Giving Thanks

Bible Book: Ephesians  5 : 20
Subject: Thanksgiving Day; Thanksgiving
Introduction

Ephesians 5:20: “…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

The passage before us reveals that are hearts and speech ought to be pregnant with thanksgiving and praise to God at all times in the name of Jesus. This is not something most of us excel in doing, for the majority of us find the one dark spot in every situation and point that out rather than see God's hand of blessing in every circumstance. In fact, without a deep faith this biblical concept is impossible. One must trust that God is at work in every situation in order to give Him thanks always for all things. Hebrews 13:15 reminds us to, "...offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." Psalm 34:1 states:

"I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth."

There is that idea again - to praise and thank God at "all times." One of my favorite passages comes from Philippians 4:4 ff. In 4:4 Paul writes, "Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say, rejoice!" The "always" that Paul mentions here is significant because he wrote these words from a Roman prison. I might tell you to praise God and thank Him at all times, but you are more than likely to say that it is easy for me. Well, you don't have any idea what my problems are and I'm not going to rehearse them for you. Have you ever walked up to a person and asked, "How are you?" You probably have done so, with a hope that they don't actually tell you! Paul, on the other hand, call for constant thanksgiving and he was clearly not in the best of circumstances - at least from a human point of view. Paul knew, however, that he was in God's will and God's will does not mean that your situation will be forever pleasant. Jesus gave thanks before giving the bread and cup to His disciples in the upper room, and he was only hours from carrying the cross up Calvary's hill.

Before we receive the Lord's Supper today, I want us to take a moment and note the implications and substance of Ephesians 5:20. With Thanksgiving Day just around the corner, perhaps this will help us renew our commitment to make thanksgiving and praise a vital part of our everyday lives.

I. Incessant Call to Thanksgiving

"...giving thanks ALWAYS..."

The word “always” in today’s text, reminds us that thanksgiving is not something designed for a particular day or season of life. Of course it is a good thing for us to have a day to be reminded of our need for gratitude, but one cannot complete the joy of thanksgiving by simply having a single day in which to express it.

I heard about a preacher who was invited to a home to eat dinner. The family gathered at the table and began to pass the food to each person. Those who had filled their plates began to eat immediately, without the benefit of offering a pray of thanks for the food after a few minutes, the father realized the minister was at the table and acted to correct his mistake. “Preacher,” he said, “I guess you noticed that we didn’t say grace before we began to eat.” The minister responded, “Yes, I did observe that.” The father went on to explain, “Well, preacher, we have an unusual practice at our house. Went we come home from the grocery store, we stand over the groceries and thank God for them. That way, we can just eat any time we wish.” Perhaps the father of the family was trying to cover up a mistake, or was actually describing a strange practice in his family, but whatever he was doing it was not God’s way of expressing gratitude.

You see, we might pray over our groceries when we buy them, but that doesn’t take into account the appetite needed to eat the food. Also, at each meal we must remember that God has been faithful for this meal and this day. “Always” give thanks! It means exactly what it says!

The always of giving thanks is a way to keep us in constant remembrance of our blessings in every area of our lives. The practice and faithfulness of giving thanks causes us to walk more faithfully with our Lord in all the affairs of life.

The story is told of a gifted preacher who suffered a nervous breakdown. During one of his periods of extreme anxiety, a friend told him that with the Lord's help he could overcome his depression. The key was to practice thanksgiving. He suggested that the minister think of all the people who'd had a special influence upon his life over the years. Then he asked, "Did you ever thank any of them?" The downhearted man confessed that he couldn't recall ever doing so. His friend challenged him to think of one person and write to him, expressing his appreciation. The pastor took his advice, and when he learned that his letter had greatly encouraged the recipient, his heart was lightened. So he jotted down the names of all those who had helped him. Before exhausting his list, he had written about 500 letters. As he counted his blessings, the cloud of despondency began to lift. Realizing that the Savior had been showering him with encouragement through these individuals, his thoughts turned heavenward. Soon he began blessing God daily for His love and goodness.

If we cease giving thanks, we are more likely to become depressed, defeated and deceived regarding just how blessed we are. God knows that thanksgiving is a practice that not only acknowledges Him as the giver of all things, but grants encouragement, strength and a healthy attitude in the thank-er.

II. Inclusive Character of Thanksgiving

"...for ALL things..."

Note the words “…all things…” in this passage. To give thanks in “all things” is not something we usually do. We almost automatically give thanks when blessings are apparent, but what is our practice when things do not come to us just when we need them or life doesn’t turn out the way we want it to?

It is easy to give thanks when things are going our way, but not so forthcoming when it seems the tide has turned against us. We do not often think of the value of thankfulness during times of hardship. Yet, a story from the life of Matthew Henry reveals how a Christian should think when circumstances don't go the way we would necessarily like.

"Gratitude can help you cope with life's problems. Matthew Henry, the well-known Bible commentator, was once robbed by thieves who took all of his money. Opening his diary later that evening, Henry wrote, 'Let me be thankful, first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they didn't take my life; third, although they took my all, it wasn't much. And fourth because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.'" [Servant, Jan 1994. Page 15.]

It was Paul who wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always..." (Philippians 4:4). Reading Paul’s words mean even more when one stops to consider that he wrote them from prison in Rome. A person who has almost everything he wants may easily tell others to rejoice always, but when a man who has suffered the way Paul did writes it, it grabs our attention. Gratitude is not about getting what we want but honoring God at all times. Paul did not just thank God when life was easy, but did so even when the flood waters of trouble were swirling over his head.

Maybe this Thanksgiving Day is not the best one you have ever experienced. Perhaps you are going through a time that makes you want to say, “I’m just not that thankful at this time.” Change your attitude to one that recognizes that this may not be your best year but you can thank God that every year has not been this bad! Frankly, there is always something for which a child of God can be thankful; after all, we are redeemed through His Son, Jesus, and He is preparing a glorious home for us so that we might be where He is. We are blessed, no matter what we are going through today. Thank Him in all things and at all times!

III. The Inflaming Captivation in Thanksgiving

"...in the name of our LORD Jesus Christ."

There is one thing that prompts us to gives thanks to God at all times and in all things. This one thing, or better stated as this one Person, captivates our hearts and inflames our praise. Paul write that we are thank God “…in the name of the Lord.”

I’m thankful for my health, but I may lose my health tomorrow. I’m thankful for my home, but a storm may take my home and everything in it away from me at any moment. I’m thankful for my friends but, as many of you have experienced, a friend may become an enemy at any time. However, my Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. He inflames my thankfulness! He is the one constant in an ever changing world.

We give thanks in the “name of the Lord.” We are told that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. I know that Thanksgiving Day is a remembrance for those who first came to the new country and of the freedom we enjoy in America, but I have a freedom even greater than that. I am free from my sins. I am free from death. I am free from the coming judgment. I am free in the name of Jesus. Yes, I can praise and be thankful in His name at all times!

In this passage, Jesus is mentioned as Lord, and we need to remember that lordship means that the Master is in control. We may not be able to see how it all makes sense at this moment, but He is at the controls and He loves us. He is working in our behalf. Romans 8:28 is true, and we can know that He is bringing about what is best for His kingdom and for us, thus we can thank Him faithfully if we only believe.

A young woman who was greatly troubled went to her preacher, asking how she could resolve the question of her own desires when they seemed to contradict the will of God. The minister took out a slip of paper and wrote two words on it. Then he handed it to her with the request that she sit down for 10 minutes, ponder the words, cross out one of them, and bring the slip back to him. The woman sat down and looked at the slip. It had two words on it, "No" and "Lord." Which should she cross out? It did not take her long to see that if she was saying "No," she could not say "Lord," and if she wanted to call Christ "Lord," she could not say "No." She crossed out the word, "No," and left the title, "Lord." She had settled the matter. To say, "No," to the will of Christ, is to declare oneself as, "Lord."

Our salvation, peace and joy is found in the Lord and we always to treat Him as Sovereign. Our past is covered in His blood, He is with us in our daily lives now, and He has promised that our future is fixed in His grace. Surely, no matter what we are facing, we can thank God always in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

You cannot give true thanks in His name if you do not know Him as your Savior. I invite you to come to the One who loves you and gave Himself for you at the cross and to do it today. To know the real meaning of thanksgiving, you must know the Lord in whose name we give thanks.

Dear Christian friends, let us always give thanks in His name and let us do it today. This Thanksgiving may be the best you have had in years, or it may be among the worst, but God is always the same. He loves you. He has plans for you. You can thank Him.

My wife and I come to celebrate this Thanksgiving Day for the first time without either of our mothers. Both of them went home to be the Lord this year, with my wife’s mother departing for heaven just a few days ago. How wonderful to know where they are and that we will see them again. Since they are with Him and He is with us, we aren't really that far apart!

We will give thanks in all things in the name of the Lord. Will you join us?