Why Thanksgiving Matters

Bible Book: Colossians  3 : 15-17
Subject: Thanksgiving; Gratitude; Worship

WHY THANKSGIVING MATTERS

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Colossians 3:15-17: "15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 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. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

In advertising its Thanksgiving dinner, a restaurant used the following ad, "Thanksgiving made easy." Actually, thanksgiving is not all that easy, for our tendency to complain is deeply rooted in our natures. A truly thankful heart requires commitment and tenacity to become a reality and to continue unabated.

All humans are prone to be selfish, proud and arrogant. The Bible commands gratitude because thankfulness is necessary for us to be right with God and to grow to be all that He intends. It is also commanded because it does not come naturally to have an attitude of gratitude.

Colossians 3:15-17 tells us plainly and clearly that whatever we do, we are to do it with all our hearts adding thanksgiving to God at all times. This means we must make up our minds to be thankful and not just wait till the emotion hits us.

Thanksgiving would be a lot easier if we only knew how blessed we really are – even when circumstances aren’t necessarily to our liking. For example, I heard the story of an elderly man about to repair the roof of his house he was was seen climbing a ladder with nails stuffed in his mouth and a hammer in his hand. Later a neighbor heard him praising the Lord. Curious, he asked, “What's all the shouting about?" The man repairing his roof said, "I swallowed a nail and dropped my hammer." His friend replied, “Well, I can't see why you're happy about that.” The old man said, “O, but I am very happy, for I could have dropped the nail and swallowed the hammer.” Thankfulness has a lot to do with what we avoid as well what we experience.

Finding gratitude requires an attitude that must be pursued. So, as we as we celebrate Thanksgiving we need to think about being truly grateful to God for all His blessings upon our lives. This subject is one mentioned often in Scripture and for good reasons as we shall see.

I. The Sin of Ingratitude

Among the list of sins which we humans develop is a a lack of gratitude. and I think you will agree that this sin ranks near the top of any list of neglectful wrongdoings among us. That is the reason that the act of giving thanks is mentioned so often in scripture. The command given by the Lord is just that - a command and not a mere suggestion.

According to God's Word a lack of gratitude will be one of the increasing perils in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-2), A question arises from this statement - exactly how does a lack of gratitude appear - in what dimensions does it reveal itself?

First note ...

A. Forgetfulness (Neglect)

In Psalm 103:2 we are told not to forget the Lord’s benefits. So, we see here that forgetfulness of God’s blessings is a sin - a dangerous sin. It is the sin of taking for granted all that God has done for us. Forgetfulness is not exactly considered rebellion, but it is a serious neglect. Remember, all a person has to do to die lost is neglect God's gift of grace found in Christ, so neglect of opportunities and blessings in any area of our lives is serious. Do you realize that neglect of God is a sin which will cause many to miss heaven? Look at Hebrews 2:3, which states, “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” To ignore is the same word as neglect.

For the lost person, neglect of God's greatest blessing, which is Christ, can lead to separation from God forever. For the Christian, neglecting to give thanks is a sin and keeps us from being growing and also likely keeps us from future blessings He has planned for us. We are told not to forget the benefits of the Lord toward us.

Secondly, a lack of gratitdue is seen in ...

B. Selfishness (Pride)

Hezekiah committed the sin of being ungrateful to God through selfishness, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 32:25. The scripture reads, “But Hezekiah's heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the LORD's wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.”

Did you see what that said? Hezekiah did not respond to the kindness of God. He lacked the gratitude that should have been evidenced in his worship and thankfulness. From that selfish position Hezekiah placed himself in the path of God's wrath. That is something that ought to wake up every complaining believer under the sound of may voice today. Remember, pride goes before the fall. The Lord keeps the proud far from Him, meaning that the Lord does not reveal Himself in power to those who do not have and express gratitude.

A third way that a lack of gratitude can be seen is in ...

C. Bitterness (Murmuring, Grumbling)

The final step in a lack of gratitude is murmuring and grumbling. To do this fails to recognize how blessed we really are.

Paul S. Rees tells of a man whose job it was to transport people committed to a mental hospital to the institution. After delivering a patient one day, he was walking to his car when a voice called out, “Hey you!” It came from an upper floor of the hospital. Looking up, the man called back, “Are you speaking to me?" The voice from the window answered, “Yes, I want to ask you a question. Have you ever thanked God that you have a healthy mind?” The driver spoke of this incident saying, “I suddenly realized that after bringing people to this hospital for 15 years, I had never once thanked God for a good mind.”

This is the danger. We may well forget to thank God for the things He has kept us from as well as the things He has done for us. In fact, this is a real problem for the Christian. We are prone to look at the problems we have and not appreciate the ones we don't have. Thanking God for what has not happened to us is just as important as thanking God for the good things that have come our way.

So, we have established biblically that ingratitude is a sin, now look with me at ...

II. The Seriousness of Ingratitude

We need take this issue seriously because God states it is serious. You may not think it matters much, but if it matters to the Lord it better matter to you. Think of several ways that ingratitude creates some solemn and serious issues,

A. Physical

Ingratitude creates physical problems in the lives of people, especially God's people. Actually, God has designed you to be physically blessed by the attitude of gratitude. We are learning more everyday about the dangers of stress and depression. Doctors and scientist continue to discover through data and tests that stress and despondency lead to psychological problems, disease and early death. God knew this long before we figured it out.

Look at Proverbs 17:22 states, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” According to medical research, cheerful people resist disease better than gloomy ones.

So, there is the phyical problem of unthankful people, but notice also that this is a probem that is ...

B. Social

Attitudes are catching. When we are negative, people catch a negative spirit from us. When we are thankful, people can inherit a thankful, glad spirit from us. That is why the Bible admonishes us to speak happy, praiseworthy things to each other.

Look at Ephesians 5:19-20: "19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lor

We are told to lift each other up with the songs of praise and with thoughts of God’s goodness. We drag God’s people down when we fail to be thankful, but we lift people up with a cheerful spirit. I've been around some people that can take the smile off your face in seconds, yet I've known others who mere presence seems to sweep back the storms clouds of life. I heard about one guy of whom it was said, "When he walks in, the lights go out," and I've heard of another of whom it is said, "When he comes in it is like the sun just came out from behind the clouds." Which one are you? Which one am I? There are social issues involved in God's command to give thanks and present a grateful attitude.

Importantly, we can say that gratitude is ...

C. Spiritual

In Daniel 6:10 we note that Daniel prayed three times daily, thanking God. No wonder he was such a spiritual giant for God. A lack of gratitude can affect you spiritually. Daniel was in a difficult place, in dangerous circumstances and could have been in the dungeon of depresssion, but he showed faith and kept praising God. Daniel proves that it is not your circumstances that control you gratitude but your gratitude that controls your circumstances

Seriously, we must consider that gratitude mus be viewed in the light of the ...

D. Eternal (Philippians 2:14-16)

Psalm 69:30-32 reads:

"I will praise the name of God with a song,
And will magnify Him with thanksgiving.
31 This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bull,
Which has horns and hooves.
32 The humble shall see this and be glad;
And you who seek God, your hearts shall live."

Did you see what this passage says? It tells us that glorifying God through thanksgiving can speak to those who need the Lord and can help bring them to eternally trust the Lord. The absence of such thankfulness does the very opposite. In fact, giving thanks to God and bearing a witness to the lost go hand in hand.

Look at Psalm 105:1

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!"

We are to make known His deeds - His blessings - His goodness. How can we do that if we are always complaining? Gratitude in the Christian life helps those who are lost find salvation through putting faith in the Lord's saving grace.

A preacher had made several attempts to bring a university professor to faith in Christ, all without success. The professor continued to come to the church and then one Sunday he stepped out and came to the front of the church following the message and stated that he was coming to profess his faith in Christ as his Savior. After the service the preacher asked the man what in his message had prompted the man to finally take the step of faith. The professor said, “Preacher, it was not your message, but a little boy who touched me. Last week as I was leaving the service I bumped into this boy. The boy looked up at me with a big, beaming smile on his face and said, ‘Mister, ain't it good being a Christian!’ I nodded, but I knew I wasn't really a Christian. I've thought about that little lad all week. The joy on his face, the thankfulness on his lips touched me. When I come to the end of the way I want to have that kind of peace and happiness.”

There is eternal power in the thankfulness and joy of a believing Christian. You I can bring people to faith in Christ through and attitude of gratitude.

Now, note ...

III. The Subduing of Ingratitude

A. Repent

The first thing we have to do in order to truly live in gratitude is to repent for our lack of thankfulness. We must ask God to forgive for always looking on the dark side of life. As with all sins, we must confess in order to be cleansed. Just think back over the past few days. How often have you found yourself complaining. Compare that to the times you actually praised and thanked God.

Often when in traffic, I will complain about a slow driver in front of me. God convicted me about that and urged me to think about how blessed I am to have an automobile to drive. He led me to think of all the miles I had driven with hardly a accident in over 50 years of driving. I was ashamed as I thought about how good God has been to me. I get in the car now and do my best to thank the Lord before I pull out of my driveway. I am not perfect at this process but I am better than I have ever been before. It came about through conviction by the Holy Spirit, confession and repentance on my part.

I am sure that you can think of areas where you tend to complain when you should be grateful. Repent of that attitude and begin to thank Him continually.

B. Return

In Psalms we are told to “Come into His gates with thanksgiving.” Return to the Lord with praise and gratitude today.

The Word for Thankfulness in the Bible speaks of the extended hand.

Thanksgiving speaks of ...

  • Praise
  • Purity
  • Possessions
  • Performance

You see this clearly in Psalm 100. Praise Him with the extended hand of exaltation. Open your hands to have the full forgiveness of God. Give Him all you have as an act of gratitude. Serve Him with gladness. Do with your hands whatever you can do and do it all with thankfulness.

C. Remember

I challenge you to do something starting today. Begin a journal into which you write at least one thing for which you are thankful for each day. By next thanksgiving, you will have a journal of at least (and I suspect much more than) 365 testimonies of thankfulness. Try it. You will be surprised how many different things you are thankful for that as each days slips toward next Thanksgiving Day. This will improve your "thank-life" and will cause you to be a better person, a better witness and a better Christian.

Conclusion

Eric Bridges writes:

In a leper colony on Tobago, an island in the Caribbean, short-term missions volunteer Jack Hinton, is leading the music for a worship service. He asks the lepers to request their favorite songs. The time comes for one last song, and a woman whose back had been to the pulpit turns around.

“I saw the most hideous face I had ever seen,” says Hinton, a North Carolina pastor. “The woman's nose and ears were entirely gone. Her lips had almost rotted away. She lifted a fingerless hand in the air and asked, ‘Can we sing Count Your Many Blessings?’”

Overcome with emotion, Hinton leaves the service. Another volunteer missionary follows him out to console him. `Jack,' he says, `I guess you'll never be able to sing that song again, will you?'

`Oh, yes, I will,' Hinton responds, `but I'll never sing it the same way again.' [SBC Life, Feb/Mar 1996. Page 1.]