A Time for Thanksgiving

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  November 19, 2017

Read 2 Corinthians 9:10 - 15
 
I am not sure quite how it happened, but I blinked and suddenly it was TIME FOR THANKSGIVING.  Although, I am fully aware that Thanksgiving always falls on the fourth Thursday of November, I am just not certain how it got here so quickly. 
 
But it got me to thinking, why do we wait for that one Thursday in November to celebrate Thanksgiving?  Shouldn’t every day be A TIME FOR THANKSGIVING?
 
There is actually a song that the Gospel Music Workshop of America sings called “Every Day Is a Day of Thanksgiving.”  The lyrics to the chorus simply say:
 
Every day is a day of thanksgiving.
God’s been so good to me, everyday He’s blessing me.
Every day is a day of thanksgiving;
take the time to glorify the Lord today.
 
Because in spite of what we have seen happening around the world and across the country recently, there should still be something that we can find to be thankful for each day.  Something that gives us a reason to stop and glorify the Lord.
 
I have heard it said that we ought to have an attitude of gratitude, each and every day. 
 
It’s like the story told about a Scottish minister, named Alexander Whyte, who was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something for which to be grateful.
 
One Sunday morning the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to himself, “Certainly the preacher won’t think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a wretched day like this.” (Obviously, he must have been in Cleveland.)  Much to the man’s surprise, however, Whyte began by simply praying, “We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this.”   (Daily Bread, August 26, 1989)
 
Even in the midst of the most challenging storms of life, we can still find something to be grateful for.
 
Now our text for the morning, was written by the Apostle Paul, a man who was known for his spirit of thankfulness toward God as well as the faithful men and women in the churches he visited and helped to found.
 
Throughout the letters he wrote to the churches in Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica and even this letter to the church at Corinth, Paul was never hesitant about expressing his gratitude for the people and the work that they were doing in the name of Jesus.
 
But, as we look at this text, beyond merely expressing appreciation for what the Corinthians had been doing, Paul offered them a word of encouragement that they should always have an attitude of gratitude and that their gratefulness should manifest itself in living lives of generosity towards others. 
 
Just listen to the text as it comes from the Message Paraphrase:
 
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.  12-15 Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they’ll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!
 
Now I must tell you, this passage made me think of all of you and the many ways in which you continually show your gratitude for what God is doing in each of your lives by being generous in meeting the needs of others.
 
From the ongoing food collection that the Youth Ministry is spearheading, to the special collections for the hurricane and earthquake relief efforts, to a family in need of assistance for auto repairs and food to eat, even to the beautiful set of brand new tires on my car -- you continue to go above and beyond in your generosity to meet the needs of others.
 
I think it is fair to say that if Paul were here today, he would agree.  And he would certainly encourage you to keep being grateful and generous because you do it so well.
 
So how do we continue to cultivate this attitude of gratitude, not just at Thanksgiving time but all the time?
 
Well as we look at this text, we are encouraged first and foremost to recognize that God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.
 
The blessings that the Lord bestows upon us are not for us to hoard and keep tucked away under lock and key.  The gifts and talents He gives to us are meant to be shared.
 
It’s like the Parable of the Talents in the Gospel of Matthew (25:14 – 30).  When the man went away on a journey, he gave three of his servants charge over his wealth.  To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags and to the third one bag. 
 
As the scriptures tell us, the servant who was entrusted with the five bags and the one entrusted with the two bags both invested wisely and upon the man’s return, they gave him back double what had been left with them.  The third servant; however, hid the one bag of gold that he had been given in the ground.
 
The first two servants received words of praise and encouragement from the man, while the third servant had a severe punishment meted out to him for failing to do even the bare bones minimum to ensure the man would receive some sort of return on his investment.
 
And when God gives gifts to us, there is an expectation that we will in turn invest those gifts into the lives of others. 
 
Like the members of Grateful Praise who God has given the gift of song; like Alissa who God has blessed to play such beautiful music; like Ellie who God has gifted to create magnificent works of art; like Erin who God has bestowed with tremendous dramatic talent; and like Karen who God has endowed with the greenest thumbs known to humankind; all of whom share their gifts freely with others for the glory of God.
 
And so, we must remember that God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.
 
Now let me suggest, that when we are intentional in finding ways to be a blessing to others, it helps us put our own problems into perspective. 
 
When we step outside of ourselves and forego our private pity parties in order to show compassion and kindness to someone else, amazingly our spirits are often lifted.
 
Let’s take a quick look back one chapter in 2 Corinthians to chapter 8 (1-4), where we read:

Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.
 
In the midst of what Paul describes as fierce troubles, the Macedonians responded with an outpouring of pure and generous gifts -- and they were happy about it.  They found joy in helping others despite honestly being in need themselves.
 
So not only have we been blessed to be a blessing, when we do so it helps us to put our own problems into perspective.
 
And there is one other point I want to raise as we think about this being A TIME FOR THANKSGIVING. 
 
And that is simply that we should always have an attitude of gratitude, because no matter how bleak our circumstances may seem to be right now, there is almost certainly someone else who is worse off than we are.
 
In fact, I came across this poem that I want to share, if that’s okay with you. 
 
It’s called, Forgive Me When I Whine:

Today upon a bus, I saw a lovely maid with golden hair;
I envied her -- she seemed so gay, and how, I wished I were so fair;
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle;
she had one foot and wore a crutch, but as she passed, a smile.
Oh God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two feet -- the world is mine.
 
And when I stopped to buy some sweets, the lad who served me had such charm;
he seemed to radiate good cheer, his manner was so kind and warm;
I said, “It’s nice to deal with you, such courtesy I seldom find”;
he turned and said, “Oh, thank you sir.” And then I saw that he was blind. Oh, God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two eyes; the world is mine.
 
Then, when walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue;
he stood and watched the others play, it seemed he knew not what to do;
I stopped a moment, then I said, “Why don’t you join the others, dear?”
He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew he could not hear.
Oh God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two ears; the world is mine.
 
With feet to take me where I’d go;
with eyes to see the sunsets glow,
with ears to hear what I would know.
I am blessed indeed.
The world is mine;
oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
   --  Source Unknown.
 
Now let me first say, I know that none of you here would ever be accused of whining.  Oh okay, if we’re being honest, I have been known to indulge in a little whining every now and then.
 
But when I feel myself slipping into that “woe is me” mode, I am reminded of all the tremendous ways in which God has blessed me, not just once or twice, but over and over again.
 
And I can’t help but say, “I’m sorry, Lord, I got a little off track…” 
 
And then the most amazing thing happens.  There is this burst of joy and gratitude that washes over me, quite often resulting in spontaneous bursts of laughter and even a few tears of happiness.
 
It’s what happens when we stop and think about the goodness of God; realizing that He doesn’t have to love us; and He certainly doesn’t have to bless us; and He most definitely didn’t have to give us His Son to be our Savior -- but I am SO grateful that He did!
 
Perhaps that is why at the end of our text for this morning, the Apostle Paul said, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
 
After all, how can anyone adequately describe the greatest ever given?
 
So, let me ask…  Are you grateful for the many blessings that God continues to bestow upon us; for the unconditional love He pours out to us; for the precious gift of a Savior He has given to us -- a truly indescribable gift?
 
If so, then this really is A TIME FOR THANKSGIVING!
 
So, won’t you stand now and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship: Now Thank We All Our God #715.

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