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Thanksgiving Day

AND BE YE THANKFUL Colossians 3:15 November 22, 2009 Given by: Pastor Rich Bersett [Index of Past Messages] Introduction An atheist was walking through the woods, admiring all the "accidental evolutions" that Mother Nature had created. "What majestic trees! What powerful rivers! What beautiful animals!" he said to himself. As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. Turning to look, he saw a 7-foot grizzly bear charge towards him. He ran away as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder and saw the grizzly was closing. He ran even faster, so scared that tears came to his eyes. He looked again, and the bear was even closer. His heart was pounding, and he tried to run faster. He tripped and fell to the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up, but the bear was right over him, reaching for him. At that instant the atheist cried, "Oh my God!" Time stopped. The bear froze. The forest was silent. Even the river stopped moving. As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky, "You deny my existence for all these years, tell others that I don't exist, and credit my creation to a cosmic accident. And you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I now to count you as a believer?" The atheist looked into the light and said, "I would feel like a hypocrite to become a Christian after all these years, but perhaps you could make the bear a Christian?" "Very well," said the voice. The light went out. The river ran. The sounds of the forest resumed. Then the bear knelt before the man, brought both paws together, bowed his head, and spoke: "Lord, for this food which I am about to receive, I am truly thankful." So many reasons to give thanks! It seems to me that the placement of our unique American celebration of Thanksgiving at the end of November is somewhat providential-more than perhaps William Bradford knew when he established the first Thanksgiving in 1623, and more than George Washington understood when he made it a national celebration in 1779. Now that the influence of our materialism has caused the Christmas shopping season to inch its way back the calendar to the first of November, we need an inspiring break from the advertising and consumerism about this time! With the much-publicized drop in consumer spending, retailers are concerned. Halloween has become big business these days, and, of course, Christmas has always been lucrative. So what we have between two spend-crazy seasons is this wonderful little holiday when we can remind ourselves that we already have more than enough for which we can be thankful. We really don’t need more candy in our plastic pumpkins, nor do we need any more gifts, not under our tree, nor on our credit cards. So into the heart of this flourishing season of consumerism comes this brief respite for all of us. And we ought to be grateful for it—this momentary sanity when we are reminded to think and thank. Our text this morning is the second sentence in, and the last three words in Colossians 3:15. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. In a sense those three words are a bit of an afterthought. It wasn’t until after Paul shared the exhortation about the peace of Christ that he added, and… oh, yeah, be thankful. Just how close is the connection between peace and thankfulness. We are certainly thankful for the peace He provides, but there may be a causality running the other way, too. That is, that to the degree we are thankful, we may know His peace, in us and among us. That’s not far off the mark. In Philippians 4 the Christians are urged to not be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Oops, did you catch my mistake? I left out and important operative element. Philippians 4:6 actually says, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Then comes the promise of His unfathomable peace. Think Very simply, what is the apostle calling us to do when he exhorts us to be thankful? I think it is first and foremost a challenge for us to THINK. It really is an effort to be thankful. It requires of us a mind-readiness that says be on the lookout for things to be thankful for. We practiced that a little this morning, didn’t we? The pastor asked us to consider sharing a word of thanksgiving to the Lord, and many of you thought, Oh, quick, THINK, what am I thankful for? Others didn’t get that far. Their first reaction was not thanksgiving but a prayer request, O God, please, don’t let him call on me! Whatever you thought . . . you thought! And thinking is a very good exercise for the Christian. G. K. Chesterton called gratitude “the mother of all virtues.” To think is to realize all that God has done for us. I find that when I am consciously and intentionally thinking about be grateful, lots of reasons for gratitude come to my mind. I think about creation, I marvel at the wisdom and the creativity and design of God’s handiwork, and I am instantly moved to not only praise Him, but also to give Him thanks. Why? Because I am thinking. In fact, we really need to train our minds for gratitude. Who hasn’t witnessed a parent teaching their child the mannerly response to a favor by chiding them, “Now, what do we say?” Children are naturally concerned only for themselves, and for many of us that doesn’t change, even well into adulthood. We still need reminders to be thankful, especially to God. So, work at thinking and cultivating an attitude of gratitude. And, by the way, here’s an edifying twist. Let’s stretch our boundaries just a bit and give God praise and thanks not just for what He gives us and for what He does for us (when you think of it, that’s a little childish, isn’t it?). How about thanking Him for who He is. Aren’t you grateful He is almighty, righteous, merciful, just, forgiving, wise, omnipresent? Tell Him so. The psalmist tells us it is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord. Think about it! Another habit not unrelated is the habit of remembering. I had the pleasure of meeting up with an old friend a couple weeks ago, one I’ve actually known for half a century. We had lunch together and so enjoyed spending time reminiscing about boyhood days. Charlotte and I make it a habit on special days like anniversaries to sit and talk of memories. It’s very healthy for the believer to do that, you know, and it’s good for relationships, too. Over the past few weeks especially it has been rewarding to visit with Chris & Ron & others from Chris’ family as her mother Marian spent her last days on this earth. Remembering brings a deep joy, and an opportunity of re-engaging times and events in our pasts. Jesus knew well how important to our spiritual health remembering is. “Do this in remembrance of me,” He said. You know, when you think about it, the only real alternative to living in an ongoing state of gratitude, is living in an ongoing state of ingratitude! That just doesn’t sound pleasant, does it? There’s a place in Mexico where hot springs and cold springs geyser up through the rock formations. The regularity of this phenomenon has led women to bring their laundry. They boil their clothes in the hot springs and then rinse them in the cold. One day a tourist watched the women and commented to his Mexican friend, “I imagine they think old Mother Nature is pretty generous to supply hot and cold water side by side for their free use.” His friend replied, “No senor, there is actually much grumbling because she supplies no soap.” Don’t be an ingrate. Develop some new habits: think, remember and be ye thankful. Thank I want to remind us that if we think, we will be able to thank. Even when it looks bad all around, we can do as we are exhorted in the scriptures—to give thanks in all circumstances. You’ve heard me share this one before, I know, but I just love reflecting on the story of Matthew Henry, the author of that great classic Bible commentary. He was once mugged on the street. The thieves took everything of value he had on him. Later that day he wrote in his journal: I am thankful that during all these years I have never been robbed until now. Also, even though they took my money, they did not take my life. And although they took all I had, it wasn’t much. Finally, I am grateful that it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed. It was seven years ago that I had an inspiring conversation with Tim Buchanan. If I recall correctly, it was about two weeks after his father died from a massive stroke. On the way to the funeral services in Arkansas, Tim’s niece—his father’s granddaughter—was killed when a semi hit their family’s vehicle and literally ran over it. Some of you will remember our season of heartfelt prayer for the family. Tim reported when he returned that the family found reason to be thankful in the midst of their grief. First his dad had just months before, at 80 years of age, had finally given his life to Christ. You know that radically changed the nature of the grieving at that funeral service! Then he shared some of the miracle that happened in the accident. All four members of his stepbrother’s family had been in the truck. Their vehicle was smashed beyond recognition, and three of the family had to be painstakingly cut out of the wreckage. They miraculously escaped with only bruises and testified to God’s grace at grandpa’s funeral, even though they had to leave the next day to go bury their daughter in Texas. That daughter, by the way, had just committed her life to Christ in summer camp earlier that year. The family were able to see God’s hand and be thankful in spite of their horrible loss. If we will try to find them, there are blessings in all of life’s circumstances. We are called to realize them and remember them for at least this reason, that we might be thankful. I want to close with three “forget-me nots” 1.  His promises. Peter wrote that through our knowledge of Christ’s glory and goodness …he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world… By His promises, we can handle pain and grief, stress and sorrow, sickness and death. And, by His promises, we are going to an eternal home where there is no such thing as pain or grief, stress or sorrow, sickness or death. 2.  His power. Brothers and sisters, if we are going to be thankful in all things, we know we are going to need his strength. I was blessed as I visited with a brother from our congregation this past week who gave a quick run down of some of the issues he was facing currently—a slate of some pretty challenging uphill battles. But he said, for the first time in my life, I am able to realize, while I am going through it, that God is working it all out for the good. We usually get around to claiming Romans 8:28 well after the crisis is over and we see how God worked it all out for good. But thank God, by His power, we can see even in the middle of our storms, with the eyes of faith, that God is at work. 3.  His purchase. Never forget, dear Christian, He saved you from your sins, from alienation from Father God, from Hell, from yourself, from all the consequences of your sins. Never forget He forgave you all your sins, because He bought you out of slavery to sin and death through His own sacrifice. Once you were in darkness, but God has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light! Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God! Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy! Once you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls! Brethren, THINK and THANK. .     [ Back to Top]          
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