#6 (The Church’s Stance While Awaiting Christ’s Return Series)
TEXTS: 1 Thess. 5:18 Dan. 6:10 Eph. 5:20 Rom. 1:21 2 Tim. 3:2 Philip. 1:3-6
INTRO: One of the most important qualities we can develop as a Christian is that of "Thankfulness!" There are few characteristics that will influence our lives more than this one ... it can affect every area of our lives positively if we are careful to nurture it in our life! For the Christian this characteristic should not be an option ... this is to be a quality that defines us in this world!
ILLUS: In 1636 amid the darkness of the "THIRTY YEARS WAR" a German Pastor by the name of Martin Rinkart faced the horrible duty of burying in one single year 5,000 of his parishioners!! He averaged 15 funerals a day for a year! His congregation was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster on a scale you and I can't even imagine! In the midst of that darkness he sat down one night with cries of fear outside his window and wrote the following table grace: [SEE HYMN ... first verse!] “Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom His world rejoices; Who, from our mother's arm, hath blessed us on our way, With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today!” Here was a man of God who understood the absolute necessity of "THANKFULNESS" in the Christian life even in the midst of great suffering ... it kept balance in all the darkness! – Source Unknown
You will never be the Christian you need to be without "THANKFULNESS" as a major quality of your life!!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches that "THANKFULNESS" is the normal quality of a Christian's life ... without it our Christianity would be warped and unproductive!
I. WHEN WE GIVE THANKS 1 Thess. 5:18a Dan. 6:10 Eph. 5:20
A. Immediate! 1 Thess. 5:18a Dan. 6:10
1. Many times we offer thanksgiving to God only after our prayers have been answered!
a. It is interesting to note that Daniel went home to pray and “GIVE THANKS TO GOD AS WAS HIS CUSTOM” ... IN the midst of trouble even when no answers were in sight Daniel still gave thanks to God in prayer!
b. For many of us our prayers at such a moment would have consisted mainly of requests and petitions to the Lord ... Daniel’s prayers were mostly THANKSGIVING!
c. Perhaps this was the great secret to Daniel's life of power and victory!
d. In fact it was his prayers of thanksgiving that his enemies were counting on to get him in trouble with the king!
2. Daniel and the other great men of Scripture did not wait for answers to their prayers to cry out to God in Thanksgiving ... check out the many psalms that David used as prayers for deliverance and help ... they always included sections of thanksgiving, many times at the beginning of the prayer!
3. If we included more thanksgiving early in our prayers our petitions would have greater force ... God responds much more clearly to people with THANKFUL hearts than those who do not have one!
4. Notice we pray and give thanks to God before our meals, not after!
a. What if we learned to practice this in prayer before any and all requests!? Notice in Philip. 4:6 we see this pattern of Thankfulness before or with petition: “… but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
b. Notice too what follows prayer with thanksgiving – PEACE OF MIND! Next verse, Philip. 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Capitals and underline mine for emphasis)
c. Our faith would be revolutionized ... and our complaints diminished if we took seriously this command in 1 Thess: to be "THANKFUL IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES!"
ILLUS: One little boy started to grasp this importance when he prayed before a meal that included some items he noticed he didn't like! "Lord, I don't like the looks of it, but I thank you for it, and I'll eat it anyway ... AMEN!" Some of us could use this prayer for many of life's circumstances! – Source Unknown
5. Too often we wait until we get the answers we want to offer thanks to God!
a. This then robs us of our faith ... faith would be able to thank God before an answer because you trust Him for your need!
b. Thanking first helps to remove some of the fear and concern ... it helps rid us of anxiety!
c. Learn the strength of IMMEDIATE THANKFULNESS ... don't always wait for the answers!
B. Inclusive Eph. 5:20
1. What do I thank God for, is it open ended or are there exceptions to the rule?
a. Do I even thank Him in advance for painful experiences?
b. Do I thank Him for things that make things worse in my life rather than better?
c. Do I thank Him when people I don't care for are blessed?
d. Do I thank Him for the sermons on tithing the Pastor sometimes preaches?
e. Do I thank Him for trials before I see the reasons behind them?
2. There are no exceptions for the Christian!
a. Eph. make this very clear: "... always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
b. It is not so much giving thanks for the pain or loss ... but for the good that our Lord can bring even out of terrible circumstances!
c. It therefore is not a denial of suffering, it is not the absence of tears when hurt comes, it is just the confident knowledge that God works out His good will in us no matter how terrible the ordeal - trust!
d. So, yes we cry in trials, we get discouraged in trails we don't understand, we are not walking around with a silly grin on our face trying to pretend we don't hurt or are not confused ... but we hold steady in our faith knowing God will bring fruit out of pruning, that something good can come from trials!
e. Thus in time (or at least in eternity) our pain or sorrow will give way to thankfulness in God's greater purposes ... confidence in this gives us the ability to be thankful now before we see the good!
3. Sometimes trials can simply be God's way of keeping us from greater dangers or harm, even when we don't see them immediately!
ILLUS: Two artists were putting the finishing touches on a painting high on a scaffold in a church. The younger artist stepped back to admire the work he had done with his older companion and he became enraptured with the beauty of what he and his friend had created! His master saw his pleasure and realized that in the emotion of the moment the young man was continuing to step back farther and farther, inching toward the edge of the scaffold. In another moment his young companion would plunge to his death! Fearing he would only frighten the young man if he shouted a warning to him the master artist grabbed some paint and deliberately threw paint quickly on their masterpiece! The young man plunged forward in shock and cried out, "What have you done? Why did you do that?" Upon hearing the reason from the older Master his anger and confusion melted into tears of joy and thankfulness! Such is the work of God many times in our lives! – Source Unknown
4. With this in mind it is possible to thank God for everything, even the worse moments in our lives have purpose and fulfill God's plan in producing in us the fruits of righteousness!
a. Unthankfulness will rob us of our confidence in God ... and the joy and peace of our salvation!
b. Bitterness also destroys the relationships we could have with God and each other; thankfulness goes a long ways in combating many ungodly qualities that zap our spiritual vitality!
II. WHY WE GIVE THANKS 1 Thess. 5:18b Rom. 1:21 2 Tim. 3:2 Philip. 1:3-6
A. Invaluable! 1 Thess. 5:18b Rom. 1:21 2 Tim. 3:2
1. Why is it so important for Christians to be THANKFUL people all the time?
a. Because the Bible teaches that the spirit of the age in the last days will be characterized by UNTHANKFULNESS! (See 2 Tim. 3:2)
b. Obviously God doesn't want our lives to be like those of this world. If unthankfulness is to be the normal character of people’s lives in the end time we are to be different from this world ... God's people should be the MOST THANKFUL PEOPLE ON THE PLANET!
2. It is interesting to note Paul's thoughts in ROMANS on the downfall of the human race in the early years of human existence:
a. Paul states that even in the early years of man's existence when the knowledge of God was in the earth, man at that time "neither glorified Him as God, NOR GAVE THANKS TO HIM, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened, Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...!" (Bold and underline emphasis mine)
b. It is very clear from both 2 Tim. 3:2 and Romans that the easiest way to fall away from God is to become an UNTHANKFUL person!
(1. It was at the foundation of man's fall away from God!
(2. It will be true in the end times with fallen man!
3. The best protection for you to be true to God is to keep a thankful spirit! It is AN INVALUABLE QUALITY OF THE Christian life!
Johnson, the founder of Holiday Inn motels, once said, "When I was 40 years old
I worked in a saw mill. One morning
the boss told me I was fired! Depressed and discouraged, I felt like the world
had caved in. When I told my wife
what had happened, she asked me what I was going to do. I replied, ‘I'm going to mortgage our
little home and go into the building business.’ My first venture was the construction of
2 small buildings. Within 5 years I
was a multimillionaire! At the
time it happened, I didn't understand why I was fired. Later, I saw that it was God's unerring
and wondrous plan to get me into the way of His choosing!" Thus Johnson was able to bring great
glory to God in his testimony and life and helping the
4. The biggest thing that keeps us from expressing this kind of THANKFULNESS to God is fear that the weight of our trials will be too great for us to handle ... and this fear keeps us from thanking God early on!
a. Will God ever allow you to carry a load too heavy? NO!
b. Does He know your limits? YES!
ILLUS: A man was shopping in a grocery store while his young son followed close on his heels carrying a large basket for the groceries. The father would load the basket with items from the store while his son carried them. Item after item was put into the basket until a lady shopping near the man and his son began to feel sorry for the boy carrying this load. To get her point across to the father, she knelt down to speak to the boy, but in a loud voice so the father would hear said, "That's a pretty heavy load for a young fellow like you isn't it?" Before the dad could say a word the boy jumped in and said, "Oh, don't worry lady, my dad knows how much I can carry!" The boy was thankful that his dad trusted him to carry the load and was excited at being with his father who had confidence in him ... his thankfulness sprang from his love and trust in his father who he knew wouldn't allow a load too heavy for him to carry! IF ONLY WE COULD LEARN THIS LESSON! – Source Unknown
5. Why do we give thanks to God? BECAUSE THIS IS HIS WILL IN CHRIST!
B. Identity 1 Thess. 5:18b Philip. 1:3-6
1. This brings us to the final reason why we can give thanks ... IT IS HIS WILL IN CHRIST!
a. Because we are identified with Christ by being IN HIM!
b. WE belong to Him; therefore all things must pass by his OK before they are allowed in our lives!
2. The longer we are saved the easier this THANKFULNESS will come. We will have learned along the way to trust our Lord through experience as well as through teaching:
ILLUS: Breaking a horse to a saddle usually has one of two reactions: most three year old mustangs that have never had a saddle put on them before react one of two ways: 1. They will react with anger, rearing back and trying to get away, even striking out with their forefeet at their trainer! Their nostrils flare, their eyeballs roll, and they panic! 2. Others will just stand there, trembling, and shake like a leaf; they won't move they're so afraid! They don't know what's happening to them. This is the way we are at first as Christians, trials come and we don't feel too thankful ... some of us react the first way, with anger, nostrils flaring, feet kicking, trying to run away or kick at God! Others just sit there and tremble in fear, shaking silly they are so afraid! Yet in time, as God proves Himself faithful over and over again we finally become obedient to the bit and bridle and we learn to submit to our Master! We finally discover that this "breaking" isn't to destroy us, but to use us and to direct our strength for His service! Finally we learn the joys of thankfulness even before we understand the trials! – Source Unknown
3. We CAN be thankful always, not only because He says it is His will to do so but because we know that we are HIS CHILDREN ... and therefore all that He has is ours, we cannot be losers!
a. If you were the child of the richest man in the world you would find it easy to be thankful for your secure financial condition!
b. We are certainly the children of God in Christ ... a God who “owns the cattle on a thousand hills” and who controls the entire universe and more!
c. Therefore, we can be THANKFUL! In Him all things are ours!
4. God's Will (and His wisdom!) commands us to be THANKFUL in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES!
a. This will guard our hearts and spirit from bitterness.
b. It will keep us from anger.
c. It will strengthen us for any and all trials we might face.
d. It will establish our testimony for Christ to others.
5. Paul to the Philippians (1:3-6) demonstrates that this thankfulness and joy comes from that knowledge that "HE WHO BEGAN A GOOD WORK IN US WILL CARRY IT ON TO COMPLETION UNTIL THE DAY OF CHRIST JESUS."
a. And so we can carry on in confidence and in THANKSGIVING!
b. Don't lose out on one of the most productive qualities of Christianity ... that of THANKFULNESS!
c. This quality has effects on all areas of our lives.
CONCLUSION: One of the most productive qualities God desires us to develop is that of "THANKFULNESS!" It is not so much "Thankfulness" for pain or troubles as much as it is “Thankfulness” for the fruit that will result from such experiences! God has absolute control over all things so that we can give "thanks" with assurance. MAKE GRATITUDE YOUR ATTITUDE! It will bless everyone ... you and God!