Summary: This sermon takes a look at how often we are simply ungrateful for all that God has done for us and reminds us to always give thanks.
Dr. H.A. Ironside was a wonderful preacher who was known at times for being rather blunt. One day in a crowded restaurant, just as he was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited his to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Dr. Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, “Do you have a headache?” “No, I don’t.” “Well, is there something wrong with your food?” “No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat.” The man said, “Oh, you’re one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don’t have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!” Ironside said, “Yes, you’re just like my dog. That’s what he does too!”
Many people find it difficult to return thanks to God for what they have and its usually only when a tragedy comes there way that they tend to become aware of just how blessed they are. On 9/11 our world was changed forever and along with it, a lot of people as well. And for the first time in many years, many people took a look around and realized just how much they had to be thankful for.
Many of you know who Conan O’Brien is. He’s a late night talk show host on NBC and on his first night back on the air after the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings, said: “I don’t exactly know how we’re going to do this [go on with the show]. But we’re going to try to do it…. That’s what a lot of people here feel is the right thing to do—is get back and to try our hardest to move forward and to make sense of our lives at a time when absolutely nothing makes sense.
I don’t talk about these things on the air, but I was raised Catholic. And today I did what I haven’t done since the first show when I went on the air, September 15th . So, I felt like I needed someone, or I needed something to help me. I went across the street to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and I sat for a bit. And I’m glad I did…. Sitting there I felt this is such a beautiful place. And we have to thank God…. We have to thank God for what we still have and what we can still do.”
Why is it that we often don’t realize how much we need God, or how much God has blessed us with until a traumatic event comes along. We see this in a way in our text that was read for you earlier. In the Old Testament, we realize that the nation of Israel was a blessed nation. God had handpicked her, blessed her with a land flowing with milk and honey, provided for her every need, and even allowed her to erect a temple for and bless them with His presence. But eventually they took all this for granted, and in time instead of returning thanks to God for all that He had done, they grumbled against Him and rebelled against His goodness. Eventually God had enough, and He allowed the Babylonians led by King Nebachednezzer who destroyed the Holy city of Jerusalem, the homes, the walls, and most importantly the precious Temple. Those who did not die by the sword were led away into exile where they would wait.
But now in our text, the exile period is ending, and the exiled Jews are returning home to pick up the pieces. The years of captivity is the only reminder of a land once favored by God, and as they once again lay a foundation for the temple some of the older ones who were around for the exile recall just how good they had it, and they begin to realize just how good they had it.
You know, if we are not careful, we can fall into the same cycle of grumbling and stumbling, grumbling and stumbling just as the Israelites did, and it will eat away at our happiness and with our relationship with God. So this morning I want us to look at how we can avoid this trap of grumbling and stumbling by looking at two basic principles that will help to give thanks this holiday week.
The first is this. Realize how blessed you are. Take a look around you and realize just how much God has truly blessed you with. Many times you hear people saying bless me bless me bless me. And God is saying “take a look around. I already have!” You know so often we get so used to being blessed that we fail to even see it. Emerson once said, “If the stars came out only one night a year, we would all go out to see them, yet since they’re out every night, they have few admirers.” We become so accustomed to our blessings that we fail to recognize them.