A Thanksgiving Message
Since I left the pastorate so many years ago, I do not usually get to address congregations around the time of holidays. So, when I felt impressed of the Lord to prepare this message, my heart raced with expectation and anticipation. But, I also must warn you that the sermon on my heart is one of the most serious nature. It may well be a sermon, if heeded, that will not only change your thinking, but revolutionize your life.
Please turn with me now to Romans chapter 1. I will be reading verses 16 thru 25.
As soon as you have found the Scripture in your Bible, please rise to your feet signifying you are ready for the reading of the Word and putting away all distractions so that you might honor the reading of the Word:
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.’
Let us pray:
Holy Father, we praise you for the many blessings that you have showered upon us, your people, and even upon those who are separated from your salvation. We know that in your benevolent and prolonged mercy you cause the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. Yet we must confess to You that You already know; we are not as thankful and appreciative of Your tender mercies as we ought to be, and as You have every right to expect us to be.
Father, as you prepared this message in me, you allowed me to see a bit of how far short I am in being properly thankful for your many acts of loving kindness to me. I know that I am to preach to your people not as one who has attained but as one who also pursues after the proper heart attitude. I pray this may be so today. In the Name of our Precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
Over the years I have preached, taught, and written so much expository comment on the first chapter of Romans that some might think I am a Romans One preacher, like some fellows are Eagle preachers, and others are Crowns preachers. Everything that they preach revolves in some way around that subject. I know some consider me a prophecy preacher, because I often dwell on prophetic subjects. But when God called me to preach He made it plain to me I would be sent to preach to the church in the time of The Great Falling Away of the Last Days, and that has been what I have been primarily about for over thirty years of ministry.
Now, the message I have for you today is in keeping with that calling. The passage I have read to you is about how people get away from God, and how they and the world gets worse because of it. The part I am impressed to emphasize to you today is the extreme importance of four very simple words, “neither were they thankful!” When we are finished this morning I trust you will go away with an understanding of two things:
1. How important thankfulness is in God’s relationship with people including yourself.
2. What a great role the lack of thankfulness has played in getting ourselves, our Nation, and this old world into trouble.
This past week I had my own shortcomings in thankfulness brought home to me in an attention getting way. The last few years, primarily due to the rejoicing of my uncle as he has recalled God’s blessing on him, I have been inspired to make note of things I have to be grateful for. The other day I made such a list and decided to share it with the people who subscribe to the Daily Thought on the Internet. Well, a couple of my subscribers were moved by my list to make lists of their own, and they shared them with me. As I read their records of what they were grateful for I was ashamed of how many important little things I had overlooked in taking stock of things. God has blessed me so much, and like others I am guilty of treating His blessings too carelessly.
Let me give you an example. One lady wrote in her list that she was grateful for each breath she was able to take. Not a big thing you might say. Well, look here. My father is slowly dying of emphysema. So I should be conscious of breathing issues. And, since retiring from the military and moving back to Georgia I have had the asthma problem I suffered from as a child return with a vengeance. I use two different breathing medications, and sleep with a machine providing me air through a facemask. If anyone should be aware, conscious of, and thankful for each breath they take, I am one of those people. So why did I not think of it when I was writing out my list? Maybe I am not thankful enough for God’s blessings on me in spite of making a list and trying to do like the old song says count my many blessings naming them one by one.
Listen now. This is not about trying to be extremely humble or holy, or appearing good to others. This is about my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is about you relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ on the most basic level. If someone were to do you a good turn in this world, you would not want to appear to them an ingrate, an ungrateful person now would you? As a matter of fact if you come across as an ingrate to someone who has done you good they are not likely to try to do something nice for you in the future are they? Would you? But the truth of the matter is we all probably seem pretty ungrateful to God on a daily basis, and He has done more for us than anyone in this world ever could. Probably the only human beings we ever evidence less gratitude toward are spouses and parents. God has been so good to us that it seems really small of us that we should be reluctant to do the one little thing He would like to see out of us: That we show a little gratitude. Not be ingrates.
Thinking about our lead off Scripture where it says “…when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful…” I have an idea I would like to suggest. That is, I don’t think you can glorify God as God without being thankful. I believe that one of the reasons this old world is in the mess it is in today is because people, particularly God’s people have failed in glorifying God as God, particularly in simply being grateful, and God has let the natural result of that flaw in our character come upon us just as He said He would. Now, if we are ever to have any turning around at all it has to begin in ourselves. We need to rediscover thankfulness.
I want you to remember two things out of what I have already said:
1. Lack of thankfulness hinders us in being able to glorify God, and,
2. Lack of thankfulness hinders God in being able to bless us.
Now I would like to direct your attention to a single verse in the Psalms, Psalm 100 verse 4 where it says:
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.”
I want you to make a note of this verse, no this entire Psalm of just five verses. I want you to make a note of it for a very special reason. When you walk out of here today and go back to your own private sanctuaries, I would like you to pull out this Psalm and think about it. It is a Psalm about relationship and being in the presence of God. In verse four, which is composed of just twenty words we are told how to, and to do, four things. All of which is connected with gratitude or thankfulness.
(1.) We are to enter into the gates of His Heavenly abode with thanksgiving.
(2.) We are to enter into the outer courts of His Throne Room with praise.
(3.) We are to be thankful unto Him.
(4.) We are to bless His Name.
And, in case you missed it when I quoted the verse to you, it is all about getting into the presence of God. The way we do these things while still on earth is in prayer.
What we are being told is contrary to our nature, especially when we have been having problems. We want to come into the presence of God with long faces and complaining lips when God is telling us to try a little gratitude. Things could be worse. Situations in life could be a lot worse if God, in the midst of the tribulations of life we go through, did not consider our frame and remember we are but dust and visit us with mercy. We have reason to be thankful even when we are having hard times. As a matter of fact being thankful for our blessings make hard times easier.
I like the example of the first Pilgrims. I might just be a little prejudiced about that. You see, the first Ford came to this country, as far as we can determine in 1611. From the way his name is entered on the ship’s manifest he probably came as an indentured servant, which means for a period of time, for all practical purposes, he was a white slave, a man who had traded some years of freedom for passage. Well, the reason I am telling you this is that after the Pilgrims came and he gained his freedom, he married one of the widows among the Pilgrims, so the whole thing has a bit of a personal, family interest for me. And I get pretty sore at the efforts of some people these days to pervert history and take away from the Pilgrim settlers the respect these Christian people earned by what they endured and the cause for which they endured it.
The real spirit in which a formal time of Thanksgiving was first celebrated in America is something I want to tell you about. The Pilgrims set us on the path to become a country humbly acknowledging the thanks we owe to Almighty God as Creator of life and Author of liberty and people who hate God and liberty have tried to pervert this spirit in us and they have done a pretty good job at it.
The Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, in September 1620, sailing for a new world that promised opportunities of religious and civil liberty. For almost three months, 102 seafarers braved harsh elements, arriving off the Massachusetts coast, in November of 1620. On 11 December, prior to disembarking at Plymouth Rock, the voyagers signed the Mayflower Compact, America's original document of civil government predicated on principles of self-rule. That is a document that I believe the Spirit of God had a hand in preparing.
But starvation and sickness during the first New England winter killed almost half their population, but through prayer and hard work, with the assistance of their Indian friends, the Pilgrims reaped a rich harvest in the summer of 1621.
This bounty, however, was short-lived. Under pressure from investors funding their colony, the Pilgrims had acceded to a violation of Christian prescriptions for honoring the laborer as "worthy of his hire," and for property ownership rights for individuals and families. They had agreed to a ruinous financial arrangement holding all fruit of their labors in common, so as to send back a quickly accounted half to their overseas backers. This nearly finished destroying them as effectively as hard winters and starvation had.
Making matters worse, by the spring of 1623, Plymouth was in danger of foundering under famine, blight and drought. It was then the Pilgrims set apart a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in their great distress. And God responded in such a way both they and the Indians that lived amongst them were much impressed. For God’s mercy, they set apart a day of thanksgiving.
Colonist Edward Winslow expressed the Pilgrims’ worship this way: "[W]e returned glory, honor, and praise, with all thankfulness, to our good God, which dealt so graciously with us..." So, the original American Thanksgiving Day centered not on harvest feasting but on gathering together for public thanksgiving for God's favor and provision.
It was a true expression of the kind of thankfulness that should go on in the hearts of God’s people all the time.
What is the nature of gratitude, of true thankfulness? Acknowledgment of receiving a gift that is undeserved, then joy appropriately suffusing that knowledge, overflowing into recognition of indebtedness to the giver. In truth, we are not really giving thanks---we give nothing---we are only responding with properly grateful hearts that are due the Gift Giver.
I want to tell you about the First Thanksgiving Proclamation, which took place in 1676, one hundred years before the Declaration of Independence. In that proclamation it was acknowledged that war with the Indians and other things that had been endured by the settlers had been allowed by God. But these, for the most part Godly people, declared that they deserved those things which had transpired because of their sins! In fact they praised God because in the midst of events they considered as judgments upon them as sinners He had been merciful. They went on to rehearse some of the things that might have happened to them in greater degree had God not been good to them. Now how many people would you hear today say, “God, I have been through such a terrible time, and I know this proves you are such a wonderful Lord, because if you had not been merciful to me and had allowed justice to run its course, I could have gone through a lot worse. So I am just going to praise you?” Some of you are thinking that’s plain silly. Well think about it. If God wasn’t merciful to you things could be a lot worse!
Why shouldn’t we give thanks to God that things are not as bad as they might be? In this day of international terrorism, and gang and drug violence, people being murdered by madmen and madwomen who are sometimes little more than children, it might do us good to remember:
(1.) Things could be worse. In fact I believe they will get worse as we get toward the end, and
(2.) If we were busy being grateful to God for His very real blessings on us, it might just move God to give us more relief from some of the things we see coming in this present distress.
Did you know that there were yearly proclamations of Thanksgiving Days in the Revolutionary War? We were fighting foreign soldiers, Hessians and British, on our own soil. But we still found time for giving thanks to Almighty God in a formal manner every year between 1777 and 1783. In 1789, by way of proclamation, George Washington wrote: "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour... I do recommend and assign [this day of public Thanksgiving], to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto
Him our sincere
How can we use circumstance to keep us from recognizing God’s blessing on us even in the midst of adversity except it be that we are people with ungrateful hearts? It just might be that our attitudes of not being thankful is actually keeping God from doing all that He might like to do to help us. When we live in ingratitude how can we expects to know how to properly use or respond to more blessings? We are already missing and misusing those we are receiving.
Now I want you to remember two things from what I have just said:
1. Our Pilgrim forefathers knew something that we seem to have forgotten. God is not obligated to make our lives easy. But if He was not a good God things could be a lot worse, and,
2. Being thankful for what you are blessed with can take a person a lot farther than moaning and complaining ever could.
Now for the conclusion of this message let me quote to you from Colossians chapter 3 verses 14 thru 16:
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
We live in a time when many people are going through great emotional distress. There is more medicine being sold today for keeping people from deep depression and controlling folks moods than there has ever been before. One of the big problems people in this modern age have, has been found in other times and places as well. They do not have the peace of God ruling in their hearts. In case you missed it in the passage I just gave you, let me just tell you outright, thankfulness is essential to having the peace of God moving through our hearts.
And we need to be more thankful and to have more peace. One of the foretold signs of the Last Days is that men’s hearts would be failing them for fear. You know what? We have more heart disease going on in this world than ever before. It is a major killer of people. Now I do not think all heart disease is caused by a lack of thankfulness. Some is caused by bad diet and genetics, we inherit it from our ancestors. But some is caused by nothing more than pure old stress. Did you know that stress has been related to cancer and cancer recurrences as well. Well, there is one thing about being thankful and having the peace of God working through that old blood pump. There is a whole lot less stress. Why? We are more at peace with God and man.
I want to share with you something that happened to me a number of years ago as a counselor. A lot of time when I am counseling people who are dissatisfied and depressed I try to get them to be thankful for what they have that is right in life instead of being concerned about what is wrong. Well, I had this fellow seeing me, a Korean War veteran, who was unhappy with his wife. The problem was she would not sleep in the same room with him because of his snoring and nightmares. They are gone now so it does not hurt for me to tell it. But it had upset him so badly he had actually been thinking about getting a divorce and finding himself another wife. You see, the more he worried about it, the worse his nightmares got and the less she wanted to be anywhere near where he was sleeping.
Well, one day he came into my office and announced that everything was alright. He had decided he could live quite contentedly with a wife who would not sleep in the same room with him. Well, I asked him what had happened to change his mind? He said that he had gotten so unhappy he had been thinking about finding himself a new wife. So he began looking at his friends’ wives to figure out what sort of woman to go after. But after looking at the way his friends wives did for awhile he decided he had it pretty good and he better keep what he had! Sometimes seeing what is around us can make us grateful for what God has blessed us with.
My story does have a very happy ending. When he became content with his situation his nightmares decreased. And, as we talked about some of his experiences in Korea, he was able to tell things he had never been able to share before. Then the violent motions he made when he dreamed decreased. A doctor got him to a surgeon who fixed his snoring problems and his wife moved back in their bedroom. A lot of things had to happen, but it all began when he was willing to become content with the situation he was in and thankful for the wife God has given him. I hope you got my point. It was the final thing I had to give you in this message. That is when we are not of a thankful attitude the big loser is us.
We lose out on our relationship with God;
We lose out on our relationship with others;
And, we lose out on our internal peace, our relationship with ourselves.
When I started this message I told you I wanted you to get two things from it. Do you remember what that was? Some of you are nodding yes. I suspect you wrote them down, but some are looking puzzled, so let me tell it to you again.
I wanted you to understand:
1. How important thankfulness is in God’s relationship with people including yourself.
2. What a great role the lack of thankfulness has played in getting ourselves, our Nation, and this old world into trouble.
I think I have made a strong case for the first and started you on the road of understanding concerning the second. Maybe as you look at circumstances in times to come you will remember some of what I shared with you this morning.
Now I want you to remember that the most important thing in this world is your relationship to God. Are you one of those who knows salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, or are you one of those who heard what I said this morning and knew it only as a bunch of nice sounding words?
If you need to repent of your bad attitudes and lack of thankfulness this morning come on down and kneel making things right between you and God as the people sing when upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed. Count your many blessings.
But if you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and you want to come to Him for salvation today, make your way to me right now and I will share with you God’s Plan of Salvation. Do not go away today empty of the greatest blessing known to man, the Salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Michael L Ford, Th.D.
P. O. Box 752
Buchanan, Georgia 30113