Summary: A Thanksgiving Message
The Thanksgiving Secret
Grandma was babysitting her three-year-old grandson, Sean, for the first time. At the supper table she instructed, "Let’s thank God for our food." Being a typical toddler, Sean said, "No! I don’t want to!" She remained calm. "Well, at Grandma’s house, thank God for the food before we eat." "You can’t make me," protested Sean. Still calm and patient, grandma says, "If we don’t pray, we don’t eat." "Well," the youngster replied, "I would say it if you had made mashed potatoes."
Many of us are not too different from Sean. We’re not always thankful for what life puts on our plate. It’s not that we want to be ungrateful; it’s just we honestly don’t see much to be thankful for. We might be more thankful if God put mashed potatoes on our plate---if He had given us more money for bills and for all the Christmas presents we’ve got to buy. We might be more grateful if we weren’t so lonely, if we didn’t have quite so many worries or fears or problems, if life just wasn’t so hard and heavy. As Sean might put it, “How can you be thankful when your plate is stacked up with such yucky stuff?”
This morning I want to share a secret with you—the secret of Thanksgiving-a secret that can be summed up in one simple word: contentment. Wherever you find contentment, you will find gratitude—wherever you find discontent, you will always find grumbling, complaining, ingratitude. Thanksgiving and contentment are virtually inseparable. This morning I want to show you how you can be content and thankful even when life is hard, even if you don’t feel very thankful. The secret is found in the Bible in Phil. 4:11-13 and our the man who will share this thanksgiving secret is the apostle Paul.
Come with me to a house somewhere among the winding streets of ancient Rome, where Paul is being held under house arrest, awaiting trial for being a troublemaker. Outside the door stands the Roman soldier, guarding the house, but chances are he would let you in without any trouble for a visit. Inside you can hear a voice speaking and the scratch of a quill busily putting ink to paper. Paul is dictating a letter to the church at Philippi. If you listen early on you will hear brief snatches of his dictation:
Philippians 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Philippians 2:14 Do all things without complaining and disputing,
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Here is a man who is thankful. He is thankful, no matter if he lives or dies.. He has a joy that even trouble or trial cannot shake. He has found the secret of thanksgiving---contentment. How can he be this way? He begins to explain in vs. 11 that you have to
I. LEARN TO BE CONTENT (v. 11)
A monk joined a monastery and took a vow of silence. After the first 10 years of absolutely no speaking at all, his superior called him in and asked, “Do you have anything to say?” The monk replied, “Food bad.” After another 10 years of perfect silence the monk again had opportunity to voice his thoughts. He said, “Bed hard.” Another 10 years went by and again he was called in before his superior. When asked if he had anything to say, he responded, “I quit.” The older monk replied, “That doesn’t surprise me a bit. You’ve done nothing but gripe and complain ever since you got here.”
Have you noticed how easy it is to be discontent? It almost seems natural to grumble. Stand around the water cooler at work and see people gather to voice protests over how the company is run. Get a group of students together and see how long it takes to start complaining about the math teacher, or the basketball coach. Human nature gravitates toward griping.
But Paul says I have learned to be content. Contentment didn’t come natural to Paul; he had to learn the secret of thanksgiving—he had to learn to be content. He had once been on top of the world as a Roman citizen and Jewish Rabbi and Pharisee. He was probably well-educated and fairly well off financially. But when he met Jesus on the Damascus road, his life changed forever. He would lose his prestige and power, and would end up living with persecution and death threats. It took effort, it took experience, it took listening and thinking and everything else for Paul to learn to be content. Contentment is learned behavior. You have to learn to be content if you want to truly live a life of thanksgiving.