In Everything Give Thanks
1 Thessalonians 5:18
A. Thanksgiving = The Giving of Thanks
1. God wants us to have a grateful heart and to find ways to express our gratitude to Him.
a) The words “thanks” and “thanksgiving” occur over 140 times in the Bible.
b) Of course, the similar words “praise” and “worship” appear many, many more times.
c) They are directly related to the giving of thanks to God.
2. God always does the unexpected as we follow Him.
a) As I prayed about this message with you in mind, God had us both in mind.
b) This message is one I trust that I will never forget.
c) Today as I share God’s Word, my heart has an even deeper gratitude as I see how grateful I am for each one of you and our friendships and especially for His love that is always there and never lets go of us.
d) So often in giving thanks to God we focus on things for which we are grateful.
e) But it is clear to me from studying and praying this week that we should be grateful most of all for God Himself!
3. Cultivating a grateful heart for God isn’t always easy.
a) Life is hard.
b) It crashes into us in waves of both good and bad.
c) When all is good, it’s a little easier to thank God, but too often that is not the first thing we think of when something good happens.
(1) When something good happens the very first thing we should remember is what the Bible says in James 1:16-17 “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
4. But when life hurts, being thankful takes even longer to occur to us and it is something that does not come naturally.
a) When it doesn’t come naturally is the precise time we need to dig in and intentionally be grateful to God.
b) What you will find is that a grateful heart breathes hope and joy into your life.
c) That’s because being thankful is a powerful weapon against the enemy.
d) The enemy wants to destroy us.
e) He wants to steal our joy!
f) He wants us to give in and give up and to sink into hopelessness.
5. But if we keep looking toward Jesus, our Redeemer, the hope that is within us will not become hopelessness.
a) Jesus will shine His light of hope into the dark times of our lives.
b) Even in the valley of the shadow of death, we will not fear for He is with us, His rod and staff will comfort us until we can claim victory over the darkness.
B. Our Passage
1. There are so many scriptures we could have used to lead this message today.
a) God’s Word is the answer to all things.
b) In Him and in His Word, we find all of our answers and everything that we should be thanking Him for.
c) Colossians 2:7 (NLT) Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
d) Lamentations 3:23-24 (NLT) The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
e) Colossians 3:15-17(ESV) And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
f) Psalm 9:1 (NLT) I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.
g) Psalm 107:1 (NLT) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
2. But the simplest one may be the most profound.
a) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18(ESV) Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I. The Person We Should Thank
A. Who Do Atheists and Non-believers Thank?
1. Surely one of the worst moments for an atheist is when they feel thankful and have no One to thank!
a) No Christian will ever have to face that confusion.
b) Katherine Mansfield, a British writer, once wrote to a friend:
(1) “I have just finished my new book. I finished it last night at ten-thirty and said, ‘Thanks be to God!’ I wish there were a God. I am longing to praise Him, to thank Him.”
(2) But even with her “longing”, she acknowledged no God and so she had no one to thank.
(3) Very sad and tragic!
2. In Luke 17, we find the story of a meeting between Jesus and ten lepers.
a) The lepers cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
b) Jesus gave instructions to them, and “as they went (to obey His instructions), they were cleansed.”
c) Out of the ten healed lepers, only one of them came back to Him and gave Him thanks!
d) Jesus then said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are none who returned to give glory to God, except this stranger.”
e) This story clearly teaches that God wants and expects thanksgiving from us.
f) But most people seldom or never give thanks because they have no real sense of God or His grace.
3. Who is the Person we should thank?
B. The God we thank is the Creator
1. He is the God Who created at the beginning and continues to sustain His creation today.
a) Listen to Jeremiah the prophet as he prays to his God: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heaven and the earth by Your great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for You” (Jeremiah 32:7).
b) The prayers of the Levites in Nehemiah 9:6 “You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.
2. There is no middle ground here!
a) We must believe either in God as the Creator or resort to a theory that involves chance, accident and/or blind fate to explain the existence of the earth, the heavens and, above all, mankind.
b) For a Christian the Lord alone is the God who created/creates.
c) It is this God with whom we have a personal relationship that we worship, praise and thank.
C. The God we thank is the God who controls
1. God not only creates, but He controls what He creates.
a) Psalm 95:4 “In His hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is His also.”
b) God is not an absent God.
c) He oversees and overrules the universe He made. “In Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
d) God is the Glue of the galaxies, as well as their Maker.
2. God also controls the blessings and the trials of our lives.
a) As James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights”
D. The God we thank is the God who cares.
1. The Psalmist said, “We are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.”
2. Jesus said
a) “I am the Good Shepherd….He puts forth His own sheep, and goes before them, and they follow Him, for they know His voice.”
b) “The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them out.”
c) Because “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”
3. These words put before us a vivid picture of the Good Shepherd’s individual care for each and every one of His people.
4. That is the reason we should come before His Presence with thanksgiving!
E. The God we thank is the God who calls us
1. Psalm 95:7, 8 says, “Today when you hear His voice, harden not your heart, as in the day of temptation and provocation in the wilderness.”
2. God calls to you and to me in various ways.
a) He calls by His Spirit working directly in our hearts
b) He calls by His Word, the Scriptures
c) He calls by people through whom He speaks
d) He calls by our personal circumstances.
e) All of these voices consistently tell us not to harden our hearts in unbelief, but to live our lives trusting Him and thanking Him for all that He does for us.
F. The God we thank is the God who chastens His children
1. The God of the Bible chastens and corrects His sinning and straying children.
a) He faithfully disciplines us when we persist in unfaithfulness to Him.
b) Hebrews 12:6, 8, 10, 11 “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every one whom He receives. If you are without chastisement, whereof all sons are partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons? But our Father chastens us for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Later, this chastening yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who experience it”.
2. I am very glad my loving Father does not abandon me to my sins and the consequences.
a) God achieves both His interests and mine when He disciplines me!
b) This is the God whom we thank.
c) He is gratified to receive our thanks and He will bless us in richer fellowship with Himself because of it.
d) But He is also grieved by those who never acknowledge His goodness and grace.
e) “Let us come before His Presence with thanksgiving.”
II. The Things for Which We Give Thanks
A. Learning to Be Thankful
1. We should thank God every day for all that He provides for us daily in our lives.
a) Psalm 150:2 “Praise Him for His mighty acts: praise Him according to His excellent greatness.”
2. Parents know how difficult it is to teach children to say thank you.
a) When someone gives a child a gift we say to the child, “What do you say?”
b) We are trying to teach our children to learn to respond immediately with thankfulness.
c) If the child gets something he likes, he grabs it and forgets to say anything.
d) If he gets something he doesn’t like he sees no reason to say thank you.
e) We have to learn the meaning of a gift before we can understand the meaning of thanks.
3. Sometimes we understand so poorly the truths about God and our relationship to Him that we do not fully recognize Him as the Giver.
a) We also often do not understand His gifts and the depth of His love, and the wisdom that He has planned for us, and the price He has paid.
b) All of these are far, far beyond our understanding and our appreciation.
c) That is why Paul prayed for the miracle of illumination for the Ephesians! (Ephesians 1:17-19)
d) Illumination is what we and they need to grasp the reality of “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).
4. Did you know that God gives us grace without consulting us!
a) Do you thank Him for His grace when you see it?
b) He gives us so many things that we have not asked for because they are much bigger and more important than we know.
c) Imagine having nothing more than we with our finite minds have asked for!
d) God is far wiser than that!
e) He gives us what He in His infinite wisdom knows that we need and must have to be all that He purposes us to be.
5. What gifts have we as believers received from God?
B. The Gift of Eternal Life
1. Eternal Life became ours the moment we placed faith in His Son. Eternal Life!
a) People apparently have not grasped the meaning of this term
(1) Or they don’t believe it is possible for a human being to have “the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23)
(2) Or they have such a bias against God and spiritual reality that they reject His Gift, sometimes with hostility and hatred!
2. God is offering you the real Gift of Eternal Life!
a) What kind of person willfully rejects the offer of such a Gift from God?
b) Maybe you should be suspicious that the real problem lies in you and not in the offer and the Gift?
3. Eternal Life has both present and future dimensions.
a) Eternal Life is a present Life that has God and His Love and Grace at the very heart of it right now in this world.
b) But it is also a future Life, joyfully lived out in His Presence in Heaven forever.
c) Eternal life is both a Quality of Life and a Duration of Life.
d) It is an indescribable Gift that God wants you to receive in your heart and then to be grateful and thankful to the God who purchased and provided it for you!
e) May God give us all a greater understanding of this Gift and a heart that responds with thanksgiving for such an incredible Gift!
4. If I am alive with God’s incredible Gift of Eternal Life! Shouldn’t I always offer to Him thanksgiving?
C. Rescue from Sin and the Penalty of Sin
1. Think about your rescue from your sins and their penalty that you received at the moment you received Jesus Christ personally into your life by faith.
a) “In Him we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
b) “Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins, that He might rescue us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Galatians 1:4).
c) He “delivered me from the wrath to come” (I Thessalonians 1:10).
2. Do we realize how real and deadly your/my sins are when we say the wages of which is death (Romans 6:23)?
a) “the wrath to come” is deserved and deadly for sinners and the only way to escape “the wrath to come” is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
b) Jesus paid the full and awful price for our sins and exhausted God’s wrath against our sins in His Death on the Cross of Calvary.
c) Shouldn’t we always live in praise and in thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us?
III. How You Can Thank God
1. Believers seen in the Bible found many ways to express their thanksgiving.
a) The pages of the Bible are filled with their testimonies of thanksgiving.
2. In the Bible they often expressed thanksgiving by singing and praising God.
a) Psalm 150:3-5, the writer spoke of praising God with the trumpet, psaltery, harp, timbrel, stringed instruments, organs and loud cymbals.
b) Ephesians 5:19, 20 musical instruments should be “accompanied” with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, (thus) giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
3. You might want to keep a hymnbook with your devotional books for your quiet time.
a) Most days I wake up with a hymn in my mind and heart.
b) It is a great and joyful way to start the day by praising and thanking God for who He is and for what He has done and is going to do that day.
B. By Serving God
1. In the Bible, the active serving of God is as a means of thanksgiving and praise.
a) Many of the Old Testament sacrifices represented acts of praise, worship and thanksgiving.
b) Many of the expressions of praise, worship and thanksgiving in the Bible are seen in association with service.
c) 1 Thessalonians 1, “We (Paul, Salvanus & Timothy, verse 1) give thanks to God always for you all, making mentions of you in our prayers: Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.”
(1) Do you see how service becomes an act of worship and thanksgiving and a reason for prayer, which leads to even more active service.
d) 2 Thessalonians 1:3 “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is suitable, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all toward each other abounds.”
(1) Faithful service produces thanksgiving in others, and that thanksgiving in turn encourages more active service.
2. The seal on this idea of thanksgiving or worship by practical service is found in Romans 12:1-2
a) “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
b) The word translated “service” bears a double meaning.
c) It can be translated either “service” or “worship.”
d) Don’t miss the meaning of that insight – All true service is an act of worship directed toward God, and all true worship is an act of service presented to God.
e) It is gratitude, and not guilt, that frees us to perform service for God and for others.
f) All true thanksgiving will lead to more acts of service, and all true service will reach God as worship!
g) We thank God when we serve Him and others in His Name.
C. By Studying and Sharing His Word
1. We also express thanksgiving when we study and share His Word.
a) The greatest tangible gift from God that we can hold in our hands is the Bible!
b) The Bible proves that it can be everything it is claimed to be on its pages.
c) Every time I re-examine any truth in the message I teach or preach, I am overwhelmed with appreciation and give thanks to our great God for giving us such an inexhaustible treasure of Truth!
2. My love and appreciation for the Word of God in the Bible have grown more and more over the 61 years I have been a Christian.
a) I cannot imagine life today without an open Bible.
b) I never tire of studying its pages, mining its riches and sharing its truth.
c) God is still talking clearly, loudly and regularly to His hungry and thirsty child.
D. By Sharing What God Has Given Us with Others
1. Another way to express thanksgiving to God is by sharing our resources and possessions with others.
a) When we live as stewards of our material possessions and happily give of those possessions to God and others, we are saying “thanks” to God for what He has done in our lives and given to us.
b) In giving to others we are showing our awareness of His blessings by faithfully managing them for His glory and the good of others.
2. We also express thanksgiving to God when we speak His Truth and our testimony of His salvation into the ears of people who desperately need Him.
a) “People need the Lord!”
b) A great song that is absolutely true!
c) But “faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word from God”.
d) That Word is usually shared as the Truth of God spoken through a Christian’s loving testimony.
e) “How shall they call upon Him in Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a herald, a testifier of His Truth?” (Romans 10:14).
3. Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story, an account entitled, “The Old Man and the Gulls.”
a) It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket.
b) Many years before, in October of 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour that would thrust Captain Rickenbacker into the most harrowing adventure of his life. Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so he and his men ditched their plane in the ocean. For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, the changing weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless night reacting as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark was at least ten feet long.
c) But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most threatening: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. In Captain Eddie’s own words, “Cherry,” that was the B-17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off.” This is still Captain Rickenbacker talking…. “Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew, too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food…if I could catch it.”
d) Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself a sacrifice. You know that Captain Eddie made it. And now you also know…that he never forgot, because every Friday evening, about sunset…on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast…you could see an old man walking…white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls…to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle…to save a group of desperately needy men.
4. Are you thankful for the innocent One who became a sacrifice for your deliverance?
a) Then give to others in thanksgiving.
b) Just as the gull landed in a threatening situation to become a sacrifice for their deliverance, so our Savior “landed” in enemy territory to secure our salvation by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 10:12; Colossians 1:13-14).
c) We were desperate and He died and rose again to save us.
d) We have the Gift of Eternal Life!
e) How well are we giving our THANKS TO HIM?