The Why, How and When of Thanks

Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:1, Luke 17:15, 2 Kings 5:15
Date: 11/17/2007 
This is a Thanksgiving sermon on being thankful. There is a connection between holiness and thankfulness. It's easy for us to complain. Our hearts can be more illuminated when we take time to give thanks. It helps prepare us for the return of Christ.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” --Philippians 4:6-7

Happy Sabbath. I’d like to welcome everybody, welcome our visitors, welcome our regular family members and it’s good to see each of you here. In a special sense this time of year has been set aside as a time for us to recognize all that we have to be thankful for. I’ve got so much to be thankful for. I am so grateful to God for His goodness. I think the more that you recognize and acknowledge what you have to be thankful for, the more you’ll find that you have to be thankful for, the more thankful you’ll be, the more happy you’ll be. You know I was trying to think about a title for the message today, and the best I could come up with is “The Why, How and When of Thanks” so that’ll have to work because we’re just going to be talking about thanksgiving from a lot of different angels and why are we thankful. Unfortunately we set aside a time for thanksgiving. It sort of indicates that it is not natural or normal. It’s something that must be highlighted and recognized. It’s like two friends that ran into each other one day walking down the street and one of the two was extremely forlorn and obviously depressed. His friend said, “Bill, why are you so down? What’s the problem?” He said, “Well, it’s hard to explain except to say that three weeks ago my cousin died and he left me ten thousand dollars.” His friend said, “Wow! That’s a lot of money.” He says, “Yeah, but then two weeks ago another relative died and left me twenty-five thousand dollars.” He said, “Well, that’s some blessing. That’s really amazing. I don’t understand.” He said, “Well, but listen. My great aunt died last week and left me seventy-five thousand dollars.” He said, “So I don’t understand. Why are you so sad?” He said, “Nobody has died this week.” Which sort of sets the stage to explain that we miss all of the blessings we have when we tend to focus on what we don’t have. The Bible foretold in the last days that one of the characteristics would be, even among God’s people, ingratitude, un-thankfulness. II Timothy 3:1 “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents,” notice, “unthankful, unholy…” I think there is a connection between holiness and thankfulness. “…unloving, unforgiving…” The opposite of gratitude is grumbling. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. Sometimes we’ll have a potluck and we’ll feed people, and folks will go through line and complain and they’re being fed for free. We’ve gone downtown and we’ve fed the homeless, and folks will complain because they find out they’re tofu eggs instead of real eggs or whatever. That’s human nature. We’ve all done it, but you wonder what the angels must think. We’ve got so much to be grateful for and we still find things for which to complain. Romans chapter one verse twenty-one, even in Paul’s day it was an issue. “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Would you like to have your heart illuminated? Be more thankful. The opposite of thanks darkens the heart. Grumbling darkens the heart, and I should hasten to remind you, it was murmuring and complaining and grumbling that postponed the children of Israel getting into the Promised Land, right? So one of the things I think that prepares us for the return of Christ is that attitude of gratitude, that recognition of all that we have to be grateful for. This is part of real worship. It says, “Enter His courts with thanksgiving,” and so when we come before the Lord, and especially at this time of year I want us to be cognizant of all we’ve got to be thankful for. Now sometimes because of the way you’re raised or your temperament some of us are a little more melancholy, we can always think about what’s missing. We always can focus on the negative side. It’s like that potato farmer that was homer the most complaining man in town and one year he just had a bumper crop of potatoes. All of them were big and shiny and hard and perfect and someone said, “Hey, Homer!” when he came to the feed store. “That’s some crop of potatoes you had.” He said, “I’m not too happy. I didn’t have any rotten ones so I won’t have any seed.” You can plant good ones. So you’re complaining; no matter what always looking on the negative side of things. I wonder if the children of Israel today are much different, meaning God’s church. In spite of all the blessings and the god we have to be thankful for, do we still sometimes focus on what’s missing? It reminds me of the story in the gospel of Luke chapter 17, you know this. Luke 17:15 these ten lepers are calling out for mercy, Jesus hears their prayer, He answers their prayer, He heals a hundred percent, all ten of them are healed, but as they are on their way, one of them thinks, “I just can’t go without thanking the One who has healed me.” It’s a Samaritan, it just so happens. He comes back to Jesus and he falls down at His feet. Well, let me read it to you. “Now one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’” This is not even an Israelite and yet he’s coming to glorify God for his healing. Think about that. If percentages are the same today, what percentage of the ten that was healed returned? Ten percent. One out of ten, right? I just wonder if that’s indicative of all of the opportunities that we miss today to thank God. Are we only getting ten percent out of a hundred? One out of ten things that God blesses us with. We don’t remember everything and God is not asking us to remember everything, is He? It says there I think in Psalms 105 “Forget not all of his benefits.” It’s not asking you to remember them all, just don’t forget them all, right? We’ve got so much to be grateful for, but like those lepers today so often… and here it was the church that was forgetting; the Samaritan remembered. Sometimes people in the secular world are more grateful than the church is. We had an interesting occurrence this week that I hope you took note of. If you didn’t know, let me tell you. There has been an historic, catastrophic drought in the southeast of the US. Water levels are at an all time low. Some towns do not have drinking water. They’re shipping them in. Some places, major cities like Atlanta were concerned and still are concerned. They could be weeks away from rationing drinking water. They’ve cut off all outside watering, and everything is withering. At the same time the governor, Sonny Perdue had a big debate with some of the water control managers because they’re running their reservoir waters down the creek to keep these snails and clams alive. They’re protected, you know. How many of you have heard about this? The news have been full of these stories. Well, in desperation, realizing that the only, they can’t make it rain. The best way to make it rain is to wash your car, and if that doesn’t work, you’d better pray. So what they’re doing is they had a prayer meeting this last week, and I’ll tell you the secular humanists they just went ballistic. The reporters were mocking them and they were saying, you can’t have government agencies closing things down to come together and to pray. So they actually declared a day of prayer earlier this week. I think that was on Tuesday. They stopped what they were doing, they met, they specifically prayed. They asked for forgiveness. They asked that God would send rain. During the whole thing the pundits and the news were really making fun of them. How many of you heard within twenty-four hours they got an inch of rain, a storm came through. Does God answer prayer? Now here is my question? Are they going to call another meeting downtown to thank the Lord? Somebody said once that when you thank God you pave the way for future benefits. One of the things that we’ve learned at Amazing Facts, people are very good and we’re supported from month to month entirely by donations. We don’t know from month to month what’s going to happen. For forty years God has sustained us, and we’re grateful. Not only do we send out letters and tell people what the needs are, we send out letters and we thank them and we have seen statistically that when people are thanked and you show appreciation they are a lot more willing and likely to help again when a need arises. God is that way. I think He is more inclined to bless when we show gratitude for His blessings. Somebody said one time of the thousands of letters that the post office tries to manage that come to Santa Claus during Christmas time asking for various toys and gifts they almost never get a letter thanking him. All of the kids, not the kids, but you know, as they’re a kid, the post office still gets letters to the North Pole to Santa Claus. That’s hard to believe. They open them up and they look at some of them, but they almost never get one that says thank you, in January, for what I got. One of the things you should teach your children is when something nice is done for them, when they receive something kind, that they send a thank-you letter to show appreciation. It’s not natural. Somebody else said there is a sense in which no gift is really ours until we thank the giver. There is a sense in which no gift is really ours until we have thanked the giver. Well, the message is the why, the how, the when of thanks, let’s talk about why. Why be thankful? I Thessalonians 5:18 “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” In the good times, in the bad times, we can come together no matter how your week has been. I had some good days this week; I had some difficult days this week. I hope I’m thankful on both kinds of days. We should thank God that we’re alive. Thank Him that you don’t give what you deserve. I get irritated when I see these commercials and it says, “Get the car you deserve.” You know you can finance it, and get the one you deserve. Or get the home you deserve, and go into debt, or whatever it is, and more and more they’re advertising that you deserve this. I always say to myself, Lord, please don’t give me what I deserve. Because the way I read my Bible, I deserve death. Do you really want what you deserve? Let’s thank him that we haven’t received what we deserve. Any good thing you have is a blessing from God. Even the very life, even if it’s a difficult life, is better than the alternative. He who forgets the language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with happiness. Why be thankful? Thank Him for His loving kindness. Psalms 136:1 and you can find this all of the time. Thank Him for His goodness and His loving kindness. “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” The Lord is tender and He’s gracious, He’s good, He’s loving. One time somebody came to Jesus and they said, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I might have everlasting life?” And Jesus said to him, “No one is good, but one and that is God.” God is good. When God made everything in the beginning, the early creation was a reflection of who He was and what did He say after every day? It was good, it was good, it was good, God is good. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him. Thank Him for His goodness. Thank Him for His longsuffering, for His lovingkindness. Thank Him for everything. Psalms 103:5, you might turn there with me, this is one of the best lists in the Bible that talks about what we’ve got to be grateful for. Matter of fact, I’ve got the King James here, the New King James actually. It’s almost identical. Why don’t you say this with me? Psalms 103:1 “Bless the Lord, O my soul…” No, you’re not all with me. I want to give you a chance to find it. If you’ve got one of these other versions you probably remember the King James. Ready? “Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Oh, God does so much for us. He does things for us within, He does things for us without, He blesses us with spiritual needs, He blesses us with physical needs. Part of the devil’s job is not only to tempt you to sin, part of the devil’s job is to eclipse your blessings so you don’t recognize them. He wants to hide them from you so that he robs you from the happiness that comes from gratitude. So part of being thankful is really being think-full. I got that from Pastor Harold, just want to make sure he gets the royalties for that quote. Part of being thankful begins with being think-full and remembering what He’s done for us. So often we’re unhappy because we’re not focusing on the good. The devil is eclipsing that and he’s highlighting what other inconvenience there might be, and then we find ourselves grumbling. Look at the children of Israel. The Lord delivers them with a mighty hand; He saves them from the plagues that fall on Egypt. He protects them through those plagues, parts the sea, gives them water out of a rock and bread from heaven, and what do they do? They complain about the bread. Bread, bread, bread. Manna, manna, manna, manna, manna. Can’t we have any onions? That’s exactly what they did. The devil tries to eclipse all the miracles that are right in our midst so all we see is what’s missing, what indulgence we lack and we’re unhappy. You know one reason we’re unhappy, and I’ve got to be careful how I say this, it’s the dynamic of comparison. I know a lot of people in America are unhappy because they’re driving an old car, and they see their friends driving a new car. What would help is when they take a mission trip to a foreign country where only one in a thousand people has any car and their cars are pitiful. Or we’re upset, I know one parent that was telling me, my daughter was upset. She was just absolutely devastated because she did not have the designer tennis shoes that her friends had that were the thing at the time and I refused to pay back then it was $50 for tennis shoes, which was outrageous at that time. Now they’re $200 for some tennis shoes. I’ve heard of kids who are being killed for their tennis shoes. Anyway so this lady said her daughter went on a mission trip and everyone was barefoot. She came home and all of a sudden she was happy with her tennis shoes. She did not need the designer tennis shoes. So it’s the dynamic of comparison. Now you’ll always find somebody who you think has more than you, and if you focus on that and you think… Well, what does the Bible say about comparing ourselves by ourselves among ourselves? He says that’s not wise. If you want you can always look at people that you think are more fortunate than you, that have more than you, you can try and keep up with them and you make yourself miserable because there’ll always be a richer billionaire even if you’re a millionaire unless you’re Bill Gates. So you can also often find people that are less fortunate than you that have so much less than you and you can just praise the Lord that God has blessed you with so much. Based on what I’ve seen having gone around the world most of us have no reason to complain. We have so much to be thankful for. Matter of fact, I’ve sometimes, I’m ashamed to tell you, like I said this could be misunderstood. I’ll just say it anyway and you hopefully will rightly apply what I’m saying. I have complained before and thought, “Lord, why was I born a sinful human with these sinful tendencies. Why couldn’t I have been created an unfallen angel, and not be going through all of this tragedy in this world and the pain and suffering and strain?” And then you go to some other country and I say, “Lord, I’m sure glad that I was born in southern California in North America in the 20th century” because I’ve read history. Now you know what I mean? It could have been a lot worse. Even for those who are born in this world and then because of the mistakes that Adam and Eve made, Lord, why have I got to suffer because of what Adam and Eve did, especially Eve. It started with her. I could just complain about that and feel bad about that, but you know God is going to compensate because he’s moving the capitol of the universe to live with humans and we’ll be honored among all other creatures made in His image with new bodies in the presence of God for eternity. Yeah, it’s tough now, but God is going to compensate. You get an upgrade because of that, right? Psalm 103 is a good one.

We have a lot to be thankful for. How do we demonstrate our thankfulness? Well, Thanksgiving, right there in the name of Thanksgiving you’ve got a little clue. You can show your gratitude by your generosity. Matter of fact, all thanks is demonstrated in some form of giving. Giving time, giving service, and giving of your means, giving your recognition. I remember many times when someone has done something and I wanted to thank them publically for what they’ve done and you recognize that person. Well, what about thanks for God? Should it be recognized like that? That’s why we sing His praises. It says in Leviticus 22:29 “And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it of your own free will.” Can you force thanksgiving out of somebody? Yeah, but it’s not genuine. By the way, if you’re a parent, sometimes you’ve got to make your kids, you’ve got to remind them to say thank you, and then they learn it, isn’t that right? It’s like the kid that went to a birthday party and the mom at the birthday party gave little gifts to all of the kids that attended and the kid came home to his mom and said, “Look what I got at the birthday party.” She said, “I hope you told Mrs. Carpenter thank you.” He said, “Well, I was going to tell her thank you, but while I was in line she kept saying don’t mention it, and so I didn’t.” But we should teach them always say thank you and even if you’ve got to twist their arm a little bit to write a thank you letter or to tell someone else thank you, you’re training them that it’s appropriate and it’ll feel good later on in their lives. I’d rather have my kids say it too often than not often enough. I’d rather say it too often than not often enough because you’re influenced by your own words. Psalms 107:22 “Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, And declare His works with rejoicing.” How many of you remember the story in the Bible of Naaman? Naaman the leper, of course he didn’t stay a leper because Elisha the prophet of God told Naaman, “Go to the Jordan River. Wash yourself seven times. Your flesh will be restored again and you will be clean.” After some resistance he finally complied. They went to the Jordan. Here is a man who is terminal. He’s basically decomposing on his feet. He obeys the word of God, he washes, he comes out of the water, he’s clean, he is so grateful what does he do? He’s already on his way home to Damascus when he gets to the Jordan River, but he circles back. He goes out of his way riding the chariot, goes back to Elisha, and he says, and this is the verse that you’ll find here in II Kings 5. It says he returned. Put it up on the screen because I don’t have it in my Bible. “…he returned to the man of God, and he said, ‘Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.’” Did you read the story? He had brought like fifty-two million dollars of silver and gold and clothing. We don’t know the exact amount, but it was a phenomenal amount, and he said, I’m so thankful. Here, take a fortune. Elisha said no, because his cleansing was symbolic of salvation. But the natural response of being healed of a terminal disease is, oh man, you’ve got to do something. You want to give. You want to show your appreciation. When people grumble and murmur about giving to God, you wonder if they really received the healing that they desire. I’ve heard of churches before when the pastor announces we’re going to have an offering, the people applaud. I’m not asking you to do that, but that’s a different attitude, right? Applauding an opportunity to give, I’d say that’s the right attitude of gratitude.

When do we give thanks? We talked a little bit about why. When do we give thanks? Ephesians 1:15 Paul said, “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers…” Now you notice Paul is not just saying he’s thankful for stuff. So often we want stuff, we’re thankful for stuff; Paul is thankful for people. How often? I do not cease, always. And again, he does this a lot in Ephesians. Ephesians 5:19 “Speaking to yourselves in psalms…” that means you could just sing it to yourself. It doesn’t have to just be in church. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things…” So when do we give it? Well, if you’re thanking God for all things and you’re thanking Him always that sort of covers it. That means all of the time. The pastor who baptized me, I never forgot, Joe Philips. Every day he would get out of bed and the first thing he’d do after he brushed his teeth and cleared his throat is he’d sing. He sang that simple song, “Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul. Thank You, Lord, for making me whole. Thank You, Lord, for giving to me Thy great salvation so full and free.” How many of you remember that one? He sang that every day. That was part of his habit. He said God says thank Him always, every day I thank Him for His salvation. That sort of calibrated His spiritual compass for the day just to begin the day with thanks. Are you a thankful person? Someone once said the difference between a monastery and a prison is one is filled with gratitude and the other one is filled with griping. I hope our church is more like a monastery where it’s filled with Psalms and hymns and chants of praise and thanks rather than griping, murmuring, and complaining. Gratitude should be as regular as our heartbeat. It’s just a way of life. Now when you look at some of the heroes in the Bible, there is a lot of thanks there. You could start with David. Oh, you read some of the Psalms. Oh, by the way, the word thanks or thanksgiving is found about a hundred and three times in the Bible in some of its varying forms. In Psalms 30:12 David says, “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” So how often do we give thanks? Forever. And again you can read in Psalms 95:2 “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving…” especially when we come into the presence of God into the house of God there should be an attitude of gratitude of thanksgiving in our hearts. You read some of the Psalms that David wrote of thanksgiving it wasn’t when everything was going great. He wrote some Psalms of thanksgiving when he was running for his life with a price on his head. It’s hard to be thankful. When he was being falsely accused and hunted down, psalms of thanks. Not only there, you’ve heard about Daniel. For me one of the most amazing verses in the Bible is Daniel 6:10. It tells us that here he’s got this death decree written, if he’s caught praying he’s going to be executed, going to the lion’s den. You read in verse 10 of Daniel chapter 6, it’s amazing, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed,” this law that he was going to be executed if he’s caught praying publically, “he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and” what did he do? He “gave thanks before his God, as he” had always done. He was in the habit of not only praying three times a day and kneeling three times a day, but thanking God as part of his prayer three times a day. You know I’ve wondered sometimes, the Lord’s Prayer that you find in Matthew chapter 6 is a pattern for prayer. Does it say anything about thanks in there? Not really. It recites the needs. You don’t find the word thanks in the Lord’s Prayer. Does that mean we’re not supposed to do it, or is God saying, look, you’re going to have to do it because you want to do it; I’m not going to tell you to do it. God is inviting us to have that majestic attitude of thankfulness rather than it being compulsory. Not only did Daniel pray, ready to go to the lion’s den, Jonah prayed in the belly of the great beast and he thanked God. There’s a point I’m getting to here. You can read where it says that Jonah prayed to the Lord from the belly of the fish and part of his prayer was, I will, and this is in Jonah 2:9-10, “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” Would you be thinking of offering thanks? I mean, if anyone had a reason to complain Jonah is down there in the slimy digestive juices of a sea monster surrounded with stinging jellyfish and octopus tentacles and dark and bubbling, hissing, I’m trying to paint a picture for you. I mean, you think about a bad circumstance. If he could be in that environment and offer thanksgiving to God then what have you and I got to complain about? How did God respond to his prayer of thanksgiving? Did He reverse his circumstances? You know, one of the ways that I think God, one of the reasons God wants us to be thankful, especially when you’re going through trials, because even the pagans, the Samaritans will thank the Lord when they’re healed from their leprosy. Christians ought to be thankful when we’re about to go to the lion’s den and be kitty food. Christians ought to learn to be thankful in the midst of the sea monster or going through various trials. What kind of witness is it to you when you see somebody, a friend, a neighbor that you know is going through some tremendous trial and when you say just as a metaphor, “How are you doing?” And they say, “Oh, I have so much to be thankful for.” What does that say to you about their God and their faith? What has it done for them? It means there are circumstances cannot dictate their joy. They’re going to be grateful to God regardless of what their circumstances are. Paul, he knew about that dynamic. Paul went through all kinds of things. You remember the story when Paul and Silas were in the Philippians’ jail, and they sang and prayed and gave thanks to God after being beaten and put in the stocks of the jail and what was the results of that song and hat prayer? Was the jail cell opened? It changed their circumstances because they thanked God. Whatever should happen to them, they thanked and they praised God. There’s one story in particular that really surprised me. It’s a little word, but it caught me. One of the last stories in the book of Acts, Paul was on a ship out in the middle of the sea. It’s dark and they’re lost. They don’t know where they are. They’ve thrown all of the gear overboard to try and keep this ship from sinking. He’s a prisoner. It’s a bad situation. Everybody is seasick. I won’t go into the details, but they’re afraid they’re going to drown. They’re lost, it’s dark, they’re wet, they’re cold out in the middle of the Mediterranean and Paul prays for everybody, and he says, look, before you throw the last flour overboard, we all need to eat something because we’re going to be shipwrecked. It’s going to get worse. We’re going to all be shipwrecked. You’re going to have to swim to shore and you’re going to need some strength. Matter of fact, let’s read it to you from the Bible here. You find this in Acts 27:35, “And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.” Now when we’re talking about thanks, one of the things we do in our family is we always pray over our food. I know that some of you get hungry and you forget. I won’t ask for a show of hands. You should always thank God for your food. If you’ve ever been really hungry, you’re more thankful. You should also ask God to bless your food because you didn’t always see how it was prepared. You didn’t see the factory that made the can that you just opened so you should not only thank Him, you should ask Him to bless your food. You might say, “Pastor Doug, when we go out to eat, you don’t want to make a spectacle.” It wasn’t very convenient for us to ask God to bless our food when we were driving down the road or when there are people around us. You know, I got my burrito at the airport, and I sat there, it’s crowded, I sat there, I’m not going to bow my head and pray. Yes, I do. If I’m in an airport surrounded by people, I sit down at my little cubby hole or on the floor and I’m going to eat whatever I purchased. I’ll take off my hat. I always wear a baseball hat when I fly because the little vents blow down on my head, and I get cold. So I take off my hat, a little inside information, and I pray and people see that I’m going to pray before I eat. Do you think Paul was busy there on the rocking deck of that ship surrounded by prisoners and Roman soldiers, and he’s, “Hey, wait, wait. Let’s have prayer first and thank God for our food.” If he can do that then, we should always thank God for our food, right? Do you think you’re more distracted than Paul was? In the presence of them all, he said, I’m going to thank the God who is going to bless this food and the One who is going to save you. All of them were saved by God through Paul’s intercession that day.

Ultimately a Christian is a follower of who? We all follow Jesus. Was Jesus thankful? A lot of things I could point to. Matter of fact, we’ve got several slides. When Jesus fed the multitude, the five thousand, the seven thousand, it says He took the seven loaves and the fish and He gave thanks in the presence of them all. I could read both of those verses to you. At the tomb of Lazarus, sometimes you should thank the Lord in advance of receiving what you’re asking for. Jesus did. When you pray for something you can thank God in advance, especially if you believe He’s going to answer your prayer. When He was about to raise Lazarus, Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.” Lazarus was still dead when He prayed that prayer, wasn’t he? What an act of faith that is to thank God in advance.

I don’t know whether I should tell you this or not. Now I have to tell you or everyone is going to come to me privately. Amazing Facts has been struggling a little financially this last year. The Lord is blessing, and we’re still moving right along, but all of the ministries are struggling. Part of it is the economy, gas prices are going up. The conference president met with all of the pastors a few weeks ago and he said all of the churches are showing a downturn so we’re experiencing some of that. I don’t think she’s here today so I’m going to tell on her. But we’ve got one dear saint that comes and has volunteered for eleven or twelve years at our office. This dear soul has just given hours and hours, and she said, “Pastor Doug, I want to talk to you,” and she brought me in the office last Thursday, and she said, “I know we’re struggling. We’re tightening our belts, but I want you to know that I’ve been praying that God is going to bless us financially and I’m thanking Him already for hearing our prayer.” I humored her, and said, “Thank you, sister, that’s wonderful. Praise the Lord.” She went out. Before I got home, somebody called me and said, “Pastor Doug, has someone told you yet?” I said, “Told me what?” He said, “Have you heard?” I said, “Heard what?” He says, “We just got a check.” Well, we got two. I can’t tell you how much, but let’s just say it offset our deficit for the year in one check. I thought, “Praise the lord!” It wasn’t because of my faith, that’s for sure. It was for this sister’s faith. She was already thanking the Lord. I can’t wait to see her Monday and praise God for her tenacity.

Are we to thank the Lord that He gave His life for us? That wine represents His blood. Are we to thank the Lord that He gave His blood for our cleansing? So especially gratitude for His laying down His life for us. We should also be thankful for His mercy. He does so much. You know if you’re not grateful for what God has given you and the blessings He sends, be grateful for the troubles He does not send. After we lost… One of our boys died several years ago. It was an accident, and it was heart wrenching. You don’t wish that on anybody. The worst thing that you can go through is losing a child. Since then, Karen and I met all of these people. There’s a whole confederacy of folks out there that lost children. We didn’t realize how many there were. It was like this secret club of people and some of them told us their stories, some of their children murdered, died under horrific circumstances. Some of them disappeared and never found, and their parents are still grieving and don’t have any closure. Karen and I looked at each other and we said you know even though it’s heartbreaking we thank the Lord that it was something simple. There was no malice. If you’re not going to thank the Lord for the good you have, thank Him for the bad you don’t have. It could be worse. You’ve probably heard this before about the girl who wrote home to her parents from college. This is a copy of the letter. “Dear Mom and Dad…” They sent the girl away to school, they worried, never sent her off, going far away to one of these secular schools. “Dear Mom and Dad, I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner. It’s been difficult writing with my left hand. I broke my right arm and leg when I jumped from the second floor of my dorm during the fire. But I was lucky. A young man from the tattoo parlor saw the blaze and called the fire department. My books and clothes were burned, but they saved the room. The fire had nothing to do with the marijuana they found. Spike, from the tattoo parlor, came to see me in the hospital and he was very helpful. Because it was taking so long to get the dorm room livable again, he was nice enough to let me move in with him. It’s better since the baby is due in seven months. Don’t worry, Spike and I plan to get married just as soon as he can get a divorce and find another job. I hope things are okay at home. I’m doing fine and I’ll write more when my hand tremors go away. Love, Your Daughter, Susie.” Then just underneath that it says, “P.S. None of the above is true, but I did get a C in sociology and a D in chemistry. I just wanted you to receive this news in its proper perspective.” It’s like I said, happiness comes when we stop wailing about all of the troubles we have and we offer thanks for the troubles we don’t have. We need to thank the Lord for taking our burdens. You know there’s a verse in the Bible, Psalms 38:4 “For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.” Paul puts it this way in Romans 7:24-25, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” He’s talking about a specific practice in Rome that when you were a Roman prisoner, one of the things they might do to humiliate you, is the great offenders, they would actually chain, if you had committed a crime with somebody else, they might execute one of these people, and they would chain the dead body of your accomplice to the living body and they would then bind the shackles so that they could not be broken. The living person would have to bear around the dead, decomposing person until the dead weight actually consumed the living. So when Paul says, Who will deliver me from the body of this death? You know we are carrying around this old burden, of this sinful nature that we’ve got, and we’re crying out for deliverance from this. If we really appreciate what that means, we’re very happy when we’re delivered.

I heard something this week, I guess it happened years ago, that made me think about that deliverance from the burden the Lord offers. Back in 1970 the residents of Land County, Oregon that live there on the coast woke up one morning and they saw a sight they don’t remember having seen earlier. It was a 45 foot long, eight ton sperm-whale that had beached itself far inland during the high tide and was dead there on the beach so they got everybody together and they said, “How do we deal with this?” Finally they decided it fell upon the highway department to deal with this, and they thought, we could cut it up in smaller parts and try and bury it, but they were afraid that scavengers would dig it up and nobody volunteered to do that job. They were trying to think of all of these different things. One fellow said, I think the best thing that we can do is if we get some dynamite and we blow up the whale then what will happen is it will, basically it will fragment it so small that the seagulls and crabs and the creatures of carrion can then take care of the smaller parts. That will make it more bearable. At this time these guys had gathered on the beach. Word had even reached Portland. They had news reporters down there. Everybody is coming to see what they’re going to do about this beached whale. So they packed half a ton, a thousand pounds of dynamite on the beach side of the whale hoping to blow it towards the ocean and the people went back about a hundred yards to watch this. I guess they didn’t understand the impact of a thousand pounds of dynamite. With the cameras rolling, matter of fact, this video is even on the Internet, and everyone is going to go home and look this up. With the cameras rolling they detonated the whale. They blew up the whale. You can hear everybody in the crowd go, “Ye ha!” when they hear ka-boom! Matter of fact, there is that explosion right there on the beach. Then pretty soon you heard someone say, “Whoa! Ah, run!” Particles of blubber were raining on everybody, some of them pretty big. One crushed a car. You can hear everybody screaming and running for cover. The sad thing is they didn’t even blow up the whole whale, but everybody who was there was now covered with, well, the news reporter said, “The landlubbers became land-blubbers.” They were all covered with the oil. Everybody was covered with oil from this decomposing whale and they couldn’t escape. I remember one fellow saying, “I don’t know how I’m going to talk to the insurance company.” His car was wrecked. Nobody was injured by heavy pieces, but one car actually got really slammed, and he said, “I don’t know how to explain to them that my car was hit by a flying whale.” It was only after this experience they found out the way you’re supposed to deal with it, anybody who encounters this more commonly in Alaska and the other places, they get a tugboat, they hook it on the tail, they take it out to sea, and they eventually sink into the depths of the sea. How does the Lord deal with our sins? He’s not asking us to try and carve them up into little pieces we can handle. What Jesus has done for us is he says I will cast our sins into the depths of the sea, and then He puts up a “no fishing” sign. We then are relieved of that burden. So of all the things we have to be thankful for, I think on top of the list is that passage where it says we thank the Lord for His incredible gift. Matter of fact, there it is, II Corinthians 9:15, Thanks be to God for His incredible gift! The gift of salvation, of being forgiven of our sins.

Are you grateful for what the Lord has done for you? We have so much to appreciate God for His blessings. We’re going to sing a closing hymn and I’m quitting a little bit early on purpose today because I wanted to just give you this message. I want to stand together, sing, and provide more time this afternoon for fellowship, and turn in your hymnals to our closing hymn. This is a song of gratitude and praise, and I want you to sing, what is it? 560 “Let All Things Now Living” it’s an old melody, but it’s a beautiful melody, and let’s sing this together from our hearts and show our gratitude to God. Let’s stand. 560.

Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving To God the Creator triumphantly raise, Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us, Who guideth us on to the end of our days. His banners are o'er us, His light goes before us, A pillar of fire shining forth in the night, 'Til shadows have vanished and darkness is banished, as forward we travel from light into light.

His law He enforces: the stars in their courses, The sun in His orbit, obediently shine; The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains, The deeps of the ocean proclaim Him divine, We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing, With glad adoration a song let us raise, 'Til all things now living unite in thanksgiving To God in the highest, hosanna and praise.

Amen. When you sing the praises of God you’re getting ready to join the angelic throng because if I read my Bible right they spend a lot of time singing His praises in heaven, and it’s a good pattern for us to develop here as well. Are you thankful? We’ve got a lot to be thankful for. Let’s just remember, by God’s grace, you may not remember all of His benefits, but let’s not forget them all. Ask God to give us His Spirit and that attitude of gratitude. Let’s pray as we close.

Loving Lord, we want to thank You for Your goodness. Thank You for mercy, and part of that mercy, Lord, is we know that You have forgiven us for our ingratitude. Forgive us for our grumbling, murmuring, complaining when we have so much good to be thankful for. Lord, we even thank You for the trials that come knowing that You are using these things to fashion and shape our characters and prepare us for eternity. Bless each person. We pray that the light and joy of Your salvation will enter our hearts. We thank you for taking away our burdens for bearing them for us. Lord, we just pray that You’ll be with each person as we go from this place. May there be the joy of the Lord and His Spirit in our hearts. In His name we pray. Amen.

God bless you, everybody. You all have a happy Thanksgiving.

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