Summary: Thanksgiving sermon, asking the question, "How can I be thankful when life is so hard?"
How Can I Say Thanks?
Andrae Crouch wrote one of the most beautiful songs on thankfulness that I think I have ever heard. In it, he asks, “How can I say thanks for the things you’ve done for me? Things so undeserved, yet you gave to prove your love for me. The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude. All that I am and ever hope to be—I owe it all to thee.”
This week, once again, our nation will observe the Thanksgiving holiday. For many, it will mean a day of football and food. For many, the blessings of life are so abundant, like Crouch, they will not know where to begin thanking the Lord. When they ask, perhaps when you ask, “How can I say thanks?” it will be a question of giving adequate praise to a super-abundant God.
Yet, there are others, some perhaps among us this evening, who will ask the same question with a different meaning. “How can I say thanks?” will not be for them a question of adequate praise. Instead, with lives filled with pain and sorrow, they will wonder what they have to be thankful for. They see the joy and thankfulness around them and wonder why their lives are in pain? Why must they be the ones whose families are falling apart? Why must they be the ones who face debilitating disease? Why has God apparently turned his back on them?
I don’t pretend to have an answer to all of the pain and suffering in this world. I will not offer a pat answer to those who are hurting. They deserve more than a slap on the back and a “It’ll all work out okay.” This evening, I take seriously the question that someone, perhaps you, would ask, “How can I say thanks?” Let us look to the word of God to find an answer.
I. Sometimes in life, we do find thankfulness to be easy.
A. Praise is not very difficult in times of prosperity.
1. When we have an abundance of “things” thankfulness seems to come naturally.
2. When God “blesses” we rejoice with sincerely grateful hearts.
3. This Thursday, many of us will find plenty for which to be thankful.
B. Yet, even though thankfulness should be easy for some, it will still be forgotten.
1. The truth is, prosperity and good fortune can breed complacency.
2. On an autumn night in 1860, a stream boat broke up and sank in Lake Michigan one mile from the village of Winnetka, Illinois. There were 393 passengers about the Lady Elgin. Two hundred and seventy-nine drowned. Of the 114 survivors, seventeen were saved by Edward Spencer, a student at Northwestern University. Spencer, who longed to be a minister, was a strong swimmer. After seventeen round trips, he became delirious from the strain. As a result of that night, Spencer was never able to become a minister. Instead, he became sick and was confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life. Some years later, on Spencer’s birthday, a reporter asked him what was his most vivid memory of that night. Edward Spencer answered, “I remember that not one of the seventeen returned to thank me.” (Proclaim, Oct.-Dec., 1978, 30).
C. May none of us be like the seventeen—let us commit to being grateful children of the Father!
II. Faith is expressed when thankfulness comes hard.
A. The prophet Habakkuk had hope that God would deliver the people of Israel.
1. Looking to the past, Habakkuk saw the hand of God upon his people.
2. Hoping for the future, he trusted that God would once again make himself known upon the children of Abraham.
3. But, in the mean time, Habakkuk expressed faith in the face of adversity.
a. He noted the possibility of crop failure.
b. He understood that livestock might perish.
c. He knew that death might take its toll on many people.
d. Still, he would hope in the God who could deliver—in spite of everything wrong!
B. What did Habakkuk know that we do not seem certain of?
1. GOD WILL NOT ABANDON HIS PEOPLE!
2. If we could truly understand this one fact, gratitude would prevail in our lives.
3. We could find ourselves truly filled with a sense of joy and fulfillment.
C. Yet, let us not deceive ourselves: rejoicing in the midst of struggles will not be the easiest thing to do.
1. For some, the circumstances in life seem too horrible, too wrong to find anything to be thankful for—and I do not wish to diminish that pain.
a. A young mother who has just been abandoned by her husband will be hurting this Thursday.
b. The gentleman who buries his wife of fifty years will not feel like rejoicing.