Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
HOW DO WE EXPRESS TRUE THANKFULNESS?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
18 NOVEMBER 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Samuel 15:22
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Preparation Verse: (1 Samuel 15:22)
And Samuel said, "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams."
We have talked a great deal about looking at ourselves and truly analyzing ourselves before we look at others, for our expression of true thankfulness must start there in us.
And as we're thinking inwardly, keep in mind our preparation verse, for it can have a profound effect upon whether or not we are truly thankful for all that God has given us, particularly at this time of the year.
If we are not truly thankful in our heart, then we cannot show true thankfulness to others or to God, no matter how many times we say "Thank you!" and no matter how much we express our thankfulness through our deeds. Something will always be left out.
For when we try to fake our thankfulness, for the sake of others, it usually comes back to haunt us.
And if this is true among us, then our expression of thankfulness to God becomes even more important.
Let's look at a few examples.
Turn in your Bibles to Philippians 4:4-13, and look inwardly at ourselves as we read these verses:
4. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
5. Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Let's stop here for a minute.
Do we show our forbearing spirit before others?
And does our spirit shine for with unconditional love, compassion, and thankfulness?
Are we as patient with others as the Lord is patient with us?
For the Lord is indeed near and knows our innermost thoughts.
And if we do not truly have a patient personality, then there most likely is some anxiety within us.
As we continue, listen to what we are told in God's word:
6. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
One of the main keys to our having our anxieties removed and our prayers answered is to be truly thankful, and that means even in the face of hardships and strife.
For the result of having our anxieties removed and our prayers answered is to have this unexplainable peace.
It all works together. If we are truly thankful to God, then He gives us His peace and joy to such an extent that others marvel and seek what we have.
How do we start to do this and receive this blessing?
It all starts with the things we put into our minds. Listen to what we are told in the next two verses:
8. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, it there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
9. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.
As God created the heavens and the earth, He said that what He was creating was good; and when He had finished everything, He said, "It is very good!"
And this includes every other living being, and that there was no death; it was as it is in heaven.
What God created for good is worthy of praise and thanksgiving.
We must always remember that it is we, not God, who corrupted what God had made for good.
We are to praise God and be thankful for the good things God created, and not for the corruption and death that followed.
Be thankful that you understand this, and you will be able to see the good in spite of the bad around it; thus you will continue to be thankful and receive God's peace.
Note how Paul expresses this in verses 10-13:
10. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.
11. Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
12. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
13. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Can you hear and see the peace in Paul?
Can you see and hear his thankfulness, even for the little things, and even when the little things are not quite enough?
Peace and thankfulness are on the rim of the same wheel.
When they are both there the wheel turns smoothly and effortlessly, but if one or the other is missing, the wheel won't turn. And if neither is there, neither is there any wheel.
When Paul met the Lord Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, He removed his “Pharisee-ism,” put on God's grace, and received a heart of love.
The prophet Zephaniah speaks of those who have never accepted God's grace and who try by their own efforts to fool other people, and even God, into thinking that they are truly religious and thankful.
Note what Zephaniah speaks forth from God in 1:7-18.
7. Be silent before the Lord God!
For the day of the Lord is near,
For the Lord has prepared a sacrifice,
He has consecrated His guests.
8. "Then it will come about on the day of the Lord's sacrifice,
That I will punish the princes, the king's sons,
And all who clothe themselves with foreign garments.
9. And I will punish on that day all who leap on the temple threshold,
Who fill the house of their lord with violence and deceit.
(Note that “lord” is not capitalized in the above line, because their temple was no longer considered God’s house.)
Just because we are someone special in our own society, and people look to us for leadership, or just because we go to church every week to show how religious we are, does not make us acceptable to the Lord our God.
If we do these things, as did the people of Judah and Jerusalem, and there is no love or acknowledgment of God's good works in our hearts, then God will reject our thank offerings and we will receive His wrath instead of His blessings.
Listen to what the prophet tells us, as we continue at verse 10:
10. "And on that day," declares the Lord,
"There will be the sound of a cry from the Fish Gate,
A wail from the Second Quarter,
And a loud crash from the hills.
11. "Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar,
For all the people of Canaan will be silenced;
All who weigh out silver will be cut off.
12. "And it will come about at that time
That I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
And I will punish the men
Who are stagnant in spirit,
Who say in their hearts,
'The Lord will not do good or evil!'
Doesn't this last remark sound like many people in the world today?
They have an indifferent attitude toward God.
It isn't that they are doing so much evil, directly; it is that they tolerate the dilution of the truth, until God is reduced to nothingness in our society.
God says He will search out such people who are stagnant in spirit; and don't be surprised if He finds many of them in the pews of our churches, and even behind our pulpits.
It is obvious that God knows that those who are stagnant in spirit cannot also be thankful.
But if we are alive in the spirit, and sing the praises of the Lord our God, then we can show the world what true thankfulness is all about; for they will surely understand, even if they outwardly reject it.
Let us rejoice and be thankful in the bountiful blessings of the Lord, and not lose our joy because of the losses of those who knowingly reject God's gifts, and continue to add to the corruption of God's creation.
Listen to what the prophet says, as we continue with verse 13:
13. "Moreover their wealth will become plunder,
And their houses desolate;
Yes, they will build houses but not inhabit them,
And plant vineyards but not drink their wine."
If we have opened our eyes, we have seen this happening to many people in our society today: wealthy people are failing, our savings and loan system is in deep trouble, and most of the wild speculators have lost everything; and now we are hearing of the same problem beginning to invade our life insurance companies.
Look to the time of the coming of the Lord; and whether you have much, or have little, be thankful for what you have and use it to glorify the name of Jesus.
Don't seek war as an answer, but strive for true peace where there is no oppression, but an abundance of love and thankfulness.
Don't be caught unprepared in the end time; for those so caught, there will only be loss, as the prophet tells us, beginning at verse 14:
14. Near is the great day of the Lord,
Near and coming very quickly;
Listen, the day of the Lord!
In it the warrior cries out bitterly.
15. A day of wrath is that day,
A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation,
A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
16. A day of trumpet and battle cry,
Against the fortified cities
And the high corner towers.
17. And I will bring distress on men,
So that they will walk like the blind,
Because they have sinned against the Lord;
And their blood will be poured out like dust,
And their flesh like dung.
In other words, the Lord will do to them exactly what they have done to God's animals; they have spilled their innocent lives and blood by the billions, and turned their flesh into dung by eating it.
18. Neither their silver nor their gold
Will be able to deliver them
On the day of the Lord's wrath;
And all the earth will be devoured
In the fire of His jealousy,
For he will make a complete end,
Indeed a terrifying one,
Of all the inhabitants of the earth.
But if we are the Lord's, and we truly love Him and are thankful, then we will not be here to suffer this end.
And in that promise, we should be even more thankful.
So as part of your thankfulness, don't gloat over their pending distress, but pray for them so that they also will see and accept the Light, the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving grace.
For this is one way to show that we are truly thankful.
The Thessalonians must have been having a similar problem in their society as
we are having today, and Paul wrote to them these encouraging words. Turn in
your Bibles to 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.
1. Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.
2. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.
3. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
If we have read our Bibles, and heard the gospel message, then we should really know the signs of the end, and we should not be in distress.
4. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief;
5. for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;
6. so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.
7. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.
8. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
9. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
10. who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.
11. Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
Isn't this something to be truly thankful about?
Then rejoice in it and share the good news, for that is an acceptable way of showing we are truly thankful.
True thankfulness is something that just comes naturally when we are truly born again; for as we see all the grace and glory of the Lord, and we become filled with His love, compassion, and peace; how could we be anything else but thankful?
We would have to fight against these things, and deny the truth, in order to be anything else.
Unfortunately, most claiming Christians do just that: they fight against the Light and deny these simple truths.
Don't fight against true love and tenderness, just because the world wants us to believe that these things are foolishness; for love and tenderness toward all of God's creation are also ways of expressing our true thankfulness.
Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and might; and thank Him because you are able to love to that extent.
Love each other, and thank Him because you are able to see through our frailties to the person that God wanted each of us to be.
Reach out in love and tenderness to all of God's creation, and thank Him for all his bountiful gifts.
And remember that God's bountiful gifts are not the product of pain and suffering and death, but of love and compassion and life.
Treasure the things that God has given you, but don't worship them; rather, share them with those in need and thank Him that you are able to do so.
Our upcoming Thanksgiving Day is not a special day to give thanks. Our thanksgiving should be part of every day, just as God is with us every day.