Scripture Reading; Ephesian 5:18-20

Ephesians 5:18-20 says, ‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Our experiences in the year 2019 is different from one another. No two people’s involvements with 2019 are alike. But are you thankful no matter what? Perhaps you lost a job you love recently, for whatever reason. Or you may have lost your health, or even a loved one. To be honest such circumstances can be tremendously difficult to go through. But even so, we all have much to be thankful for. I have much to be thankful for. Look at the examples of men in the bible; Paul and Silas in Prison. Peter in the dark dungeon with chains on his legs. Habakkuk says, ‘Though the fig tree does not bud and no fruit is on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the sheep are cut off from the fold and no cattle are in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the LORD.’ Habakkuk is saying ‘though everything will fail, yet I will praise the LORD. Look at the story of Paul who had every right to be bitter – but wasn’t. he knew at any moment guards could be taking him away to his execution. His only bed was the hard, cold stone floor of the dark, cramped prison cell. Not an hour passed when he was free from the constant irritation of the chains and the pain of the iron manacles cutting into his wrists and legs. Separated from friends, unjustly accused, brutally treated—if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison. But instead of complaints, his lips rang with words of praise and thanksgiving! If there is a man I really want to meet when I get to heaven it will be Paul. I could say that he is the father of us all when it comes to trials, sharing the Gospel, persecution and forsaking all things to follow Christ.

Ephesians 5:18-20 says, ‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

How many people who receive blessings from God give him thanks? If we consider the story of ten lepers healed by Jesus Christ, we could say ten percent. In the ancient world, leprosy was a terrible disease. It hopelessly disfigured those who had it, and it permanently cut them off from normal society. Without exception, every leper yearned for one thing: To be healed. One day 10 lepers approached Jesus outside a village, loudly pleading with Him to heal them. In an instant He restored them all to perfect health—but only one came back and thanked Him. All the rest left without a word of thanks, their minds preoccupied only with themselves, gripped with a spirit of ingratitude, thinking about what they want to do with life now that they are no more leprous.

Ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as is lying or stealing or immorality or any other sin condemned by the Bible. One of the Bible’s indictments against rebellious humanity is that “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Romans 1:21, NIV). An ungrateful heart is a heart that is cold toward God and indifferent to His mercy and love. It is a heart that has forgotten how dependent we are on God for everything. From one end of the Bible to the other, we are commanded to be thankful. In fact, thankfulness is the natural outflowing of a heart that is attuned to God. The psalmist declared, “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving” (Psalm 147:7, NIV). Paul wrote, “Be thankful” (Colossians 3:15, NIV). A spirit of thanksgiving is always the mark of a joyous Christian.

It is very sad that only 10 percent of the church people have a thankful heart. I hope that we belong to that ten percent of those who thank God for all the mercies he has showered upon us throughout the year 2019. If you have not done so, today if your last chance for the year 2019.

Thanksgiving in the Greek is called eucharistia. The heart of that word is ‘Charis’, which means grace. So the heart of eucharist is grace. You can be thankful for the year 2019 is simply the grace of God. ‘Chairô, means “to rejoice.” Thanksgiving, then, means to rejoice in God’s presence for blessings freely received from him. It is joy expressed in word and deed toward God for his grace.

In King Lear, Shakespeare says, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.” A thankless child of God is worse than a serpent’s sharp tooth. Worse, I would say, is the ingratitude of born-again children of God. You are a very ungrateful child of God if you are not thankful today because the year 2019 is not coming back again and you are not going to thank God for it. Paul tells us in Colossians 2:7 to abound in thanksgiving, and the psalmist exhorts us to enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Why should we be thankful?

1. The Nature of a Child of God

Thankfulness is the nature of a child of God. Thanksgiving to God flows out in abundance only from the heart of a Spirit-filled believer. I told you last Sunday that the year 2019 is one of the best years of my walk to God. I see the goodness of God and the hand of God in my walk with God. I remember that my mum had cancer of the stomach and God told me to go to her hospital and tell her she will live and not die. And she did not die. I am thankful that God release us from shame and dishonor through the CNA videos. I am thankful that God has taken care of my two daughters and my son in law. I am thankful that Jan is getting along with a good boy. I am thankful that God has preserved this city for the year 2019; no Typhoon or earthquake to bring devastation. I remembered that we were going to celebrate Christmas on 24th December. Then we read about Typhoon Ursula. On December 23 on our morning breakfast table Pastor Lily and I held our hands and we prayed. What we had was just heavy rain for a short period at its worst when other parts of the island was affected. There are so many things I can be thankful for the year 2019. So the nature of a born-again child of God is to be grateful. Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness. No unbeliever will thank God; rather, it is his nature to credit everything to himself. You ask Pastor, ‘Why should we be thankful for? What is the nature of our thanksgiving?

It is grateful acknowledgment of benefits received. We are to acknowledge and thank God, primarily, but we should also thank other human beings, because God generally uses secondary agents to bring blessings to us. I have to thank CNA and Jayson Santos for being agents to bring blessings to us. So Paul writes in Romans 16:3-4: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.” But we are specially to render thanks to God, from whom all blessings flow. All that we are and all that we have comes from him; by ourselves we are nothing and have nothing. The eighth chapter of Deuteronomy expresses this idea. Additionally, all blessings we receive from God are undeserved. As sinners, we deserved only judgment and instant destruction for our infinite sins. But God has given us all spiritual blessings in Christ: “Of his fullness we receive grace upon grace.” I read this morning that YHWH gives us righteousness and salvation. Righteousness and salvation speak of my position and lifestyle in God, physical deliverance from the enemies. Salvation refers primarily to spiritual forgiveness and a right standing before God.

God’s blessings to us are innumerable. Daily, moment by moment, we receive physical and spiritual blessings. I mean I am thankful for good health. I am thankful that I can learn to walk with God and be spiritual. The hymnwriter tells us, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what God has done.” Therefore, we owe to God this expression of gratefulness called thanksgiving. Modern people are exceedingly rights-oriented. They demand that parents take care of them, that the government take care of them, and that everyone else take care of them. Singapore is a blessed country but the people are extremely dissatisfied people. They demand the government take care of their pension fund, their housing, their medical and their old age. They felt it is their right. I think it is wrong. I hope we will keep in mind that we owe everything to our God, from whom all blessings flow, and we are to express our thanks to him both in word and deed.

D. L. Moody was once reading Psalms 103 and came to the verse, ‘Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits’. He stopped short in his inimitable way, ‘You can’t remember them all, of course, but don’t forget them all. Remember some of them.’

2. Thank God for the Material Blessings that He Gives us.

We seem never to be satisfied with what we have—rich or poor, healthy or sick. But what a difference it makes when we realize that everything, we have, has been given to us by God! King David prayed,

“Wealth and honor come from you … We give you thanks, and praise your glorious name … Everything comes from you” (1 Chronicles 29:12-14, NIV).

Some years ago Billy Graham visited a man who was wealthy and successful. He was the envy of all his friends and business associates. But as they talked, he broke down in tears, confessing that he was miserable inside. Wealth had not been able to fill the empty place in his heart. A few hours later Billy Graham visited another man only a short distance away. His cottage was humble, and he had almost nothing in the way of this world’s possessions. And yet his face was radiant as he told me about the work he was doing for Christ and how Christ had filled his life with meaning and purpose. Billy Graham was convinced that the second man was really the rich man. Although he didn’t have much, he had learned to be thankful for everything that God had given him. Paul declared in Phil 4:12, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want”. A spirit of thankfulness makes all the difference.

Are you constantly preoccupied with what you do not have? Or have you learned to thank God for what you do have?

3. Thank God for the People in Your Life

It is so easy to take people for granted, or even to complain and become angry because they do not meet our every wish. But we need to give thanks for those around us—our spouses, our children, our relatives, our friends and others who help us in some way.

A woman writing at a post office desk was approached by a man whose hand was in a cast. ‘Pardon me’ said the man, ‘But could you please address this postcard for me?’ The woman gladly did so, agreeing also to write a short message and sign for him. ‘There’ said the woman smiling, ‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’ Yes’. The man replied. ‘At the end could you put, P.S – Please excuse the handwriting.’

A Pastor once received a letter from a woman who began by telling him how fortunate she was to have a kind, considerate husband. She then used four pages to list all his faults! How many marriages and other relationships grow cold and eventually are shattered because of the sin of ingratitude?

Do you let others know that you appreciate them and are thankful for them? The Christians in Corinth were far from perfect, but Paul began his first letter to them by saying, “I always thank God for you” (1 Corinthians 1:4, NIV). When a group of believers (whom Paul had never met) came out to greet him as he approached Rome, we read that “at the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged” (Acts 28:15, NIV). Thank God for those who touch your life.

4. Thank God in the Midst of Trials and Even Persecution

We draw back from difficulties, yet not one of us is exempt from some kind of trouble. In many parts of the world it is dangerous even to be a Christian because of persecution.

And yet in the midst of those trials we can thank God, because we know that He has promised to be with us and that He will help us. We know that He can use times of suffering to draw us closer to Himself:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3, NIV).

There is a poetry that reads: ‘Never regret a day in life: good days give happiness, bad days give experience, worst day give lessons and best days give memories.

When the prophet Daniel learned that evil men were plotting against him to destroy him, “he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10, NIV). The Bible commands, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV). Paul declared, “You will even be able to thank God in the midst of pain and distress because you are privileged to share the lot of those who are living in the light” (Colossians 1:12, Phillips).

I don’t know what trials you may be facing right now, but God does, and He loves you and is with you by His Holy Spirit. Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness even in the midst of trials and heartaches.
“God has given us the greatest Gift of all—His Son, who died on the cross and rose again so that we can know Him personally and spend eternity with Him in heaven.”

5. Thank God Especially for His Salvation in Jesus Christ

God has given us the greatest Gift of all—His Son, who died on the cross and rose again so that we can know Him personally and spend eternity with Him in heaven: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15, NIV).

The Bible tells us that we are separated from God because we have sinned. But God loves us—He loves you; He loves me—and He wants us to be part of His family forever. He loves us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to die as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. All we need to do is reach out in faith and accept Christ as our Savior and Lord: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).

Have you opened your heart to Jesus Christ? If not, turn to Him with a simple prayer of repentance and faith, and thank Him for what He has done for you. And if you do know Christ, how long has it been since you thanked God for your salvation? We should not let a day go by without thanking God for His mercy and His grace to us in Jesus Christ.

6. Thank God for His Continued Presence and Power in Your Life

When we come to Christ, it is not the end but the beginning of a whole new life! He is with us, and He wants to help us follow Him and His Word.

In ourselves we do not have the strength that we need to live the way God wants us to live. But when we turn to Him, we discover that “it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV). Jesus promised His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18, 20, NIV).

In 1789, George Washington issued this Thanksgiving Proclamation: ‘Whereas 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 implore His protection, aid and favors. Now therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th Day of November next, 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 and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country, and for tall the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.’ It is said that Thanksgiving Day in the United States is the most important and celebrated holiday in the United States. I wonder could this thanksgiving day be the cause of why America is the greatest nation in the whole world?

Yet we must know the origin of this thanksgiving. Almost 150 before that, in November 1621, when the first New England colonists landed near Plymouth, Massachusetts, it was too late to plant any crops. Thus, by the following spring, disease and the long harsh New England winter had killed nearly half of the original settlers. It was after the first good harvest in 1621, that Governor Bradford called for a feast of ‘thanksgiving’. All the members of the colony – some 40 men, women and children – and about 90 Indians dressed in animal skins and gaily colored turkey feathers, joined in the celebration. The Indians brought deer meat, called venison, and wild turkeys. These were cooked on spits turned over open fires. The colonial women made johnny cakes, a cornmeal bread, and the men supplied geese, ducks, and fish. Other foods included lobsters, oysters, clams, roast corn, and maple syrup. Rum and cider were favorite beverages. Long tables were set up outdoors for eating together and the fires burned and the food roasted for three days of celebration. Colonist and Indians alike gave thanks for the good harvest, which mean survival and an easier winter ahead. This was the first thanksgiving. Today America still celebrate thanksgiving after harvest time. Since 1941 it has been observed as a legal national holiday on the fourth Thursday in November.

In many countries a special day is set aside each year for thanksgiving. But for the Christian every day can be a day of thanksgiving, as we are “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV). Today is especially so because it is a thanksgiving service.