Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks
Pastor Stephen "Red" Shumate
November 20th, 2016
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The heart of most Thanksgiving messages is about the reasons we are thankful.  These messages are meant to help us tap into that place deep down in our hearts and free our gratitude.  And today’s Thanksgiving message is no different.

1. We are thankful, because apart from God, there is nothing to be thankful for.

Where we want to start today is with a little history lesson.

According to Wikipedia Thanksgiving was originally a Harvest Festival.  Why is this important to us? To answer this question let’s think about this, Why was it such a big deal for the pilgrims and Indians who were farmers and knew what they were doing, to give thanks for a good harvest?  I mean after all, didn’t they have a good harvest because of all their hard work?

The reason it was such a big deal is because no matter how hard they worked and no matter how much of the right thing they did, they were still at the mercy of many things that were not in their control. They were at the mercy of the sun, the heat, frost, rain, and so on.  And no matter how hard they worked, if these things didn’t play nice, they would have no crops.  So they were at the mercy of many things that were not in their control.

This is true for us even today. No matter how secure and how big we make our homes, we are still at the mercy of tornados, or fire, or burglary.  No matter what we do, we can’t have 100% guarantee that nothing will happen to our safe places.

And so, Thanksgiving started out as a festival of giving thanks for those things that are not in our control. And is what our thanksgiving should be about as well.  And according to scripture, there is not much that is in our control.

John 15:4-5 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

I’ve often had a hard time understanding this verse because it seems to me that I can do things without God.  After all, there are people who don’t have God in their lives and they do things all the time. So, I’ve always kind of had a hard time getting my head around this scripture.

And here is why I had such a hard time…I was reading this scripture wrong.  This scripture says apart from me you can do nothing. That is not to say that you can’t do anything, but instead, apart from God you can do nothing.

It’s the same as saying, without the sun and rain…you can’t grow plants.  If you DO have those things, then YOU CAN grow food but WITHOUT them, YOU CAN’T.  So, apart from sun and rain, you can’t grow food.

Similarly, apart from electricity, my TV is useless.  In other words, if you separate my TV from the electrical outlet…it can’t do a thing…but, when electricity is supplied, it can do many things.

And this, I believe is the heart of this verse.  Apart from God I can do nothing…but with God, I can do many things.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

For instance, we can do things like love…apart from the love of God, (without God’s love) we couldn’t truly experience love…if we can’t truly experience love, then we can’t love others.

Our thanksgiving, should be a recognizing of all of those things that we cannot do apart from God, and understanding that without God, we are as useful as an unplugged TV.

When we look at it in this context, thanksgiving is all about thanking God not only for the things he does for us, but for enabling us to be able to do things we do.

2. Our thankfulness, should be celebration year-round, that causes us to remember, give us a way to teach, and ultimately points to Christ.

In the Old Testament, the Children of Israel had many different festivals.  And their festivals didn’t last for just a few hours before black Friday kicked in…their festivals lasted 3-4 days even a week or more.  Here is just a few of the Major festival: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths.  They also have memorial days for the fall of Jerusalem, Purim, and Hanukkah. In addition, the Israelites also observed the Sabbath every week and the feast of the New Moon every lunar month.

And here is what I find interesting.  God meant for us to have festivals and celebrations from the very beginning.  From before we were even created, His design was for us to celebrate and be thankful.

Genesis 1:14 
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will serve as signs for festivals and for days and years."

We were always meant to celebrate, and give thanks.  But why is celebrating and being thankful important to us?  They are important for 3 reasons…

1. They help us remember.  They help us remember our origins, what God has done for us, our history and so much more.  And the more we take time to remember, the better we remember those things.

2. They help us teach.  These festivals and celebration help us teach the next generation about our history and those things that we remember. They help us teach the next generation about how Good God is to us and why God is so important to us.

3. They point to Christ.  Not only do they help us remember our origins, but they help us understand our future.  A future that is in Christ.  Communion, Christmas and Easter all point to Christ and all of our thanksgiving should point to a future with Christ when we will no longer be separated, but instead we will be living in the house with our father and his unlimited love and provisions.

This is what ALL of our celebrations (including Sunday’s worship) should do.  It should be a celebration and a time of thanksgiving.  And as part of that it should be a time to remember, a time to teach, and a time to point to Christ.

3. Our thanks should lead to giving

Our thanks, should lead to giving…(see what I did there…thanksgiving…thanks should lead to giving). When you see, or say the word it should remind you that our thanks should lead to giving.

And why should it lead to giving?  Because when we thank God for all he has given us, it should remind us that He gives to us out of an unlimited supply.  This means if He gives to us, we can freely give it to others, because He has more and will give more.

And truthfully, as we give more, more will be given to us…

2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. 

And as generously as God give us love, we should give love to others.  As generously as God give us forgiveness, we should give forgiveness to others.  As Generously as God has given us knowledge and understanding, we should pass along knowledge and understanding as well.  As generously as God give us blessings out of His abundance (both physical and spiritual), we should pass blessings along to others out of His abundance.

And the fact that we are thanking God for giving us something, should remind us of the infinite pool of everything God draws from to give to us and should encourage and allow us to be generous to others as well.  Perhaps is just one of the reasons we are commanded to pray with thanksgiving over and over in scripture.

So, this holiday season as you are thankful for all that God has done for you, remember:

1. We are thankful, because apart from God, there is nothing to be thankful for.

2. Our thankfulness, should be celebration year round, that causes us to remember, give us a way to teach, and ultimately points to Christ

3. Our thankfulness, should lead to giving…giving out of God’s abundance, to those who need God’s abundance.

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

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