Let's Faith It #4
“O give thanks to the Lord for God is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever.” A lot of people don’t think they have much for which to be thankful. Their lives seem drab and dull. For some this season of Hope, which begins with Thanksgiving and culminates in Christmas, doesn’t bring hope. Instead it just seems to make things worse. The lights and sights; the sounds and smells make their lives seem even more empty and devoid of hope.
I think the antidote is Giving Thanks. And I believe that we can ALL be thankful for something, just as that video showed. Every single one of us has over a hundred things for which we can be thankful. When we are Thankful; we Show Our Faith.
One of the great Thanksgiving Psalms is Psalm 118:1-29 (NRSV)
 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
 Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
 Let those who fear the LORD say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.
 With the LORD on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?
 The LORD is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in mortals.
 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.
 All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
 They surrounded me like bees; they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me.
 The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly;
 the right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”
 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.
 The LORD has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.
 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.
 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!
 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD.
 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.
 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Thanksgiving was nearing when a little boy came home from kindergarten eager to tell what he’d learned about the Pilgrims. He explained, “They sailed across the ocean to find freedom in America. And their boat was called the ‘Cauliflower’.” (1)
Here it is, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we’ve all gotten stuffed like the turkey. We’ve spent time with our families and we’re either glad they’re finally gone or wish they could have stayed longer. But did we take time to Give Thanks.
Originally Thanksgiving was set aside to thank God for all the blessings of life. Although the holiday is relatively new and was created by our government; from the Christian perspective, giving thanks has always been a very sacred event as the Psalm shows. It begins and ends with giving thanks to God through praise and remembrance for all that God has done.
I. ALL FROM GOD:
The underlying belief, the foundation upon which this praise and Thanksgiving is lifted to God, is the Biblical assertion that we talked about last week; We Are Not Our Own. Everything that was, is and ever shall be comes from God. “Every good gift comes from the Father of lights” as James reminds us. God is the beginning and the end. God is the source of all of life, the source of every blessing and every aspect of life. The very breath we breathe is a free gift of God.
I had to buy a new monitor for my home computer recently. When I was setting it up I had to choose a background wallpaper. While looking through some of my photos I ran across photographs from the Hubble Telescope. I’d forgotten how beautiful they are. They show the true splendor of God’s creation. These nebulae, clusters, and galaxies are a gazillion miles away yet they allow us to see God’s ongoing creation on a massive level. And then they remind us that we started like that, a tiny dot on the edge of a star cluster in a universe filled with millions of star clusters.
The thing that amazes and humbles me isn’t the sense of our insignificance; but just the opposite. God, the Creator of this vast universe, loves and cares for each of us individually, as if God had nothing else to do. And even more than that, it amazes me that when we turned our back on God, God never turned God’s back on us. Instead, God sent His only Son to save us and to guide and bring us back. We are not our own. We have been given the gift of life but we belong to God.
II. GIVING THANKS:
A. Our response to God’s gift of life and everything else should be gratitude. How do you feel when you receive a gift? You feel grateful or thankful, especially if it’s something you’ve always wanted or one of those gifts that the giver gave a lot of thought to buying or making. It’s special because it came from that person. Every time we see it, it reminds us of that person’s love, friendship or thoughtfulness. And we give thanks not so much for the gift as for the giver..
Giving Thanks and remembering that it all belongs to God and that God entrusts it to our care, reminds us that we are NOT the center of the universe or the center of creation. The world doesn’t revolve around us. And all things don’t exist simply to please us.
In the Church we thank God for the overwhelming blessings of life through Showing Our Faith. Our lifestyle becomes one big “Thank You,” to God. When we Show Our Faith, through giving thanks, we become a living expression of our gratitude to God for God’s grace and God’s goodness.
B. We need to give thanks and to develop a thankful spirit because thankfulness is the opposite of selfishness. The selfish person says, “’I deserve’ what comes to me! Other people ‘ought’ to make me happy.” The mature Christian realizes that life is a gift from God, and that the blessings of life come only from God’s generous and bountiful hand. We’re never too old or too young to learn that.
We need to develop an attitude of gratitude and help our children develop the same attitude of gratitude, especially as it relates to giving thanks to God.
A family with three children I know took this idea very seriously. So much so, that there three year old little boy didn’t want to be left out. At their Thanksgiving meal, Dad prayed but then the two older children wanted to say their own Thanksgiving prayer. When they were finished the three year old said he wanted to pray, too. So, Mom and Dad agreed thinking, “What can a three year old know about prayer.” Well, you decide. This is the prayer he offered. “Dear God, Thank for the lady who gave me chocolate. Thank you for candy. Thank you for ice cream. And thank you for Bandaids. Amen.”
For a first prayer, that’s pretty incredible and incredibly thankful. We are called to have that same attitude of Thanks Giving. That Gratitude Attitude is one of the ways we Show Our Faith. When we Show Our Faith through Giving Thanks we become what Paul referred to in Romans 12:1, “A living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”
III. THANKFUL GIVING:
A. When we Show Our Faith, through Giving Thanks, this gratitude attitude results in Thankful Giving. Our giving becomes an act of faith, an act of love and an act of thankfulness and sometimes an act of sacrifice. We give in direct response to God’s love for us. As a result, Thankful Giving is glad, generous and is given freely and abundantly. Generous, glad giving grows and lasts. Giving and tithing are not just ways to thank God for the blessings of life. They are ways to trust God’s love and care. They are actions, tools, outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace that has touched and filled our lives.
B. ABC broadcast a show for a while called The Secret Millionaire. It was a reality TV show, in which a millionaire left his/her luxurious life behind, took on a secret identity and lived undercover in a deprived area of the country for 6 days. Members of the community were told that the cameras were there to film a documentary.
The Millionaires lived on a limited budget with no modern conveniences and had to forge their own way in the community. Working and volunteering alongside the locals, one of their tasks was to find individuals or projects which they thought deserved a cut of their fortune. They each were asked to donate a minimum of $100,000 and usually wound up giving more. On their final day, the millionaires revealed their true identity to the people they had chosen, surprising them with gifts of thousands of dollars to improve their lives.
On March 27, 2011, the groundbreaking Microgiving.com website founder John Ferber was the Secret Millionaire. Ferber accompanied a Social Worker, Amin, and Showed His Faith as he helped distribute necessary items to the homeless on skid row. WATCH
Amin’s giving was an act of faith, an act of love, an act of thankfulness and most definitely an act of sacrifice. Out of an attitude of gratitude, Amin and John Ferber were able to Give Thankfully and make a difference in their community and in the world. While Ferber is still a very successful businessman, he continues to Show His Faith while spending much of his time devoted to philanthropy, all, in part, because of those six days.
Our Challenge is to Show Our Faith through that same sort of giving. We’re challenged to Give Thankfully so our giving becomes an act of faith, an act of love, an act of thankfulness and even a conscious act of sacrifice.
In A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Rev. John R. Ramsey tells how in one church a certain person provided him with a rose boutonniere for the lapel of his suit every Sunday. At first he really appreciated it but then it sort of became routine. Then one Sunday it became very special.
As he was leaving the Sunday Service a young boy walked up to him and said, “Sir, what are you going to do with your flower?” At first the preacher didn’t know what the boy was talking about. When it sank in, he pointed to the rose on his lapel and asked the boy, “Do you mean this?”
The boy said, “Yes, sir. If you’re just going to throw it away, I would like it.”
The preacher smiled and told him he could have the flower and then casually asked what he was going to do with it. The boy, who was probably no more than 10 years old, looked up at the preacher and said, “Sir, I’m going to give it to my granny. My mother and father divorced last year. I was living with my mother, but she married again, and wanted me to live with my father. I lived with him for a while, but he said I couldn’t stay, so he sent me to live with my grandmother. She is so good to me. She cooks for me and takes care of me. She has been so good to me that I wanted to give her that pretty flower for loving me.”
When the little boy finished, the preacher could hardly speak. His eyes filled with tears and he knew he had been touched by God. He reached up and unpinned the rose. With the flower in his hand, he looked at the boy and said, “Son, that is the nicest thing that I’ve ever heard but you can’t have this flower because it’s not enough. If you’ll look in front of the pulpit, you’ll see a big bouquet of flowers. Different families buy them for the Church each week. Please take those flowers to your granny because she deserves the very best.”
Then the boy made one last statement which Rev. Ramsey said he will always treasure. The boy said, “What a wonderful day! I asked for one flower but got a beautiful bouquet.” (2)
That’s the thankful spirit. That’s the attitude of gratitude. It’s that kind of attitude which should guide our giving. Like that boy’s granny, God has blessed us so much. God has been so good to us that giving shouldn’t even be a question. It should just flow from us naturally. We should want to give out of gratitude for how God has blessed us. We should be looking for ways to give and ways to express our thanksgiving to God through God’s Church so we can Show Our Faith.
Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be over. You can live Thanksgiving every single day and Show Your Faith through Thankful Giving. Consider God’s blessing in your life. Then make that thankfulness visible through your giving.
“O give thanks to the LORD, for God is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever! Let those who fear the LORD say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Donna Waters of Harmony, Pennsylvania, Country Woman Magazine, November & December, 1992
2. Adapted from A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, 1995, pp. 32-33.