Summary: A topical Thanksgiving sermon utilizing a few great illustrations found here on Sermon Central along with thoughts of my own.
"In All Things Be Thankful"
Back during the dark days of 1929 (The Great Depression), a group of ministers in the Northeast, all graduates of the Boston School of Theology, gathered to discuss how they should conduct their Thanksgiving Sunday services.
Things during that time were about as bad as they could get, with no sign of relief...as some of us here can testify too.
The bread lines were depressingly long, the stock market had plummeted, and the term Great Depression seemed an apt description for the mood of the country.
The local ministers thought they should only lightly touch upon the subject Thanksgiving in deference to the human misery all about them.
After all, there was not much for them to be thankful for.
But it was Dr. William L. Stiger, the pastor of a large congregation in the city that rallied the group.
He said, “This was not the time to give mere passing mention to Thanksgiving, but just the opposite. This was the time for the nation to get matters in perspective and thank God for blessings always present, but perhaps suppressed due to intense hardship.”
I believe that these ministers struck upon something important for us that we should never forget.
The most intense moments of thankfulness are not found in times of plenty, but when difficulties abound.
Think of the Pilgrims that first Thanksgiving.
Half their number dead, men without a country, but still there was thanksgiving to God.
Their gratitude was not for something but in something.
It was that same sense of gratitude that lead Abraham Lincoln to formally establish the first Thanksgiving Day in the midst of national civil war, when the list of casualties seemed to have no end and the very nation struggled for survival.
Perhaps in your own life, right now, you are experiencing some intense hardship.
Maybe you are experiencing your own personal Great Depression. And for that reason you ask…Why should I be thankful this day?
I think we would only have to look as far as Scripture to answer that question.
And let’s do that this morning by looking at what the Apostle Paul had to say in his letter to the church in Ephesus.
Read Eph 5:20 and pray.
Background: Like the book of Philippians that we just studied, the Apostle Paul wrote this pastoral letter to the Ephesian church while in a Roman prison…probably around 60-62 AD.
As you recall he was under constant guard, a member of Ceaser’s own guard was chained to him 24/7; and his crime was…well, nothing.
Under the Roman laws you can be arrested without charges and kept until charges we either found or created; and if you died before charges came up…oh well.
So, the Apostle Paul had every reason to argue, fight, fuss and complain…based on human standards, but didn’t.
In fact he did just the opposite as we see in Eph. 5:20 (read again).
Even in the worst of times the Apostle Paul believed there was a reason to thank God and he wanted the Ephesian Christians and the Lewisville, AR Christians to see that also.
So the question we ask is, why should we be thankful no matter what the circumstances?
May I suggest three things you can avoid when you choose to be thankful this morning?
First of all you can...
1. Avoid Bitterness
We must learn to be thankful or we become bitter.
It is real easy for us to become bitter.
In fact for some people, bitterness is a way of life.
You know them; when it comes to church the building is the too hot or too cold (and on good days both at the same time), the music is too loud, the preacher is to long, and his wife is wearing the wrong kind of outfit…and this is what they say when they pull into the parking lot before even going in!
Some people spend so much time being bitter that you would think they were training for an Olympic event in that area…it’s a 24/7 thing to them.
These are the people that will look at a rainbow and complain about the rain and humidity.
Or they will look at a newborn baby and say, “I’m glad I don’t have to change those diapers…or deal with the sleepless nights…or spend the money raising them…etc.
Bitterness is dangerous.
Do you realize that?
The reason bitterness is so dangerous is because it is deadly.
It kills joy, not only in the person who is bitter…but in anyone else.
It’s like the kid who brings home their last report card in Middle School excited about a great last quarter and his or her parents looking at it and saying, “Hmmph…I hope you can handle high school algebra, and don’t look to me for help.”