The Importance of Thanksgiving

By John J. Blanchard

November 5, 2011

The title of today’s sermon is “The Importance of Thanksgiving.”  November is the month in which theUnited Statesoffers thanksgiving to God.  It was established in a number of different ways.  The most recent change was during World War II when they established the third Thursday of the month.  There have been a number of presidents such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and of course the Pilgrims before them, and some settlers in Virginia before that who have always set aside a time for remembering God and thanking Him for His Divine Providence and for all that He does for us.

Thanksgiving Day is positioned after the harvest, much like the Feast of Tabernacles, and before the winter season.  It is a time that we get in the harvest.  We see the bounteous earth producing all of these wonderful things that we can eat and with which we can sustain ourselves through the long winter.  We understand that we could not do this ourselves.  There is a lot of work that farmers do and a lot of work that we put into our gardens and our farms to produce these things, but ultimately it is the benevolence and generosity of God that makes it all possible.  It is God that provides everything.  In other words, He is the source of Divine Providence.

Currently families around the country gather together. Canada does the same thing a month earlier, probably because their winters come a little sooner.  We share a big meal.  We often partake of watching sports and sporting activities, especially football on Thanksgiving Day.  It has become a real celebratory day, but it was primarily a day set aside to thank God for His Divine Providence.  It was a day to thank God for all that He has done for us as a nation and for our families and for us individually.  We need to recognize that it is giving and sharing that make this day possible.

Without God having given us all that we need to sustain ourselves and sharing His blessings with us, we could not exist.  It is not just the family get together and the big meal of turkey dinner, if that is what you are having, or the football game that you are all gathering around to watch, but it is the fact that God has provided for our needs.

Turn to John chapter 1.  It is a Scripture we often read.  John 1, verse 1:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

All life is given and sustained through Jesus Christ.  We could go on and on about all the things that would be required to keep this earth alive and producing life.  That is an amazing subject by itself.  We could talk about the distance from the sun, the amount of light we receive, the rain that falls on the earth, or the seeds that we plant in the ground.  It is a fascinating and never-ending subject.  It is all made possible by Jesus Christ and God the Father.  Therefore, we need to give Him thanks and praise.

GIVE THANKS

Turn to Psalms. We will be spending a few minutes in Psalms.  Psalms chapter 30, verse 4:  “Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.  For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

That is true in our individual lives, and it is true for the world.  We all go through a period of hardship and suffering.  It is to help us grow and in many cases to learn what it is to suffer.  Even Jesus Christ Himself did suffer.  It helps us individually come to perfection.  But there is always a morning, a promise that things are going to be better, a Millennium that is coming.  We have been given forgiveness as the saints of God at this time.  That is why it says, remember Him you saints because God has not only given us the physical things we need for sustenance but the spiritual things such as forgiveness and mercy.  We truly are indeed amazingly blessed!

Skip over to Psalm 97 now, if you would please.  Psalm 97, verse 10:  “You who love the Lord, hate evil!  He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.  Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.  Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.”

We need to remember where all goodness comes from and shed evil.  We need to run from evil!  Flee from evil!  Allow God to knock the rough edges off ourselves, so we have less and less sin.  That is where God’s mercy and forgiveness come in.  That is where His guidance and direction come in to give us this light and to show us how to grow in righteousness, so we can be more like Him.  We need to remember God and His name and all the work that He is doing in us, and thank Him profusely and often.

SUN, MOON, AND STARS

Turning to Psalm 136 now, God’s mercy is spoken of here over and over.  We will just read part of this Psalm.  Without God’s mercy, we could not be sustained spiritually.  We would all lose everything.  Read Psalm 136:1-9.

God’s mercy extends to every corner and every facet of our lives.  We have the creation of the sun for physical sustenance.  But we have Jesus Christ, the light of the sun, to help us to understand the truth and the nature of God, so we can be more like Him.  We have the moon at night that shines to let us know, and remind us, that during the darkness of this time before Christ returns to bring the light of day again, the Church is here to reflect the light of the sun.  We have the stars themselves, that is the angels, to guide and direct the Church.  These are all miracles that help us to comprehend the love, the mercy, the kindness, and the sustaining hand of God, Divine Providence, in every aspect and every facet of our lives.  It is wonderful to understand these things, but it is even better to thank God and to show Him appreciation, and then to share it with other people.  It is our job to declare the goodness, the kindness, and the mercy of God with all of mankind.  We are told that in a number of Psalms and a number of places in the Bible, but let’s look at a few Psalms.

Turn to Psalms 105, verse 1:  “Oh, give thanks to the Lord!  Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!”

For we who have experienced God’s mercy and the fullness of His love and who understand His sacrifice and all that He does for us, it is up to us to share that wonderful news with all of mankind.  It is the gospel of the kingdom.

Continue reading Psalm 105:2-6.

There were the chosen prophets of old, but since Christ’s first coming, we have the chosen saints and those who are called and who have been chosen by God to receive the Holy Spirit at this time.  We are to understand and share the wonders and the works of God with all of mankind.  We give them hope and let them know that there is indeed a bright future, a morning coming.  The dawn is sure, and the darkness will flee.  We will have a beautiful Millennium, and we are almost there!

Skipping over now to Psalm 92, read verses 1-4.

We need to declare this and sing it.  We need to actually live it and show people that God is indeed wonderful.  He is going to help all of mankind.  This is far from what people often think that He is out to destroy most of the human race.  He is loving mankind so much and has a marvelous plan that will end in a beautiful Millennium very shortly.  All of mankind will see their suffering flee away.  Their persecutors will flee away, specifically Satan and those demons that torment mankind in so many ways.

The last Scripture here in Psalms that I would like to go to for the time being is Psalm 75.  “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!  For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.”

God is not far from us.  Indeed He is not even far from the whole world.  He is just separated from them right now because they have not been called.  Shortly an innumerable multitude will be called.  This world will see such a transformation and be so relieved to have their tormentor gone.  Their tyrant that has been over us now for at least 6000 years will be removed and his influence gone from this earth.  How wonderful that will be!  We need to be a shining example that we live our lives in such a way that people can see that we thank God knowing where all of our blessings have come from.  We then turn around and share them with other people, following the example set by Jesus Christ Himself on this earth.

Here are a few examples:  Christ thanked His Father prodigiously throughout His ministry.  I want to turn to Luke chapter 22.  We read this Scripture for the Passover.  I want you to notice Jesus Christ is thanking the Father here.  Read Luke 22:14-19.

Christ knew His suffering would lead to the mercy and the forgiveness that all mankind would need.  Before He suffered, He gave thanks to His Father in heaven for making this all possible and for giving Him the authority to create all things.  He also thanked Him for the authority to deliver mankind from the tyranny that God the Father and Jesus Christ knew would befall us.  This is something they instituted before time began.

Jesus Christ knew for a long time He would have to suffer and die for mankind.  You could imagine by the time the moment had come, he was very desirous to get it over with. He wanted to help free mankind from the tyranny of Satan.  He gave thanks to the Father right in front of the twelve disciples, so that they would see where the authority came from, where this gift ultimately came from.  If Jesus Christ would thank God, of course, we have to thank both Jesus Christ and God the Father.

Turn to Mark chapter 8.  Christ also thanked God the Father at many of His miracles.  Read Mark 8:1-6.

Even Christ when He was going to perform a miracle would thank God in heaven, His Father, for making it possible and for answering His prayer and blessing that food.

John chapter 6 records another incident.  We will skip into the incident here in John chapter 6, verse 9:  “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

This is another incident when a large multitude of people was around Christ and hungry.

Verse 10 of John 6:  “Then Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’  Now there was much grass in the place.  So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.  And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.”

Then Jesus took the loaves and said thanks.  That is the main point.  He shared that food with the five thousand.

If you skip down to verse 22 speaking of that incident a little later on you will see it is recorded for posterity the fact that Jesus Christ gave thanks.

John 6, verse 22:  “On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks…”

In other words, it is a confirmation once again that when we receive the bread of the earth, we need to thank God, the ultimate source, the Divine Providence of all that we have.  Here Jesus Christ is once again shown as having given thanks before He performed that miracle of multiplying the loaves and the fish.

How important is it to give thanks?  Obviously it is incredibly important.  It shows that we recognize where Divine Providence comes from.  It shows that we have respect for God the Father and Jesus Christ, and all the work that They do for us.  It shows the world that we know where Divine Providence rests and where the blessings come from.  We have to show that it is not just by hard work.  It is not just by luck. It is not just by beating the other guy in a deal.  Everything comes ultimately from God, or there would be no physical or spiritual blessings for the human race!  The apostles learned this very well, and we can see some examples.  I want to turn to the example of Paul doing the same thing.

Go to Acts chapter 27.  I can imagine before every meal the apostles thanked God for the food, and that is probably where we get the idea of thanking God before a meal. Before every miracle and after every miracle I am sure they thanked God for what He was about to do and what He did do.  It set a precedent that we should always recognize where all of our blessings come from.

We are in Acts chapter 27 now.  This is when a huge storm had arisen, and Paul was on a ship with over two hundred other people.  The ship was in danger of getting crushed by the waves against the rocks.  Paul had prayed, and God sent an angel with a message that everything would be all right if they followed His guidelines.  Paul had confidence that God would perform a miracle and save the lives.  I want to break into the middle of the story and read Acts 27:27-30.

In other words, some of the sailors wanted to escape on probably one of the few lifeboats they had.

Continue in verse 31:  “Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.’  Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.”

They knew they had a man of God here, and they were trusting Paul.

Continue reading Acts 27:33-38.

They ate enough to sustain themselves so they could eventually swim when their ship did break up, but Paul showed them they had to have faith and trust God.  Paul showed them, you have to thank Him like I am going to do right here for this food.  It is a gift from God, and we will be delivered because of God’s benevolence, because of His kindness and His mercy.  It is an example recorded in the Bible.  It was a time of great duress and tremendous stress, but Paul knew the first thing to do was to thank God for His kindness and His mercy and for all that He would do for them.

Thanks is something that is very important to do and observe on our own.  We should thank God for all things, and show mankind as Paul was willing to do it before men.  Jesus Christ did it before mankind when He fed the multitudes.  We should not be afraid and hide thanks to God. We should not be ashamed of the fact that we realize all good things come from God.

We also need to learn to share like God does.  If we are growing into the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ, we should also be developing that kindness and generosity that wants us to share of the blessings we have.  II Corinthians actually puts it in a formula for us.

WHAT GOES AROUND

Turn to II Corinthians chapter 8.  Chapters 8 and 9 have a lot of lessons about giving and how it shows God where our heart is.  It also shows other men where God is and where the benevolence comes from and where all of our blessings originate.

I am going to start in verse 1 of II Corinthians chapter 8.  “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:  that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.”

In other words, these people were extremely poor, yet very generous.

Continuing in verse 3 of II Corinthians 8:  “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”

In other words, these people were so grateful that Paul went to witness to them to teach them the ways of God.  Even though they were in extreme poverty themselves and undergoing very harsh trials, they wanted to give beyond what they should have, in a way, to help Paul and those with him to get the work done.  It is a marvelous example for all of us.

Verse 5:  And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”

These people said, we are for God!  Whatever God wants us to do, we are willing, and we are here to help you share the word of God with others.

Verse 6 of II Corinthians 8:  “So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well.  But as you abound in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us – see that you abound in this grace also.”

He is showing the people in Corinth by the example of the Macedonians what they need to do to be like Jesus Christ.  He used the physical example of the Macedonians who were in great duress and how generous they were, as an example to these people so that they could learn.

Verse 8:  “I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.”

He said, I am putting this example out there to test you to see how you will react.

Verse 9:  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.  And in this I give advice:  It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have.”

In other words, these people had thought of this idea of sharing their blessing with someone else.  Paul is saying, I am going to show you others have done this.  I want to see that you follow through on your commitment just like Christ did.  He was willing to become poor so that we could become rich.  He says you are following Christ’s footsteps when you do this.

Verse 12:  “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.  For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack, that there may be equality.  As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.’”

He said there needs to be some sort of equity in the body of Christ.  We do not want to have people on one hand extremely wealthy and comfortable, and then brethren who are part of the same body of Christ, suffering.  He said there needs to be a willingness to share and give, so that there is no lack anywhere and so that people will feel cared for and loved.  When you do this, he says you are actually following in Christ’s footsteps, and you are following the example that I am laying out here that occurred in Macedonia.  He said this is the way the body of Christ is supposed to work.

Paul continues in II Corinthians chapter 9, verse 6:  “But this I say:  He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

Here you see the principle of sowing bountifully and reaping bountifully by sharing, giving, and taking back and forth between the brethren, so that there is a certain equality.  God says it is like a circuit.  What goes around, comes around.  At one point, it is one congregation or some family or some individual who is lacking, and then a year or two later it is the other way around.  The other family or the other congregation is doing much better, and the one initially that had the surplus is now in need.  God says that is going to happen over and over, and how you share and take care of one another demonstrates how you use our blessings to God.  It shows how thankful we are.

We are not to thank God for what we have and then keep it!  That is not what Jesus Christ did.  When Christ was given all of this authority by God the Father, He did not say, thank you, and then keep all of His mercy and keep His sacrifice to Himself.  He turned around and gave from all the authority and all that He possessed and all that He created to mankind.  Then we are to emulate Jesus Christ and do the same.

CONTINUING THE BLESSING

When we receive of the blessings of God, if we hold them tight to ourselves, we are in essence cutting off this blessing from continuing.  You will see that in just a second because we often read Isaiah 55, and we will see here in verse 9 that is what is quoted next.

II Corinthians 9, verse 9:  “As it is written:  ‘He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’  Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.”

In other words, the generosity of the seed that is sown and multiplies is what leads to the thanksgiving of the people who receive who are in need.  They thank God because of our generosity.  It just goes round and round, and God blesses us with more, because we shared.

That is exactly what is spoken of in Isaiah 55.  It said in verse 10 of II Corinthians 9:  “Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness…”

Let’s go back to Isaiah 55, which we often read in connection with how the truth of God falls to the earth as doctrine and produces and bears fruit for the human race.  Now let’s read it in connection with giving, sharing, and loving each other because that is exactly what God intends to do in us.  His life in us causes us to give, to share, and to love.

Isaiah 55, verse 8:  “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.’”

God said, My truth, My doctrines, My thoughts, are going to bear fruit on the earth just as the rain and the snow causes the bountiful crops of the earth.  But here is what it says, continuing in verse 12:  “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

He says the trees, the teachers, will rejoice.  The mountains, which are the nations, will rejoice.  All the people of the earth will sing and rejoice when what happens?  They will rejoice when the truth and the thoughts of God bear fruit on the earth, so that all the earth gets rid of their selfishness.  We will all be caring for each other, loving one another, and showing appreciation to God.  We will all show love and kindness toward each other.  This is the fruit of God’s thoughts.  This is the fruit of His plan.

GIVE VERSUS GET

If we want that kind of joy, we have to be willing to share of our physical abundance, as well as the truth of God to show people how this works and how this is a law set in motion by God Himself.  It is the law of giving.  We used to talk about “give” versus “get” a lot more than we do today, but it is definitely an important Christian principle.  Its basis is found in the very essence of what God is trying to do on the earth.

Now back to II Corinthians chapter 9.  We will start in verse 10 again and repeat that.  Read II Corinthians 9:10-15.

In other words, God’s indescribable gift to mankind, the truth and that way of life, is exemplified by what the Church does for each other and toward mankind.  Altogether it is an indescribably beautiful system.  It goes round and round.  The thanksgiving is generated because of the generosity of the body of Christ for each other and for the world.  Then because we thank God for initiating the blessings we have, the world learns to turn to God as well.  It is a marvelous example!  It is a wonderful way of life and a wonderful system that God has developed.

Giving is in essence such a godly trait that it goes against that part of human nature that is selfish.  It is the part of us that says “I” and “me.”  It is the part of us that says “me first.”  It should be the other way around.  It should be others first.  Esteem others as better than ourselves.  Share with them and be kind to them, especially in the household of faith to show the world how it is done properly.

SHARING RESULTS IN THANKSGIVING

Turn, if you would, to the gospel of John, chapter 13.  This is how crucial our care for each other and our sharing of our blessings is.  Jesus Christ says here in John chapter 13, verse 34:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

When Jesus Christ showed by His miracles that He thanked the Father first and then He was willing to share with all of mankind, He was showing us a system by which the world can see where God is working.  They can see how God really wants the world to benefit from His love, His generosity, and His Providence.  We are showing by our love for each other how the world will eventually be and showing them how to direct their attention to God.

If we are selfish, if we preach harshly, if we withhold love, kindness, and affection from each other, we are stopping that beautiful example from going out to the world.  We are stopping what should be a perpetual cycle, like a perpetual motion machine.  We first thank God and be willing to do it before man, then we share what God has given to us to show mankind how God shares.  By doing that we generate love and joy in the people who are receiving it, and we teach them how to thank God.  Because that system is working, we get blessed, and they get blessed.  God enriches us all the more!  It is a never-ending growing cycle of loving, giving, and sharing.

I have two Scriptures I want to close with now.  Psalm 100 is a very short Psalm.  Go back to Psalm 100.  It is just a few verses long.  We will start right at the top at verse 1:  “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!  Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing.”

They are going to be called.  All the world will be called to Jesus Christ and God the Father.

“Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”

His thoughts and His truth will bear fruit, and this world will have an innumerable multitude called before and during the Millennium.

Closing now with Revelation chapter 7, verse 9 where it is speaking of the innumerable multitude.  “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’  All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:  ‘Amen!  Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.’”

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