I Always Thank My God

Two weeks ago we we had that amazing cold snap. Two days of heavy jackets, stocking caps, and gloves. I know not everyone enjoys it when the weather gets below 60, but for me it seemed like fall was finally here. Yet with the weather we had this weekend it seems a bit strange that Thanksgiving is four days away.

I have always loved Thanksgiving, because it seems to be the only holiday that is immune to commercialism. I know we will all buy turkeys, cranberry-sauce, and pumpkin for the pies. I know that Hobby Lobby is selling multi-colored leaf table decor. But what else is there? It’s really hard to make money on a holiday that is built on being thankful for how blessed you already are. I like the idea of sitting around a table with family, sharing life and stories. Because thanksgiving is centered around the table. And for those of us who celebrate Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we find hope and comfort at the table.

This week I heard about a family that due to work was going to have to spend Thanksgiving away from the rest of their family. The mom was a little apprehensive, since this was the first time she had ever tried to cook a turkey. Before she pulled the bird out of the oven she announced: Now I know this is the first turkey I’ve ever cooked. If it isn’t right, I don’t want anybody to say a word. We’ll just get up from the table without comment, and go find a Chineese restaurant like they do in that movie. Then she disappeared into the kitchen. When she came back into the dining room with the turkey she found her husband and son seated at the table they had already put on their coats and had the car running. Apparently they didn’t have a lot of faith in her cooking abilities. 

Thanksgiving is centered around being grateful, which seems different from the other 364 days of the year. I am not sure if you have ever noticed this or not, but people love to complain. I have heard folks at a pizza restaurant complaining that the pizza was too hot. They completely ignored the fact that they had food or money to go to a restaurant. I have heard people sitting the Doctors office complaining that it was taking too long. They completely ignored the fact that they had access to medical care and could actually talk to someone who has spent years of their lives studying so they could get well. Did you know that according to Google there are several websites you can go to just to complain about life and the people that you are forced to interact with in your office, school, and around the Thanksgiving table (and I’m not talking about Facebook)?

Back in 1997, during the 9th season of Seinfeld, we were introduced to a new holiday that takes place on December 23rd. Festivus: a holiday for the rest of us. Even if you have never heard of it, let me assure you it has a huge underground following, complete with a Festivus pole, a meal, and feats of strength. But the big moment of the celebration is the Airing of Grievances. After the meal each person gets to grumble and complain at the other diners and the world about how they have been disappointed over the past year. I actually have a couple of friends that celebrate Festivus with their families. But everyone of them say that trying to cram a years worth of complaints into one day doesn’t work. They still find themselves and their children complaining during the rest of the year.

We do kind of the same thing with Thanksgiving. We have set aside one day every year to cram a years worth of thankfulness.  But hopefully we still find ourselves being thankful during the rest of the year as well. Gratitude is a mark of godliness! And I deeply believe that when we take a moment to consider all of God’s gifts, all that we possess, the store house of blessings that God has given us, it will change our grumbling mood of discontent into a life of thankfulness.

Maybe today you don’t realize it, maybe all you can see is the stress and strain that is happening in our life. But you have more to be thankful than you realize. The Bible has a lot to say about thankfulness. Let’s turn to the book of 1 Corinthians the first chapter and let Paul remind us this morning how truly blessed we are.  (Read 1 Corinthians 1:4-8)

This morning I want us to notice three blessings that we can be thankful for on Thursday and all year long.

First, we can be thankful for God’s people.

I hope when you take some time to count your blessings this Thursday that you consider the blessing of this Church Family. Paul started this part of the letter by saying, I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus.

I want each and everyone of us to be able to say that same thing. I know that there are many things that can sit around and complain and grumble about. It’s so easy to get fixated on the people and things that irritate us, even in a church family. But the church in Corinth wasn’t perfect. There were plenty of things for Paul to gripe and complain about. He could have talked about the way they were abusing their time of communion, or how they were celebrating sexual sins that would make a pagan blush, or that they were dragging each other into court, or the jealousy they had over spiritual gifts. And Paul will address everyone of these issues in this letter. Still, Paul looks that this imperfect, broken church, and says that he is thankful for them. He is not thankful that they are perfect, he is thankful that they belong to Jesus.   

The difficulty of finding a place to fit in, be where you are wanted, is one of our communities greatest struggles. All of us need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. All of us need to experience family and fellowship. We all want to be associated with people who know how to model love. That’s the way we’re made. Not to be isolated. Not to be alone. But to be together, experiencing life with others. And I know there are times when I aggravate you and times when you aggravate me, but still we long to find true lasting community. We all need to find a place where we can experience friendship, fellowship, and family. You were created with a need to be connected.

In Ecclesiastes 4 Solomon expounds on this desire and the importance of belonging to a group: Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble… A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 

If you are a member of the Greenbrier family you are a part of our triple braided cord. You’ll find acceptance, encouragement, teamwork, sincere love, and all the other one another commands in the Bible. Life is meant to be shared. Being a member of God’s eternal family, gives us people with whom to share.

When it really comes down to it, life is all about who you love and who loves you back. I know we are not perfect, but this is a place where you can find love. That is something we can be thankful for.

Secondly we can be thankful for God’s Provision.

After expressing his gratitude for the Christians there in Corinth, Paul also mentions all the gifts that God has given to them. He writes: Through him, God has enriched your church in every way… Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. (5,7)

We’ve been made rich in every way too, haven’t we? I remember a missionary telling me once that Christians in America are much like fish in the water. He had to unpack that for me. Fish never realize that they are in the water because it consumes them, in the same way American Christians do not realize their blessings because they are drowning in the goodness and grace of God.

It’s easy to get frustrated with what you don’t have or if something gets broken. We had someone call the building this week bemoaning the fact that the tire on their new car was flat and they had to call AAA to have someone come out to change the tire for them. I understand their frustration, I’ve had my fair share of car issues, but how many times do I overlook the blessings of God that I am drowning in every day. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish or in the cushions of your couch, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If you own your own computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who has that opportunity. According to the Global Rich List even at the US poverty level, you still make more money than 89% of the world.

We have so much to be thankful for, so many gifts from God in our lives. Often, we just don’t take the time to recognize God’s gifts. James reminds us, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above (James 1:17). Some of these gifts come wrapped in newspaper and smelling like old fish. They may not look like blessings at first, but we need to consider how deep God’s blessings flood our lives.

When I consider that I have to pay State, Federal, and FICA every time I get a pay check, I can be thankful that I’m employed.

When I go to the closet and notice my shirts are beginning to fit a little too snug I can be thankful that I have an abundance to eat.

When the leaves need to be raked, windows need to be cleaned, and floors need to be swept I can be thankful that I have a home.

When social media is filled with complaining about our government I can be thankful that we have freedom of speech.

I can be thankful for the piles of laundry and dirty dishes in the sink because it means the boys are home.

God has provided for us in so many ways. He is truly a loving Father who delights in showering us with gifts. Every breath we take is a gift from God. Every time I drive to this building and see Mount Cheaha and it takes my breath away I am reminded that is a gift from God. Every time I hug the boys and kiss Trista I am reminded they are a gift from God. This week I hope that you can take a moment to consider how blessed you are, and maybe for the first time, be like a fish that recognizes that you are surrounded by water.

Finally Paul says we can be thankful for God’s power.

Paul says in our text: He will keep you steady and strong to the very end, making your character mature so that you will be found innocent on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We need to acknowledge that this can be a difficult time of the year. We can be honest with one another and admit how difficult and draining life can get, especially around the holidays. Life is full of bills you can’t pay, grades you can’t make, deadlines you can’t meet, and people you can’t please. There are meals to make, parties to plan, and company to endure. Somedays it just seems to get overwhelming and we don’t know what to do.

When I was a child I loved the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Have you ever read the story? As soon as Alexander woke up in the morning he could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. He went to sleep with gum in his mouth and woke up with gum in his hair. When he got out of bed, he tripped over his skateboard and by mistake dropped his sweater in the sink while the water was running. He didn’t get a prize in his cereal, just cereal. The day just got worse. His best friend ditched him. There was no dessert in his lunch bag. He had to get plain white shoes and, on top of all that, there were lima beans for dinner and kissing on TV! He was just going to move to Australia.

We have all had terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. So what are we supposed to do on a day like that? Here’s my suggestion, be thankful that you have an endless source of strength. When you’re weary and worn-out, God invites you to rely on His power, not your own. The Psalmist reminds us that, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). God is our strength.

Life has a way of shrinking God down in our minds. We get beat down and we forget that we have an unrivaled God of infinite power and glory and awe! There is no one like him! He placed the stars in the sky, He’s big enough to create the cosmos, but intricate enough to fashion together the trillions of cell that make you who you are. When life gets difficult, draining, or depressing we can lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus and discover solace and strength. Be thankful for God’s power.

I don’t know what your Thanksgiving Day plans are, maybe you’re planning to watch the Macy’s Parade, or fall asleep on the couch watching football, but if you’re like us, you’ll probably gather around the table for turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie. You might even take turns around the table sharing what you’re thankful for this year. Even if this has been a hard year, I’m sure you’ll still have many things to be thankful for. As you’re giving thanks, remember to thank God for His people, His provision, and His power.

Maybe you could use a little of God’s power today. Maybe you’ve been having a few too many of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days and you need to rely on God’s strength. Or maybe you’ve never known the blessing of being one of God’s people! If you’d like to talk about becoming a part of God’s family or you just need the prayers of the church for strength to face the day, then come talk to me while we stand and sing.

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