Summary: An inductive exploration of my experiences of God’s blessings that leads others to reflect on their own reasons for giving thanks to God.
Introduction: This week our nation dedicated a day to expressing gratitude. Families gathered to share laughter and good food. The turkeys were roasted and the pumpkin pies were devoured as we celebrated Thanksgiving Day.
I think Thanksgiving should be a time of reflection – a time of looking back over the last twelve months. It needs to be a time for each person to consider his or her reasons for giving thanks to God. Let me share a few of my own thoughts.
A. I have realized God’s grace and mercy.
An old tale speaks of a man who died and faced the angel Gabriel at heaven’s gates. The angel said, "Here’s how this works. You need a hundred points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you have done, and I will give a certain number of points for each of them. The more good there is in the work that you cite, the more points you will get for it. When you get to a hundred points, you get in."
"Okay," the man said, "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."
Gabriel replied, "That’s wonderful. That’s worth three points."
"Three points?" said the man incredulously. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my money and service."
"Terrific!" said Gabriel, "that’s certainly worth a point."
"One point?" said the man with his eyes beginning to show a bit of panic. "Well, how about this: I opened a shelter for the homeless in my city, and fed needy people by the hundreds during holidays."
"Fantastic, that’s good for two more points," said the angel.
"TWO POINTS!" cried the man in desperation. "At this rate the only way I will get to heaven is by the grace of God."
"Come on in," said Gabriel.
Citation: Bryan Chapell, Holiness By Grace (Crossway Books, 2001), pp. 22-23; used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois 60187, www.crosswaybooks.org © 2001 PreachingToday.com / Christianity Today, International
It’s easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking my good deeds and church work should add up to “one hundred points.” God’s Holy Spirit has been faithful to remind me that no matter how good I may be I am not worthy of Jesus’ death on the Cross. The best I can hope for is becoming more like Jesus in both attitude in action. WHEN I THINK OF GOD’S GRACE AND MERCY I ALMOST SHOUT, “PRAISE THE LORD” FROM THE DEEPEST PART OF WHO I AM.
B. I have received God’s liberation from discouragement and doubt.
“There comes a time when we understand emotionally what we’ve only understood intellectually….” – Dr. James Dobson
This year I faced situations I knew how to handle – at least I had read about them. I have been discouraged and disappointed before in my life. God helped me experience his deliverance then and he came through again this year. There were some days when I wondered what I was doing and why I was here, but God set me free to enjoy a new sense of purpose and confidence in him. There were days when I felt powerless against habits in my life, only to have God step in to show me the way to break out of them. WHEN I THINK OF GOD’S POWER TO SET ME FREE I WANT TO SING, “PRAISE THE LORD, OH MY SOUL!”
C. I have recognized God’s provision for my needs.
There is a freedom that comes from knowing that God is my Provider. He is the One who will supply all that I need. WHEN I TAKE INTO ACCOUNT GOD’S GENEROSITY AND FAITHFUL PROVISION I FEEL LIKE CALLING OUT, “PRAISE THE LORD, OH MY SOUL!”
D. I have remembered how much I need God’s protection.
Life is a miraculous balancing act. Too much of this or too little of that can lead to sickness and even death. Millions die every day because of illness, accident, starvation and violence. The Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day knew how fragile our lives could be. Nearly half of the original 100 settlers had died of starvation or disease in less than a year.
September 11th was an unwelcome reminder of how uncertain our future really is. There are no guarantees that any of us will live to see the sunrise tomorrow but God has protected me, my family and most of my friends. He has brought us through another year. WHEN I REMEMBER GOD’S CONSTANT PROTECTION I WANT TO PROCLAIM, “PRAISE THE LORD” FROM THE DEEPEST PART OF WHO I AM.
E. I have rejoiced over God’s work in our world and our church.
There have been days filled with heartache this year. Hearing that my mother has cancer was certainly one. Conducting the funeral for John Moseley was another. But I’ve been reminded that pain and grieve often provide God with great opportunities to work.