aircraft that can circumvent the globe, and the space-craft that can gracefully touch down on planets.
I’m grateful for the advent of the television, the computer, and the world wide web.
God has offered us unlimited opportunities for gratitude! And there’s a poignant passage that points out this certitude. Ephesians 5:19–20 says this: “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, (20) always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What’s strange about our unlimited opportunities to offer thanks, is how the Apostle Paul characterizes the Endtime. His depiction is found in 2 Timothy 3:1—5. Let’s read:
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
Ungratefulness marks the people of the Endtime! And it marks us unlike any generation going back to Adam’s day. There’s never been a generation to enjoy the pleasures, comforts, and conveniences like this generation, and yet has complained so much! People have stepped into the center of Satan’s snare!
As Christians, we must reject selfishness and an “entitlement mentality” that assumes material things are owed to us. And one of the best ways to conquer this worldly thinking is to maintain an attitude of gratitude. And every time you evidence thanksgiving toward God, you are renouncing the ungrateful disposition of the Endtime. Thus, can you make it your ambition to evidence Thanksgiving Living?
(Transition) This leads to my next point. Since God calls mankind to exhibit thanksgiving, What Measure of Thanks Pleases God?
What Measure of Thanks Pleases God?
Have you ever wondered that? As Christians pass through each day, how do they know they have met God’s benchmark for gratitude? Let’s consider that question in light of Romans 12:1, where it says this: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies [Note that! “offer your bodies”] as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
We know that Christ’s salvation transforms our soul and spirit—the eternal element of our being. But here Paul speaks of sacrificing our body to the Lord—and this is the corruptible component of our being! This means there must be something more to Romans 12:1 than first meets the eye. And there is! When we appraise the construct of human anatomy we must account for something: The mightiest part of our structure is not the backbone; it is not the hips, thighs, legs, or biceps. James, the brother of Jesus, discloses the mightiest member of our body in James 3:4—6. Let’s read:
Take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. [NIV]
There’s our answer. The tongue is unquestionably the mightiest member of our anatomy! But we lack a fuller picture if we stop reading at verse 6. Let’s broaden our perspective by reading the next four verses in James 3:7—10.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. [NIV]
Do you see the power of the tongue? This is why Paul commands us to sacrifice it unto God. When God purges and sanctifies our tongue, we can then employ it in the original way God created it. That is, to bless our God and Christ. This is what God wants bursting from our lips!
(Transition) With the Bible disclosing hundreds of notations of thanks and praise, this leads me back to the question I asked moments ago: How can a Christian know when their thanksgiving has met God’s requirement? Does he have a measurement for us to meet? There are three answers for this:
1. First, it’s important to point out that the least measure of sincere thanks is of great worth!
Have you considered that God knows the exact value of all things? The sun, moon, and stars; the oceans, rivers, and streams; the silver, gold, and diamonds—everything has divine assessment. I’m sure God doesn’t assess existential things with human calibration but, by some divine measurement, he has evaluated all Creation. And this is where it gets interesting!
When Genesis presents the Story of Creation, we discover God’s handiwork from Day One to Day Six—even to Day Seven, when he rested from his labor. At this point, everything was untainted by sin and thus reflected God’s glory. But what’s interesting is this: Of all the magnificence of Creation, something was missing! In fact, this something had no possibility of existing until God created Adam on Day Six. What was missing? By now, you’ve probably guessed what it is. It’s gratitude! Gratitude toward God is something that did not exist until Adam released it from the chamber of his heart toward the Lord. And since God knows the worth of everything, he’s certainly appraised thanksgiving.
I can’t determine the precise value God places upon each release of sincere thanks, but I do know this: The least breath of thanksgiving is of greater value than all the treasures of Fort Knox! How can I be certain of this? Because God is taking our acts of righteousness and assigning them with eternal rewards! That means billions and billions of years into eternity we will still be reaping rewards for the least act of obedience toward God.
Saints of God, this just begins to measure the value of thanks! That why all Christians should make it their ambition to practice Thanksgiving Living!
2. Now for another answer to, What measure of thanksgiving pleases God? And this deals with a Christian’s outflow of thanksgiving. Paul provides insight into this from two passages:
The first is found in Colossians 2:6–7. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
These Scriptures instruct us to (1) overflow with thanksgiving and to (2) offer it in all situations! And Paul assures us that these genuine acts of gratitude are always met with God’s stamp of approval—always! That’s the meaning of his statement “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
(Transition) Is the Lord’s assessment of gratitude becoming clearer? How enormous his heart must be to cherish and store thanksgiving from his children throughout eternity. And this leads us to the third insight about the value of thanksgiving. And it’s this:
3. David recognized that a worshiper’s act of gratitude toward God, was of greater value than sacrifices from Moses’ Law. Here’s how David disclosed it in Psalm 69:30—31. “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. 31 This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hooves.”
How did David come to know of the extraordinary value of thanks and praise? He acquired this knowledge from the Holy Spirit who anointed him to pen the pages of Scripture. And today, with Bibles in-hand, Christians have hundreds of notations, examples, and instructions calling us to worship in like manner.
And how could I conclude this message without mentioning the preeminent object of our thanksgiving? And who is this object? It is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! He is without equal in power, knowledge, beauty, holiness, love, mercy, and compassion. That’s why Paul summarized his thoughts of Christ in this manner in 2 Corinthians 9:15.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
And it’s . . . JESUS!