Summary: As we count the blessings our Lord has given us we are moved to thank him every single day.
O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good His mercy endures forever! How many times have you uttered those words? If you’re like me you find yourself speaking those phrases right around mealtime. Unfortunately there are times that I’ve caught myself ripping through those words, not thinking about what I’m saying – but thinking about what I’ll soon be eating. I’m embarrassed to say that those words have at times become somewhat routine. It’s almost like I treat them as some sort of ritual incantation that I must recite before I eat. I suppose there have even been times that I’ve treated those words like they are my verbal sacrifice offered to God just to keep him happy so that he won’t cut me off from his supply line.
If those words should ever cease to become an expression of my heart and only a mechanical moving of my lips I would be better off not to have said them at all. Should I ever think that God can be manipulated by saying just the right words or that he is like a puppy dog who is satisfied with a few words of attention and appreciation from time to time – if that would ever be the case then it would be apparent that I really don’t know the true God at all and my spiritual-self confidence would actually be securing my eternal demise.
That would be unfortunate. Why? Because such outward actions reflect the inner attitude of a heart that isn’t truly thankful at all. Listen to the Lord’s own evaluation of such a situation as he speaks through the prophet Isaiah: “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men’” (Isaiah 29:13).
Now listen again to the words of the Apostle Paul in the text for this morning: “ Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7). Can you sense the difference? Did you feel the intensity of what Paul says in the way he says it? Paul’s thankfulness does not consist in words that he regurgitates on command! These are words that come gushing up from his heart and overflowing off of his lips. With these words Paul expresses true thanksgiving!
So that our worship and thankfulness at this time of national thanksgiving will truly honor and glorify our God we pause this morning to meditate upon the words of God expressed by the Apostle Paul first to the people of Christ’s Church at Philippi and now today to the people of Christ’s Church in Irmo. With a joy-filled heart the Apostle urges all Christians: Give Thanks to the Lord Always! Give him thanks always 1) because he gives us every reason to thank him. Give him thanks always 2) because he gives us endless opportunities to thank him.
I was watching the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special on Friday evening. As Thanksgiving approached Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, lamented how little she had to be thankful for this year because as a student all that the Thanksgiving holiday meant for her was extra homework. I’m guessing that Sally isn’t alone. After all this holiday may mean more work to prepare a special meal, or additional travel to a tense family gathering that may end up in an argument, or accidentally gaining a few extra pounds that will have to be worked off after the holiday is over. Or maybe this holiday is one that brings sadness because we’re not able to be together with our family, or we feel like we don’t have all that much for which to be thankful this year. As a result when all is said and done maybe Thanksgiving is a holiday that we would rather forget.
What a contrast the Apostle Paul presents to us! As he enumerates the reasons we have to give thanks not once does he talk about a special meal, or a family gathering, or a bank account balance. Paul exhorts us to give thanks to the Lord always because he is near. Though nearly 2000 years have passed since Paul first penned these words we, like the Philippian Christians, we watch with eagerness, anticipating that our Lord could return visibly to take us to be with himself any day now. For as the psalmist writes, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). Even if our Lord should allow this world to continue we are thankful to know that any one of us may meet him face to face at any moment should he call us through death from this world of tears to live in his glorious presence. Even if our Lord should prolong our days upon this earth we give thanks because even though we may not be able to see him with our eyes we know that he is near us throughout our lives just as he promised his disciples before he ascended into heaven, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b).