Thanksgiving /communion 1 Thess. 5:15-16; 1 Cor. 11:17-26
I bet you didn’t know that there are regions of Mexico
where hot springs and cold springs are found side by side……and because of the convenience of this natural phenomenon many people often bring their laundry and boil their clothes
in the hot springs and then rinse them in the cold springs.
Recently a tourist was watching all of this and he said to his guide:
“They must be grateful to Mother Nature for supplying such
a generous amount clean, hot and cold water.”
The guide said,
“Nope, there’s a lot grumbling because she supplies no soap!”
I was just talking with a business owner who essentially told me
the same thing!
He’s hired many people over the years, and he’s noticed this trend:
When these folks get the Job, they’re filled with gratitude…
It’s the best Job ever, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
They’re just really thankful.
But then after a couple of years with steady employment,
a bigger paycheck, and more responsibility,
the thankfulness they had in the beginning… has turned into grumbling!
I’d venture to say that, if most of those people were to step back,
and look at their employment situation, they’d be filled with gratitude.
Grumbling is almost like a default setting for many…
and if we’re honest we all probably would admit that we
tend to grip too much!
I was talking with Russ Campbell about gratitude this week.
He’d been reading through Philippians and reflecting on
the different work environments he’s been involved with.
In the NFL he was around millionaires, and most of the talk
that went on in the Locker room was grumbling and griping…
When he was a schoolteacher (teachers make a lot less than NFL player),
most of the talk was about, how bad the district was,
how bad the kids were, and how many years people had until
they could retire.
Both environments were pretty negative.
It was quite the contrast from what Paul was saying in Philippians…
Paul was overflowing with Gratitude… he was Joyful!
The secret of his joy was grounded in His relationship with Christ.
He was a grateful person!
Grumbling isn’t the life that we’ve been called to live;
we’ve been called to live a life of thankfulness.
Today I’d like us to begin closing the gap on thankfulness.
My hope is that you and I would choose a life of thankfulness…
…first and foremost because it is the only fitting response
to a good and gracious God who has delivered us from our guilt!
The NT is full of references calling us to be thankfulness.
So, choosing and acting in gratitude only makes sense
because it aligns us with God’s will for our lives.
To a significant degree, your emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, as well as, the health and stability of your relationships with others, will be determined by the measure of gratitude you have.
But cultivating thankfulness is not something that comes easily;
it’s a hard habit to build.
It requires us to overcome those feelings of ingratitude
that come so naturally to us.
We do this by training ourselves to recognize all the opportunities we have for gratitude, and then fill our minds with those thoughts.
And a great place to start is by training ourselves to look
for God’s grace in all of life’s circumstances.
And as we live this way, we’ll find that we get incrementally better
at having a thankful heart as the days gradually accumulate to months, and months to years.
Thankfulness is one of the most powerful emotions
God has given us the capacity to experience.
It is far stronger than lust or any bondage of sinful pride.
And the amazing thing is: The more thankfulness grows in us,
the more spiritual health we’ll experience, and the less power
sin will wield over us.
Being a thankful person is essential if we’re to
Close the Gap on Christlikeness.
So, If we’re going to do this, it’s important that our Ideas about gratitude
align with the reality of God’s will.
- The First reality: Understand that our thankfulness can be misguided.
Have you driven through the Flint Hills lately?
Every time I do, I can’t help but look at the beauty of the skyline,
the rolling hills, the cattle grazing in the tall grass…
I’m always filled with a sense of gratitude for its beauty.
All of us, at some point, have had our hearts filled with
an overwhelming sense of thankfulness…
You hear a child’s laugher… and you can’t help but smile,
a song comes on the radio and your heart warms,
You walk outside on a beautiful fall day,
and you stop and soak in the beauty that’s all around you.
All of these experiences, along with many others,
tend to fill our hearts with gratitude.
But whom do you direct that gratitude towards…
Who do you give thanks to and why?
Do we thank the universe? What about nature?
Have you ever thought about that?
I know that many people don’t think that deeply about thankfulness.
But we should.
As we move into the holiday season, we’re told to be thankful…
So, many people will put on a happy face and go through
the motions of gratitude.
But without knowing to whom and why we’re to be thankful,
our efforts will fall short.
Gratitude for gratitude’s sake is shallow and empty… it doesn’t work.
And this is why it’s important that our gratitude align with reality.
And that reality is:
We were made to be in a relationship with God.
That relationship is what fills our heart with thankfulness.
So when we talk about being thankful, we’re not just talking about putting it on, like we put on a pair of pants and a shirt.
No, we’re talking about becoming a person who IS thankful.
Now hear me… we absolutely should choose to speak and act with thankfulness, but we can never forget that the final goal is to be a person who IS actually thankful.
We’re to be people who…
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess. 5:16-18)
We’re to give thanks in all circumstances…
this is a common theme throughout the NT.
Like the command to rejoice,
it’s deeply rooted in our understanding about God.
Paul was convinced that God was involved in the lives of his people
(Rom. 8:28), that’s why he urged the Thessalonians to
“give thanks in all circumstances.”
And notice this: Paul doesn’t say to give thanks “for” all circumstances, but “in” all circumstances.
God wants us to be joyful people and He gives us every reason to be.
Joy can be a constant experience for us,
even in the most adverse circumstances,
because Christ is the source and subject of our joy
and Christ is in control of the circumstances.
The joy we’re called to is a deep-rooted joy
which enables us to stand firm in Christ…
Now that is reason enough for us to give thanks and rejoice!
So why don’t we?
Many times, it’s because we have a wrong perspective.
We can tend to want to turn life with God into
a scorecard where we give God points
for the good and deduct points for the bad…
Listen to me…this is a mistake… Don’t do this!
I know there are people who are struggling this morning,
who are in difficult places.
If you’re one of them, please don’t hear what I’m saying as
invalidating what you’re going through.
Don’t tune me out. Please. I want you to stay with me,
and for the moment, lay aside your disappointment, confusion,
Know that God is the one who is behind all that is good…
God is your father and he is a good father!
You can and should choose to be grateful for his involvement in your life.
Trust me… It’s been my experience, and that of many others,
that if you do this, your heart will soften and your perspective will become clearer and you will move towards being a person who is thankful.
- Second Reality: Thankfulness moves our thoughts from ourselves towards God and others.
Gratitude for God and his involvement in our lives
is the engine that moves us towards loving others.
It aligns us with what Jesus said was to be top priority:
a relationship with God and with others.
To forget this, is just the opposite:
it’s to move away from God and others…
You may not know this, but the church in Corinth seemed to have forgotten this truth shortly after Paul left.
Listen to what Paul said regarding their celebration of the Lord’s Supper:
17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!
Imagine yourself being at one of these dinners….
It is supposed to be a meal where the people of God gather with thanksgiving to remember Christ and the ultimate sacrifice that he had made for them.
But instead when you show up, you find people dividing up
into different groups with no regard for others.
Some of them (the ones who had means)
were having their own private dinners,
and leaving the ones who were of low means out…
They were being gluttons and drunkards…
they had a sense of superiority about themselves.
You see what they were doing?
They were creating winners and losers…
they weren’t uniting people.
Think about what it would’ve felt like for those who had nothing.
This dinner they were having wasn’t a time to celebrate Christ
and remember his death, burial, and resurrection…
it was time to have their own party!
They had just been going through the motions
and forgot why they were meeting.
Paul is strongly opposed to what they were doing,
that’s why he says, “I can’t praise you in this matter!”
“You’re dividing people, making it all about yourselves…
you’re hurting the church.”
It was true then, and it is true today…
Without a heart of thanksgiving,
We’ll begin to see others as irritations or just a means to an end.
They’re just keeping us from getting what we want.
This kind of thinking is wrong.
It’s a selfish approach to life … and you’ve heard it said before,
“Selfishness is a universally failed plan for happiness or success.”
It never delivers what we hope for.
And if you and I are not careful to maintain an attitude of thankfulness,
the same can happen to us, we can begin to drift into self-centeredness
and away from gratitude… away from a Christ-centered life.
The truth is: we’re all hungry, needy people who need our daily bread…
and we don’t live on bread alone, we live by the very Word of God.
Jesus is the Word of God made flesh.
He’s the starting point for all that we do.
We’re to start by being thankful to the Lord Jesus
for what he has given to us.
Only then can we look at our neighbor and respond accordingly.
When you find yourself acting without grace towards others, just stop!
The root issue many times is that you’ve stopped loving God.
You’ve become self-absorbed with yourself, and are drifting
away from God.
For If you love God, if you were nurturing a heart of thanks towards him,
you would at the same time be nurturing a heart that loves others.
Now let’s look at the second part of Paul’s rebuke… it’s where we find the third reality.
- Third reality: Remember Jesus’ example. Paul told them…
“…The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Did you catch that?
Paul reminds us that Jesus gave thanks…
Even though a man whom Jesus had treated as a close friend
would trade their relationship for a bag of coins…
Other friends would sleep through His most difficult night…
The Father would turn His face away from Him…
And He would be forsaken by God….
Yet He gave thanks as He broke the bread that symbolized his own body
that would be broken for the sins of others.
He gave thanks as He drank a cup that symbolized the blood that would flow for your sins and mine.
Jesus settled into what the writer of Hebrews called the
“joy set before him” (Heb. 12:2).
God incarnate did not come to serve self,
but to give his life as a ransom.
If you have given your life to Christ,
then know this: there is joy coming your way.
It may be on the other side of a cross, in fact, it most certainly will be. But joy is there, set before you.
You, too, can follow Christ example and give thanks.
At this point you might be thinking how do we do it Jim?
- The Forth reality:
We are to live continually with an attitude of thankfulness by remembering what Christ has done.
We all “leak perspective.”
It drains out of us like water from a bucket with a hole in the bottom.
Sure, we’d like to seal the hole and be able to remain full of perspective,
but it is not going to happen on our own… because we naturally leak.
But thanks be to God, we still have reason for rejoicing!
Because of Jesus, we have the hope for a
continual infusion of perspective from God
through the Holy Spirit.
We have access to him when we day-by-day and hour-by-hour
allow him to pour living water into our hearts.
It’s His grace that empowers us to remain grateful
for what He’s done for us.
Don’t shut off the Holy Spirit’s power—
that infusion of perspective that only He can give.
Know that God wants us to be continually filled with His life!
When we live this way—we’ll find ourselves being grateful and joyful people.
The act of Communion is a time to remember what Christ has done… it’s a time to be grateful… it’s a time for us to practice gratitude.
We’re going to have communion together in just a bit…
I want to challenge you to not allow yourself to just go
through the motions…
That’s what the believers in Corinth had done….
Don’t let the Lords Supper become meaningless ritual,
void of the powerful impact it can make in your life.
Communion is an act in which you engage God
with all of who you are as a person.
You use your mind to think and remember…
you use your heart (the feeling and emotional part of you)
in the act of drawing close to Christ and others.
You use your Body to engage with Christ…
as you touch, taste and smell the elements.
And together with other believers, you proclaim the reality of the Gospel
and the relationship with God that has been opened up for you.
Remember that His death brought transformation into your life
at the moment of your conversion.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (NLT 2 Cor. 5:17)
Remember that the Lord died once for all,
but his death is to be celebrated over and over.
We “do” these things—remembering, being thankful, Loving God and loving people, the act of communion—because “doing” is a powerful ally in becoming like our Savior.
Let’s close the Gap on Christlikeness by becoming
people who are thankful.
As we prepare our hearts to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together…
Remember that Christ died for you, and you’re to feed on Him in your heart by faith, with thanksgiving.
And as you take the cup, drink it in remembrance that Christ’s blood
was shed for you, and be thankful.
Talk to God.