Summary: What does Thanksgiving mean to you?
November 22, 2009
Text: Philippians 4:4-7
Title: Thanksgiving – Really? Three Reasons to Give Thanks
The holiday season is right around the corner. Time to begin preparing for the New Year’s diet. On Thursday we will celebrate Thanksgiving – a day set aside to remember all the good things you have and enjoy family and eat like a pig. Thanksgiving is like the kick-off for six weeks of extravagance that will conclude for many with New Year’s Eve and is immediately followed by a time of remorse and repentance and then the diet. I’m being a little facetious now. We all know what Thanksgiving is really all about – Don’t we? Yes it is a holiday we celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November every year. It is marked by turkey dinners and family and football. It is a time when we give thanks.
That is where I want to get to this morning. What does it really mean to give thanks? If you look in Webster’s Dictionary the word “give” means, “to offer as a present; to hand over; to put in someone’s hands.” “Thanks” means, “gratitude, or and expression of gratitude.” So “give thanks” means to offer gratitude.
I looked up in Strong’s concordance the phrase “give thanks” and the word “thanksgiving”. They occur a total of forty-six times in the Old Testament and fifteen times in the New Testament. In the OT it means, “to hold out the hands or to worship with hands extended.” In the NT it has more of the English meaning. It means, “to be grateful or to express gratitude – to God”
So when we celebrate “Thanksgiving Day” on Thursday we do so with a much bigger picture in mind.
Turn your bibles to Philippians 4:4-7.
We want to look at three reasons to give thanks.
Lord, open my eyes to see and my ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
I. GOD IS NEAR. 4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Paul’s admonishment for rejoicing here is based not on our emotions. He doesn’t say we are to be happy all the time, although we can be most of the time. We can make a choice to either be happy and smile, or to display some other negative characteristic. So how do we do that? How can we rejoice in the face of adverse circumstances? How can we be joyful even though the secular world is doing everything it can to tear down what we believe? How can we remain positive even when there are conflicts, whether power struggles or personality conflicts, within the church? How do we rejoice in the face of persecution? James 1:2-4 helps us to see the answer a little more clearly. 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Testing develops perseverance. Every one of us will go through struggles in the world. Jesus even said that we would experience tribulation – not the Great Tribulation – but tribulation or persecution in general. But being in the will of God brings us the greatest joy of all – so rejoice in the Lord… Now, in light of all the adversity that you face in your life Paul says, 5Let your gentleness be evident to all… The word that is translated “gentleness” is a difficult word in the original Greek. It has been translated as words like “gentle, yielding, kind, forbearing and lenient” but no single word do it justice. The Amplified Bible says it this way, “Let all men know and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness), your forbearing spirit… It is much easier to show consideration and gentleness to some than it is to others. But here, Paul indicates that that same spirit is to be shown to all and not to those of your choosing. That would include Christian friends, unbelieving detractors, false teachers. Everyone! OK, so far we have been told to “rejoice” and “show gentleness”. Now we get to the “Why?”. …The Lord is near. This is not a reference to the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the church or individuals. It is referring to His imminent return. Revelation 3 gives us a great reason to give thanks. Jesus told the church in Philadelphia, 10Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. That is for the faithful church- the church that has kept His commands. That includes “rejoicing” and “gentleness”. In Galatians 5:22-23 we see the fruit of the Spirit that is intended to flow from all believers. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy (rejoicing), peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. What flows out of us is an indication of what is inside of us. So give thanks for the Lord is near…