We have to pause and ask ourselves 154 years later: How much do we actually give thanks on the day of Thanksgiving?
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
In 1863, in the midst of the ravages of Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a federal holiday. He declared the last Thursday of each November to be a day set aside by all Americans to give thanks.
Reading the declaration from President Lincoln you realize the gratitude was not intended to be vague and ambiguous, with a day off work to focus on watching TV and eating too much food. It was meant to give us undistracted time to reflect upon all that we have been blessed with and purposefully enjoy those blessings that came by God’s generous hand.
We have to pause and ask ourselves 154 years later: How much do we actually give thanks on the day of Thanksgiving? Do we actually take one day to forget what we want and instead reflect on what we have? Or, has this day of contentment actually become a day of even more intense consumption: overeating and strategizing for how we will get the most out of Black Friday’s shopping battles – a Black Friday that now even starts on Thursday? Have we come to completely miss the point of stopping and appreciating what we do have? Has consuming made us oblivious to our blessings from God? Have we become unable to enjoy what we do have because we’re anxious for what we don’t have? Are 364 days out of the year not enough to be corroded by discontentment and unabated consumption? Are we unable to spare one day to set our “wants” aside and appreciatively enjoy what we do have? Put the Black Friday flyer down this Thanksgiving and pickup a paper and pen with your loved ones to start a “blessings list”. You’ll get more spiritually out of what you do have than you will from buying anything on sale.
Today our sermon title is “Christians Giving Thanks”. Colossians 3:15-17 is an instructive passage in this topic so please join me there. Read. Out of this passage we find 3 points particular to Christian Thankfulness.
#1: Christian Living Radiates Christian Thankfulness (v15, 17a, 5-14)
Christian Living is Radiant with Christian Thankfulness. Notice verse 15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Thankfulness and Christian living. Watch it again in verse 17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Again, Christian living coupled with Christian thankfulness. It’s even more evident when you realize where Paul puts this cluster of commands to be thankful. They come after a lengthy section on holy living from verse 1 to verse 14. Its as if Paul is saying “Look, this is the kind of life you ought to live – the things to do and the things not to do. This kind of living is what pleases Jesus Christ because this kind of living reflects Him best. Live like this. And your Christian living isn’t complete unless it is radiating gratitude.”
One the one hand we see Christian thankfulness is an outgrowth of Christian living. “I don’t feel thankful.” That can happen. So what do you do? Just wait around for the next feeling of gratitude to come along? No. You stir it up within you. Paul said, “Be thankful”, not, “feel thankful”. And everywhere in Scripture the command to be thankful is given in a way that indicates feelings and circumstances shouldn’t be allowed to diminish our thankfulness. What that means is by God’s grace, we are able to be thankful regardless of what circumstances we find ourselves in. As a Christian, you now have a God-given capacity for thankfulness you didn’t have before and an ability to fill that capacity.
So, while we should feel gratitude, the feeling ought to be properly stimulated. And that’s just it: we Christians are able by God’s grace to get our feeling of thankfulness stirred up within ourselves. The way to do I believe Paul is indicating here is a way that is only available to us as Christians: it is the way of holy living. In other words, we lead with our living, and, the result is gratitude. God does things in our hearts when we surrender our hearts to Him and obey Him. Increased capacities for joy, for love, for peace and for thankfulness often are the rewards from God for obedience to Him.
On the other hand we can see our thankfulness as a motivation for Christian living. In other words, by beginning with a thankful heart we can then go forth in the day to live for Christ from our hearts. In this way, thankfulness becomes the cause, the power, the force behind our holy choices each day. But to begin with thankfulness we must begin not by living but by looking – looking to Jesus and all that He is to us from the Father and all that we have because of Jesus. This is the antidote to discontentment and ingratitude that slips so easily into our hearts. Looking to Jesus and seeing Him – truly seeing Him – we see all the generosity we’ve been shown from God. And that nasty vice of entitlement that seems to be a virtue today, is dissolved when we see all the goodness that has come to us because of grace. God’s grace towards us in Christ.
Application: What’s been missing from your Christian life? Could it be thankfulness? If so, consider how you might meditate on the goodness God has shown to you in Christ. Doing so will be inspiring for deeper Christian living. Then your Christian living will be more complete as you radiate thankfulness.
#2: Christian Thankfulness Makes Music (v16)
Christian Thankfulness Makes Music! Look at verse 16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts.”
Thankfulness and music go together. There’s so much about God that makes you thankful, and, there’s something about being thankful that makes you sing. Listen again to our hymn, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”, in verse 1:
Praise to the Lord the Almighty the King of Creation.
O my soul praise Him for He is thy health and salvation.
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Join me in glad adoration!
Or our new song, Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery, which is at the top of my favorite list right now. After 3 verses of rich teaching, the fourth verse finally exhorts us to thankfully praise God:
Come behold the wondrous mystery;
slain by death the God of life.
But no grave could e’er restrain Him;
praise the Lord; He is alive!
Keep in mind we are urged to keep God’s word in our hearts. This verse says let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you sing. Our hearts must be a home for the word of Christ. His word must “deck-out” our hearts. All our affections, all our desires, all our hopes, all our hearts thoughts all that is in our heart and comes from our heart must have Christ as their theme. Everything is Christ-ward, and nothing within our hearts goes untouched by His holy effect. And once we allow Him to richly affect our hearts with His love, holiness and wisdom now we can sing like Christians ought to. Then we will say, “O my soul praise Him for He is thy health and salvation”. Then we will call each other to “Join me in glad adoration”. That is to let His word dwell richly in us. That is when Christian thankfulness makes music.
Application: How is your singing? Is your thankfulness as a Christian making music?
#3: Christian Thankfulness Focuses on the Father (v17b)
Lastly today, Christian Thankfulness Focuses on the Father. Notice verse 17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father.”
We see here it is our heavenly Father that all our blessings come from. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above, coming from the Father of the heavenly lights”.
Consider some of those blessings from the Father in chapter 1 Paul mentioned, “give thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves”.
Behind Christian Thankfulness is an acute awareness of God the Father’s goodness.
There is a story about Henry A. Ironside where one time he had an experience in a crowded restaurant. Just as Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited the man to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer.
When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, “Do you have a headache?” Ironside replied, “No, I don’t.” The other man asked, “Well, is there something wrong with your food?” Ironside replied, “No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat.”
The man said, “Oh, you’re one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don’t have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!”
Ironside said, “Yes, you’re just like my dog. That’s what he does too!”
Don’t be like a dog. Give thanks like a Christian. Remember that Christian Living radiates Christian thankfulness, that Christian Living Makes Music, and, Christian Living Focuses on God the Father.