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Thanksgiving 07

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Thanksgiving in a Land of Plenty         John 6:25-35

The story is told of two old friends bumped into one another on the street one day. One of them looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, "What has the world done to you, my old friend?"

The sad fellow said, "Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars."

"That’s a lot of money."

"But, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand free and clear."

"Sounds like you’ve been blessed...."

"You don’t understand!" he interrupted. "Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million."

Now he was really confused. "Then, why do you look so glum?"

"This week... nothing!"

That’s the trouble with receiving something on a regular basis. Even if it is a gift, we eventually come to expect it. This is the “entitlement mindset” that has permeated American society at almost every level. We have been blessed to live in a land of plenty and as a result we become complacent and many times we are completely unwilling to give thanks to anyone for anything.

Many times, you have heard me say that “attitude is everything”... Well, it is no different when it comes to thanksgiving. The attitude we carry with us through life is of paramount importance if we are truly to live lives that demonstrate our gratitude towards God for his movement in our lives.

In our text for today, we find the crowd questioning Jesus as to how he is going to prove himself to them yet again after feeding 5000 people with a few loaves and fish. They’d had a need for food and Jesus saw and met the need. They’d followed Jesus all the way around the lake and rather than recognizing the fact that they were being offered the solution to a REAL need, they were asking yet again to have a PERCEIVED need met. Jesus reminded them of the importance of what he was offering them in his teaching and then continues to teach them rather than meeting their perceived need for food.

When the masses demanded food, he referred them to the fact that he was pointing them to Spiritual food by his teaching about the things of heaven. When these Jewish listeners were trying to grasp what he was teaching them, he made a historical connection for them referring back to the Manna from Heaven that God provided for the Israelites when they were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Again, demonstrating that God met their needs when they needed it. Again, Jesus turns the discussion to things of a spiritual nature and they asked him to provide “this food” for them. Jesus then told them that he is the bread of life. With a believe in Jesus they would never be hungry... at least not in things of eternal significance.

How sad it is when we as wayward children put other “needs” ahead of this need for the bread of life made known in the person of Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ is the only real need that we have to live a life of eternal blessing, and yet, we pursue cars and homes and trophy spouses and all manner of possessions and in the process neglect the importance of returning thanks to the giver of all good gifts for the only thing that really matters for eternity. Friends, we have been blessed by God in ways too many to number, and yet, we feel just like the people in our text for today. We too, want Jesus to give us one more thing... to give us one more demonstration of his power. It is almost as if they were viewing Jesus’ ministry among them as a magic show of sorts and they weren’t satisfied with the things he had already done to demonstrate to them who he was and what it was that he had really come to do in their lives. They wanted yet another demonstration of his power so “then they would believe” It seems to me that it was well past time for them to believe in him and in the Father who had sent him. It is well past time for us as well to view him the same way and to show our gratitude to him for the gifts he has already given to us.

Perhaps you aren’t feeling too blessed this morning... Maybe you can’t see the gifts that God has given you... Maybe the pain of life has overwhelmed you to the point where you don’t see anymore how blessed you truly are. Like so many people today, maybe you have been so blessed, that even those blessings don’t look all that good anymore.

How, then, can we overcome our mindset of apathy and more towards a true spirit of thanksgiving in a culture that teaches us to enter into the rat-race and compete for status with a world of un-thankful people. Well, I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but I do think we need to recognize God’s blessing in all of their many manifestations and give thanks to him even when it seems impossible to do so.

Make an effort today to recognize the blessings you’ve come to take for granted. Focus on what you have rather than on what you don’t have, and see if it doesn’t improve your attitude.

A few suggestions:

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you want. If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something, this gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations, because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge, because it will build strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary, because it means you’ve made a difference.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things. But, a life of true fulfillment can come to those who are also thankful for the setbacks. As hard as it may be, find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings.

As we look around us at the land of plenty that we live in, it is my prayer that we will see through new eyes each day the ways that God has blessed us and never take God or those blessings for granted. This year, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, may we each see God for who he really is and see ourselves as who we really are: People who have been blessed beyond measure and people who NEED to give thanks to the giver of all good gifts. We have been given the bread of life, we know this bread and have had our only lasting hunger satisfied, may we now be truly thankful to the God who deserves our thanksgiving!

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