Summary: The day we celebrate "Thanksgiving" is significant but not nearly as significant as learning to live a thankful life. This "Thanksgiving" sermon teaches us to look at three aspects of life and "be thankful."
A LIFE-CHANGING APPROACH TO “THANKSGIVING”
Are you one of those people who get stumped when the group leader asks everyone to share what they are thankful for? There are always the obvious things to be thankful for – food, a warm home, family. But you don’t want to sound simple-minded so you continue to ponder. I am one of those people.
While we are combing our brains looking for the outstanding item to be thankful for some of us tend to overlook the everyday goodness we experience. If we take it for granted we can slip into the attitude of ingratitude, thinking “nothing good ever happens.”
With the attitude of ingratitude comes a slippery slope that can lead to depression. A counselor recently told me that if an individual kept a journal and wrote down five things you are thankful for at the end of each day you can effectively defeat negative thinking and possibly depression. It seemed too simple. “Isn’t depression a chemical problem?” I asked this counselor. Does depression bring on negative thoughts or do negative thoughts bring on depression? You know what she told me? Yes! It is a combination of the two. But psychologists believe that developing a positive outlook on life and learning to be thankful for who you are and what you have can improve your mental health.
Is that enough?
An atheist walked out her door one day and observed how beautiful the world looked to her. Filled with incredible joy over her world she exclaimed, “Thank you!” Her friend was startled and wisely replied, “Who are you thanking?”
It is not enough to be thankful. We need to thank the Author of all good things. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, we need to be conscious of our Heavenly Father who blesses us every day. Thanksgiving is not a one-day-a year event when you are a follower of Jesus. It is a daily approach to life. Allow me to show you this life-changing approach as the Apostle Paul explains it.
1. Develop your relationships with Peace
Paul was describing the new life in Christ to the Colossians in this letter and slipped in this new worldview. Believing in Jesus involves change and reformation of the way we think. He wrote, “…since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Col 3:9), indicating that the mind of the renewed person thinks of God.
What does he or she think? How does that work itself out in the life of the believer?
This is where Paul calls us to change our approach to life and its circumstances. It begins with relationships. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (3:15).
The word “rule” may conjure up thoughts of kings or officials. Interestingly it has more to do with “acting as an umpire.” If you like baseball you know that the man in the black suit who stands behind the catcher rules on plays and decides whether it is a strike, a ball or if the player is safe. There is no changing his mind no matter what happens. People may curse him and kick dirt at him, fans may throw bottles at him, and yet he remains unmoved.
This is what Paul is commanding us to do in our relationships. Let the calmness of Christ rule your thoughts and actions. Think of how Jesus interacted with people in the Gospels. He was in control of himself, totally poised, didn’t get upset by others and remained calm when everyone else panicked.
Peace has at least three aspects to it. There can be inner peace such as that which God gives to believers about their relationship with him. There is peace between brothers and sisters in the Lord. And then there is social peace which Christians are to bring to the world. Here Paul is asking for peace that rules relationships in the Church. With the inner peace God gives we can be at peace with our own selves. That peace ought to translate naturally into a Body peace. Yet Paul still has to command that we consciously work at Body peace, Church peace, peace between Christians.
Oddly, Paul adds, “And be thankful.” Maybe not so oddly. An amazing thing happens when you think of the things you are thankful for concerning the person you least like. That person you can’t get along with in church, or have a grudge against, or haven’t spoken to for whatever reason, think of them now. Take the counselor’s advice and think of five things that you are thankful for concerning them. It doesn’t have to be about you and them. Just think of five things that are positive and thank God for those things.