Give Thanks in Whatever Circumstance (Expanded)

22 11 2007

By Pastor Norman S. Lao

I Thessalonians 5:18

“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Introduction

The Woman, The Coffee, and the Cookie.

One afternoon a shopper at the local mall felt the need for a coffee break. She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her shopping bag. She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, and then taking the lid off her coffee and taking out a magazine she began to sip her coffee and read. Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper. After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie. As she did, the man seated across the table reached out and took one too. This put her off, but she did not say anything. A few moments later she took another cookie. Once again the man did so too. Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything. After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie. So did the man. She was really upset by this – especially since now only one cookie was left.

Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left. Before she could say
anything he took it, broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the
other half himself. Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose
and walked off. Was she steamed. Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of
how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded her magazine, opened her
shopping bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies.

Many times we are like the woman in the story. WE ARE NOT THANKFUL BECAUSE WE THINK IT IS OURS. This is how we treat God sometimes. We think we deserve it.

The month of November is Thanksgiving Month for most, if not all, Christian Churches all over the world. We follow the American national celebration since many of our churchesptrn3web2.jpg have been started by American missionaries at the close of the 19th century when they acquired the Philippines from the Spanish (1898). It is a time for being thankful and a time for the giving of thanksgiving offerings to God. Many churches in Iloilo, especially those near the farm, encourage their members to bring fruits, vegetables, and other farm products for their thanksgiving offering. In the city it is, of course, different.

There is something about the thankful heart that brings joy to the heart of God. We know this because it is definitely the will of God that His people give thanks to him.

So many people want complain instead of thank God for what He has already given to or done for them. Offering thanks to God is not to be an occasional act of God’s people, but it is to be a way of life. A lifestyle of thanksgiving. Not just thanksgiving but thanksliving.

The word “give” used in regard to thanks in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is in the Greek present tense in the New Testament. That suggests to us that thanksgiving is to be an ongoing and continual activity in the lives of God’s people.

Thanksgiving Day and/or Thanksgiving Month is good practice. However, the problem with having a Thanksgiving Day or Month is that Christians tend to be thankful only in November or on Thanksgiving Day.

The Apostle Paul had a better idea.

There are THREE THINGS from the Text I would like you to focus your attention on:

I. HOW TO GIVE THANKS

The text tells us to GIVE THANKS. Notice, we are to GIVE thanks. We are not to KEEP thanks, but we are to GIVE it. In other words, thanksgiving must be expressed. So, if we are to give thanks the question is HOW are we to give thanks?

A. We can verbalize it.

There are three ways we can verbalize our thanks to God:

1. We can SPEAK OUT our Thanksgiving.

Man is blessed with the ability to communicate through words. In all of Creation only Man can do that. The main instrument of our communication is the MOUTH. We must use it to give thanks to God.

The Bible says that if we do not praise God the stones will. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a stone to take my place in praising and giving thanks to God .

2. We can SING OUT our Thanksgiving.

God created man with the ability to sing. Singing is nothing but “speaking with an attitude.”

3. We can SHOUT OUT our Thanksgiving.

Do not be afraid to shout in church. God will not be shocked or embarrassed or made uncomfortable.

“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” Psalm 47:1

“Shout with joy to God, all the earth!” Psalm 66:1

We need to tell God we are thankful. Thankful people are thinking people. Fill your hearts with words of thanks when you go to church, when you go to the office, when you go to school, wherever you are.

B. We can materialize it.

In other words, we can be thankful to God by offering not only verbal, but also a material Thanksgiving Offering.

1. Convert it to Cash

In our church we have a practice of giving 1 peso for every year of their life. If you are 21 years old, you give God 21 pesos on Thanksgiving Lord’s Day. If you are 10 years old, you give 10 pesos, etc. Each peso we give is a symbol of our thanksgiving.

2. Convert it to Crops

In some churches, especially those in the farm, they give fruits, sacks of rice, live chicken, pigs, etc. as their thanksgiving offering. Then they use this to bless their less fortunate members.

C. We can actualize it.

We can give thanks not only with words or with material things, but with action and with our life. It is not enough to say “thank you” to God or to give a material offering. We must live in thankfulness. There is a beautiful word coined to express this: THANKSLIVING.

A. Work with Thanksgiving.

B. Play with Thanksgiving.

C. Live with Thanksgiving.

Because we are thankful to God, we LIVE a life that is pleasing to Him. A life of thankfulness is pleasing to God.

II. WHEN TO GIVE THANKS

Is it possible to be thankful to God in everything? Of course! The Bible would not have said to “give thanks in all circumstances” if it was not possible.

There are only THREE times we must be thankful for.

  1. In Good Times – Thanksgiving is automatic.
  2. In Bad Times – Thanksgiving is an offering.
  3. And in All the times In Between – Thanksgiving is a lifestyle.

Illustration: One time, Matthew Henry, the famous Bible scholar, was robbed of his wallet and belongings. When he arrived home he wrote in his journal (diary): “Lord, I thank you that in all my life this was the first time I was robbed. And I thank You that even if I was robbed my life was spared. I thank you that even if I was robbed, it was just a little portion of what I own. I thank you also that it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.”

We can be thankful in all circumstances. It just depends on how we look at our situation. People are not thankful because they only see the “bad side” of things – they cannot see the good side.

I believe that Thanksgiving is a matter of perspective. In other words, it depends on WHERE you are looking or where we put our minds.

Have you flown in an airplane during a storm? I have. It is dark and turbulent down here, but peaceful on the other side of the clouds!

Illustration: A man who tried to sell his house. He hired an advertiser to make an advertisement for his house so that it will sell quick. After three days, the advertising agent came back and showed the man the advertisement they made. The man read it. Then he read it again. Then he said to the agent. This is the house I have been dreaming of! Forget it! I won’t sell my house. The house was still the same house. What made the change? Perspective!

Illustration: A few years ago, two missionaries serving in the Philippines, Martin and Gracia Burnham, were kidnapped by a rebel group and held for more than a year in the deepest parts of the Philippine jungle. They received little food, and were forced to move from one secret encampment to the next. Gracia Burnham reports that during all those months of imprisonment, her husband’s attitude remained positive. In every situation, he looked for something to thank God for. He emphasized the need to praise God at all times. Martin Burnham was killed in a gun battle between the rebels and Philippine soldiers who had come to rescue the hostages. Gracia Burnham reports that moments before his death, Martin had said a prayer of thanks to God.

  • You can be thankful in all circumstances when you begin to look on the brighter side of things.
  • You can be thankful in all circumstances when you begin to look on the things you have rather than on the things you do not have.
  • You can be thankful in all circumstances when you begin to focus on God as the source of your help rather than on your problems which are the sources of your headaches, insomnias, and irritabilities.
  • You can be thankful in all circumstances when you begin to realize that nothing happens to you by accident. Romans 8:28 tells us, “In everything God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” So, even when something bad happens to us we can still be thankful! We can still praise God!

III. Why Give Thanks

To give thanks to God is good because it is God’s will.

I. It Pleases the Lord

One thing we do not like as human beings is ungratefulness. We do not like people who do not know how to say “thank you.” That’s why we have expressions like “Wala pinasalamatan!” “Wala utang kabalaslan!” just to show our dislike for ungrateful people.

In the same manner, the practice of giving thanks to the Lord is clearly His divine will. And God is pleased when we do His will. 1 Samuel 15:22 tells us that God is pleased with our obedience to His will more than with our offerings. It delights God when we appreciate Him enough to give our thanks unto Him.

II. It Proclaims Our Gratitude.

Gratefulness must be expressed. One cannot be grateful in silence. We are told to GIVE thanks. The psalmist said in Psalm 35:18, “I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you.” In other words, let everybody know that you are thankful!

If you remember in Luke 17, the Lord Jesus cleansed ten lepers. Only one of them came back to thank the Lord for the miracle of their healing. His healing caused him to be thankful! To be thankful means that you appreciate what has been done to you. Are you thankful? Do you appreciate what the Lord has done to you?

Many Christians are not thankful simply because they do not think of what God has done for them. They are so busy thinking of their problems, about where to get money for tuition fees and food, they forget to be thankful for what they already have!

III. It Provokes Others.

Provoke is not a bad word. It is used in the King James Version of the Bible to mean “push” or “encourage.” Hebrews 10:24 says we are to consider one another and to provoke one another to love and good works.

The word “provoke” in that verse has the idea of strongly encouraging others to do what is right. Grumbling and complaining are contagious. When you go with people who always love to grumble and complain, later you will find out that you are also grumbling and complaining!

However, this is also true with Thankfulness. When you are thankful it is contagious: it will catch on and others will become thankful also.

IV. It Produces Contentment.

Many people are discontented with their life. They want more money, better jobs, better cell phones, better computers, better houses, better cars, better hair, better faces, better wives, etc. People are discontented because they are not thankful.

Thankfulness, on the other hand, makes us content. Thankfulness helps us appreciate what we have instead of grumble about what we do not have. Thankfulness helps us appreciate our blessings instead of complain why we are poor. Thankfulness helps us focus on God instead of on our problems.

As we are thankful to God for what He has given us, we become more and more contented with what is already ours.

V. It Portrays Christ.

We are representatives of Christ on earth. 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us that we are the Ambassadors of Christ here on earth. We represent Him. So, when people want to see Jesus they have to look at us. The problem is, do people see Christ in us or do they see something or someone else?

Complaining and grumbling destroys the image of Christ in us. When we complain and grumble, as Christians, people will think that Christ promotes complaining and grumbling. Or, worse, that Christ cannot give happiness at all.

However, thankfulness is a mark of those who follow Jesus Christ. It gives other people the idea that Christ satisfies us, that Christ blesses us, that Christ provides for us. So, when we are thankful we show Christ to the world.

Conclusion

Are you a thankful person? YOU should be!

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