Why Godly Thanksgiving Is Crucial to Life
Text: Romans 1:20,21; Phil 4:6; 2 Cor 4:15
Proposition: Thanksgiving was not begun by man but by God for man so that sin would not deceive nor fear destroy nor the world distract from giving God glory.
Introduction: Sometimes we have traditions that are so colorful, so common, so anticipated, national holidays that seem so right that we tend to think it’s celebrated this way all over the world. Thanksgiving is a good example of that. The first Canadian Thanksgiving is believed to have occurred in Newfoundland in 1578, making it 43 years older than its American counterpart. We celebrate it on the second Monday of October. This year Americans will do this on Thursday, November 27, the very next day for them is called Black Friday, a retail term referring to the black ink of positive cash flow. Outside of Canada and the US there are only three other places in the world that celebrate Thanksgiving, Puerto Rico, the Australian territory of Norfolk Island the West African country of Liberia, the only country in Africa founded by United States colonization. Freed slaves established this rival lone star republic in the early 1820s. That’s it… no other nation celebrates Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday.
What I would like to propose to you this morning is that Thanksgiving was not something invented by man to commemorate man’s accomplishments but rather it was invented by God for man, Leviticus 7describes what a thank offering ought to look like. We need to give thanks not just as an event or national holiday, we need to give thanks daily, corporately and earnestly. I believe that God gave man the desire and command to be thankful for at least three reasons: so that sin would not deceive, so that fear would not destroy; so that the world would not distract us from the glory that is due God. Let me set about showing you why I think this is true with three passages of Scripture.
I. Giving Thanks to God Daily Impedes the Deceit of Sin.
The first passage is found in Romans 1:20,21, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributesare clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” When we went to Hawaii what became evident was that the Hawaiians are a very spiritual people, they believe they have a vital relationship with the spirit world. This has created a whole array of gods not unlike the Greeks or Romans. They have gods for fertility, gods over the sea, gods of higher and lower rank. Coming through the Vancouver airport there is a line of Eskimo carvings. I would say that of the 15 or so carvings at least ten of them were depicting spirits and shaman or witch doctors that were shape shifters. The Eskimos are also very spiritual people believing they have a vital link to the spirit world which they ought to pay attention to if they are to survive. My point is that the belief in the existence of spirits is there in all peoples but how we mythologize them, how we understand them is flawed by our sin nature. We are a people that live in a physical and spiritual realm but the truth of what that realm really is can be made empty of truth. That’s what the word ‘futile’ or ‘vane’, in Romans 1:21 means. Literally it means ‘to empty out’. Sin will always attempt to empty out what is evident about God in all creation. It will seek to empty out His divine power, His sovereign Godhead, His invisible attributes. When that happens the void is replaced with distorted concepts of God, usually a god to be manipulated in order to get what we want, a god that controls only one area and other gods that control other areas. In short sin tempts us to make God into our image. When you glorify God for who He is, for the wonder of the Trinity, for the glory of Jesus Christ the exact image of the invisible Father, for the beauty of the Holy Spirit emanating from the Father and the Son indwelling those who by faith glorify Him, then the right response is to worship Him with thanksgiving. Here’s the catch, we are a spiritual people that can choose to stop being thankful. What’s the opposite of being thankful, the opposite is to complain, to grumble. Count on the fact that being thankful to God daily will direct your gaze from your feet to the face of God, it serves as a shield against the deceit of sin and instead of a foolish heart that is darkened there will be a heart of wisdom illuminated by the desire to glorify God. Be thankful, you need it more than you might think.
II. Giving Thanks to God Daily Will Shield You From Fear.
Have a look at Philippians 4: 6,7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The interesting thing about this verse is that though it encourages us not to be anxious but to pray it doesn’t say that your prayer is going to be answered in the fashion that you requested. What it promises instead is that the result of praying with thanksgiving to God is that the peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Anxiety is really just a fear, a fear of the future or even a fear of the past. It’s kind of like the two ferocious lions that are spoken of in John Bunyan’s book, the Pilgrims Progress. The Pilgrim is a man named Christian. At one point Christian climbs up this rocky path when suddenly two other hikers coming running towards him, their names are Mistrust and Timorous. Then he looks up and sees two lions. Here’s what the passage sounds like, “ Now, thought he, I see the dangers that Mistrust and Timorous were driven back by. Then he was afraid, and thought also himself to go back after them, for he thought nothing but death was before him. But the porter at the lodge, whose name is Watchful, perceiving that Christian made a halt as if he would go back, cried unto him, saying, "Is thy strength so small? Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that had none. Keep in the midst of the path, no hurt shall come unto thee." Thanksgiving is fueled by faith and faith is proven by the snarling lions that create anxiety in our lives. Watchful is the Holy Spirit inviting us to trust God, to be bold in faith and then to let that boldness see you past the lions whose breath you feel as you walk by them. Thanksgiving is a shield from fear because it proclaims a faith in Christ as the One who chains up the lions.
III. Thanksgiving to God Resists Worldly Distraction, Revealing God’s Glory.
Let me share one more passage with you, it’s in 2 Cor. 4:15, “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” If you go back and read the whole chapter you’ll see the distraction Paul is referring to, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…”. That’s how Paul characterized worldly distractions, the very things that can undo you, destroying hope and if possible your faith. Yet withstanding this crushing, relentless distraction is the work of God in you. In verse 6 Paul writes this amazing truth, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The same God that said, “Let there be light” and the same power that made that light instantly exist is the God that has said to your soul, “Let there be light in this man, in this woman, let the light separate the darkness of understanding and let the light reveal knowledge of the glory of God through the person of Jesus Christ received.” That’s what God has done, He has revealed Himself progressively through the ages until now the apex of this revelation is the person of Jesus Christ, the fullness of deity, perfectly revealing the identity of the Father, crucified on a cross for the purposes of the Father in redemption, the plan of the Father for our salvation. So Paul writes, “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” Thanksgiving prompts us to rightly reveal the truth of who God is, it polishes the grime off the mirror of the image bearer that he would rightly reflect the Creator whose image he carries, in whose likeness we have been formed. Thanksgiving demands of us love, it demands of us grace, it demands of us hope and faith and it demands of us obedience. It reflects the person of God who is higher than us and yet has made us to know Him. It reflects the character of the Trinity of God knit together with a bond that cannot be severed and it enfolds us into that very bond in Christ. Thanksgiving is not about being civil with God, it’s not about manners or politeness or a passive acknowledgement of His provisions. Thanksgiving at its root is designed to glorify God, causing grace to spread through the many, causing the lost to be found, igniting glory through Thanksgiving.