Thankful Now

Around this time of year, it may be easier for us to have thankfulness on our minds. But do we regularly give thanks throughout the year? What about when things don’t go our way? It seems like we wait to really give thanks until certain things happen the way we want them to happen. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In this message, we’ll see that when we consider God’s goodness, His work, and His gifts, we can be thankful now. We can thank God for who He is. We can thank God for what He does. We can thank God for what He gives.

Transcription

Good morning!  My name is John and I’m one of the pastors here.  We are really glad that you’re here with us because today we are going to do an entire sermon series in one day.  It’s a series called Thankful Now and it’s today and then it’s over.

The reason we’re doing this is we’re thinking about thankfulness.  This week we had Thanksgiving.  We get to start now saying Merry Christmas to people because it’s December 

I think we kind of miss what thankfulness is really about.  I think we get the wrong idea about thankfulness. 

Today, we’re going to approach things a little differently.  We’re going to have the service look differently than what you’re used to.  We are going to read from God’s Word and then we’re actually going to take time to collectively respond to God’s Word together.  We’re going to do that three different times.  We have these three different movements of the service, and I just wanted to make you aware.  The reason we’re doing that is because I think it’s very easy for us to come here and sit and sing songs and not really think about why we’re singing the songs, and to hear the Word of God and not to really engage with it.  Maybe we talk about it in the car on the way home and that’s about it.  It’s sort of over.  What we want to do here is say this Word of God is real, it’s alive, it’s powerful, and it’s active and it changes our perspective and it changes the way we see things.

Because of that, we want to look at God’s Word and then we want to respond.  That’s the pattern we want to follow for our whole lives.  When God gives us his Word that we respond to it; we act accordingly.

We going to look at three different passages of scripture and they are all this theme or this idea of thankfulness and gratitude.  I think that’s a key piece to who we are.  I think it’s a key piece to who God is and how He wants us to respond.

Today we’re going to look at 1 Thessalonians 5.  If you have a Bible I encourage you to open it now.  If you don’t have a Bible I want to encourage you to take one.  We have them for you for free.  We want to give you one at the Welcome Desk.  If you don’t have a Bible, we want you to have one because it is God’s Word.  It’s true and I would hate for you to leave here without having that.  And if you have a Bible I want you to open it and read it because it’s just like a regular book.  And you open it and you read it and when we do that we start to take in what God has to say to us.  I really do believe that this is one of the things I’m most thankful for is the Word of God.  So let’s not take that lightly. 

Before we start into that, I started thinking about this thankfulness piece and as I was thinking about it, I thought ‘how does this apply to us here at LifePoint?’  We always talk about our mission.  Our mission is to influence people to find and follow Jesus.  That’s what we want everybody to do and the goal of that is that we become Christ-like influencers.  And we say that a Christ-like influencer is characterized by five things.  That a Christ-like influencer surrenders continually, loves extravagantly, invests relationally, gives generously, and engages with God daily.  But what I notice is that none of those characteristics are possible without gratitude.  If we don’t approach God from a place of humility and gratitude and thankfulness, then we can’t do the things that He’s calling us to do.  We can’t live in a Christ-like manner.  If we are complainers, if we are whiners, we can’t be a Christ-like complainer; we can’t be a Christ-like whiner because when we complain, when we whine, we’re ungrateful.  We’re not walking in the way God calls us.

I want us to take a look at what Paul has to say in 1 Thessalonians 5 about how we should see Him because I think if we really see who God is, we can thank Him for who He is then it’s going to affect our perspective on everything else in life.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always;

Pray without ceasing;

In everything give thanks;

For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (NASB)

 I want us to notice something here.  He says always, without ceasing, and in everything.  That means all of those things that are happening all of the time.  Always, without ceasing, in everything.  That means there’s rejoicing, there’s praying, there’s giving thanks that’s happening all of the time simultaneously.  We can’t separate those things.  There’s an element of gratitude that has to be present in all of those things.  

So, we think about it.  What does it mean to rejoice always?  It doesn’t mean you’re a grinning idiot who’s happy about everything that happens, like ‘oh my dog died, yeah.’  That’s not what it’s about.  It means that there’s a joy that’s internal and is not circumstantial.  That joy is not determined by what’s outside of us but is determined by something that is inside of us that’s greater than us and that is God and His spirit working inside of us.  There’s a real joy that’s based in hope beyond ourselves.  That’s what it means to rejoice.  No matter what circumstances happen, don’t lose hope.  I don’t slide into despair because I am rejoicing always that God is good and who He is. 

Then the second thing he says there is pray without ceasing.  How do I pray without ceasing?  Does it mean I’m on my knees with my eyes closed?  How do I drive my car like that?  What is he saying?  What he’s saying is not that either.  It’s that we pray, meaning constantly acknowledge who God is and how good He is in every circumstance we face.  In every part of our day and everything we go through we’re acknowledging God.  The Hebrew people where Paul came from had this practice where every day they would try to do this.  They would try to acknowledge God in every way.  So they wake up in the morning and they would say ‘blessed be the Lord God of heaven and earth who puts breath in our lungs and enables us to get up out of bed.’  And they would walk outside and it would be raining and they would say ‘blessed be the Lord God of heaven and earth who makes the rainfall, and the crops grow.  Blessed be God.’  And something bad would happen and they would say ‘blessed be the Lord God of heaven and earth who makes life and who makes death and judges us for eternity, He holds the future in his hands.’  And so they would see every opportunity that they could to thank God, to acknowledge God, and that’s what he’s saying when he says to pray without ceasing.  And so you start to see that there’s this joy that’s outside of ourselves.  There’s this prayer acknowledging God outside of ourselves, and he says in everything gives thanks.

How do we do that?  I can’t give thanks in everything.  I can’t give thanks when things don’t go my way unless I trust that God knows what He’s doing.  I can’t give thanks unless I’m trusting that God is in control.  I think that’s what gratitude does.  He says this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus that this is what God wants for us.  Do you get that??  That God has the perspective that He wants you to have?  He wants you to see the way He sees.  He wants you to get his point of view and when you get it, you understand it, then you start to see your circumstances differently.  And that’s what he’s calling us to here. 

And it all is tied to this concept of gratitude.  I think what gratitude does is it positions us to see from God’s perspective.  When I have gratitude, when I am in this place of thanking God for who He is –not just for what He gives and not for the things He gives – but I’m thankful for God just because He is, and He’s consistent, and He’s my hope, and He’s faithful, dependable – that’s the God that I’m thankful for.  And in that gratitude, I humbly come to Him and say ‘God, I can’t do this; I need you, guide me and I’m humbly grateful, and I’m positioned then to see the way He sees from His perspective.  That’s what God wants for us.  That’s what God wants for you.  I pray that you would understand that gratitude and in that, I want us to remember this. 

We can and we should thank God right now for who He is.  Whatever your circumstances are, whatever difficulty you’re facing, whatever holiday drama just happened this past week or is going to happen in the upcoming week and you’re dreading it – whatever that is we can thank God right now for who He is.  That’s what I want to encourage us today.  Don’t wait.  Let’s not put it off until things go our way.  Let’s be thankful now for who God is. 

Now that we have heard God’s Word and we have heard how we can be thankful now for who He is, I want us to respond.  The way that I want us to respond is we’re going to sing together.  When we sing this, I want you to think about the idea that our gratitude has positioned us to see from His perspective.  Can we see from God’s perspective right now as we sing this song?  I want to pray for us that we would do that and that we would sing sincerely.

Let us pray

Father, thank you for your Word.  Thank you that you give us the truth of your perspective.  God, that we can only do all these things, we can only rejoice always, pray always, give thanks always, we can only do those things in every way when we have your perspective and we’re coming from a place of gratitude.  I pray that we will be thankful and that as we sing now as a response to that truth of how good you are, we would sing your goodness and mean it and be sincere about it.  We commit this time to you in Jesus’ name.  Amen

The congregation sang Good Good Father

The way that we’re going to respond to God’s Word in this section is by taking Communion together.  To get us ready for that and to get started thinking about that I would like for us to actually have the elements in our hands and be thinking about what they represent and to start considering that.

(The ushers came forward and began to pass out the elements.  We were encouraged to take it and hold it without eating or drinking yet.)

 We’re going to continue looking at scripture.  As we’re considering being thankful now, we have seen that God positions us for His perspective when we have gratitude.  Gratitude puts us in that position to see God’s point of view on all of these things.  So, when we see God’s point of view and we get His perspective about who He is, how big He really is, and how He’s in control beyond what we think, then here’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to see how that carries over into what we should focus on.  Gratitude positions us to see God’s perspective, but that perspective then is going to point us in a particular direction.  To see that, we should take a look at Colossians 3:15-17 (NASB).  It says:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

There are a few things here that I want us to notice and I have highlighted some words here.  I want you to check this out.  The peace of Christ to which indeed you were all called in one body.  That’s something for which we should be thankful.  Do we think about the peace of Christ as it relates to his body, the church?  Do you ever think the church is not just this building but it’s the people who gather together for a purpose all over the world?  That the church is actually God’s plan, and it’s full of imperfect, messed up people?  But God in His perfect wisdom has created this thing called the church as the way that He wants to promote the gospel.  The way that He wants to make disciples of all nations.  God’s plan is the church.  And then He says as we consider the church, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to indeed you were called into one body and be thankful.

I think there is a lot of unnecessary division that happens within churches.  I think there’s a lot of unnecessary division that happens that is not very peaceful, and here Paul is calling us as followers of Jesus to be peacefully ruled by Christ in our hearts in the way that we would interact with one another in one body because we were all called to that one body.  I want us to keep that commonality in our minds.

The second thing he says is (I love this verse because I love God) let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you.  Do we get what that is?????  The God who spoke the universe into creation, that God spoke in this thing called the Bible.  It’s God’s word and He gives it to us.  It says don’t just let it sit on a shelf and collect dust but open it up and read it.  See the Word of Christ and let it dwell richly within you.  And what happens when we do that?  It says with all wisdom we teach and admonish one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 

When was the last time somebody just came up to you and sang to you?  It doesn’t happen a whole lot, right?  Are we so thankful for what God has done, who He is, that we would just sing?  I think about my sons.  I have two sons and they play in their rooms, and when they don’t know that I’m listening I go up and I listen at the door and they just sing songs to themselves about nothing.  But they are just singing because there’s joy in them and they’re happy. 

I think, if we know the God of the universe and His word is dwelling within us, how can we not sing without thankfulness in our hearts to God.  That’s the way we should be.  I would love for us to be singing to one another.  I know that might freak some of you out, but I would love to do that.  I would love for us to be able to say, God, it’ so good and we just want to sing about it.  

I want to share wisdom, I want to teach and admonish and we want to do this with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and sing with thankfulness in our hearts to God because it’s overflowing with gratitude for how good He is.  He’s perfect.  He’s good.  And He gives us His Word and it can richly dwell within us. 

And then look what He says, whatever you do in everything in word or deed, whatever you say, whatever you do, whatever action you put your hands to, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And giving thanks through Him to God the Father.  Did you get that?  It’s through Him, Jesus, that we have access to God the Father.  It’s through Him that we can be thankful.  Jesus is the focus of our gratitude.  It’s the peace of Christ.  It’s the word of Christ.  It’s all that we do in the name of the Lord Jesus. 

Paul has painted a picture here of His united church under His word, for His glory, the glory of God.  His church, His word, His glory.  That is what he’s saying.  It’s all His name.  The name of Jesus.  That’s what we’re elevating; that’s what we’re lifting up.  This is what we want to be thankful for.  This is what our lives should be overflowing with.  We want to be thankful to who God is and we want to be thankful for what He does because I want you to hear that what He does is He gives us new life.  He comes in the flesh.  I hope you hear this is the gospel.  This is the good news.  We say that word gospel and it just means good news that we were far off from God. We are created for relationship with God.  That’s what we’re all made for.  And being created for relationship with Him, we get stubborn and we think we can do things our own way, and so we reject God.  We try to do things our own way and it separates us from Him and then there’s the sin in our lives that distances us from God for all of eternity.  We separate from Him.  

But He promises to redeem his people and so He appears in the person of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh and He walks among us and He dies for us so that we can have a right relationship with Him.  He dies so that his blood can wash away our sins.  And then He rises from the dead so that we get new life in Him.  We can be new creations in Christ and the old things pass away and the new things come and that’s what He calls us to.  He says I want you to experience this new life and be thankful and understand that’s the gospel.  That hope that you hear today. 

If you’re new here today and you don’t know Jesus, I pray that you hear that this is the only way you can be fulfilled.  There’s nothing that satisfies in this world but Jesus Christ because we’re made for relationship with God and when that relationship is severed, Jesus is our only way to connect with God.  Jesus is our only way for relationship so we give thanks through Him to God the Father.  And that’s what He’s saying in this scripture verse.  It’s all about the Lord Jesus. 

So as we’ve gained God’s perspective from this grateful position, our gratitude puts us in a position to see from God’s perspective.  Our gratitude also points toward God’s passion.  Think about this.  Maybe you grew up in a church tradition that events leading up to the cross were referred to as the passion of the Christ.  There was a movie that came out a few years ago, the Passion of the Christ.  That whole concept, the passion, that for which we’re willing to suffer.  Here’s what God is concerned about.  He’s concerned about the cross.  He’s concerned about Jesus.  That’s what that whole passage in Colossians points to.  It’s the word of Christ, and the peace of Christ, and the name of the Lord Jesus.  If we’re pointing toward Jesus then the perspective God gives us is to point toward Jesus, His passion.  That’s our purpose and that’s why we take Communion.  That’s why we do this. 

Jesus instituted this practice of Communion as something that would unite believers.  It would put us together and we would all take this together, and we would remember this piece of bread as representing Jesus’ broken body.  It was broken for us so that we could have right relationship with God.  And then we take this cup because it represents His shed blood for us so that our sins could be washed away, and we could have that right relationship with God.  And then He says I want you to do it together in remembrance of me.  So we remember who Jesus is and then we connect as a church body. 

Here’s the way we’re going to do this today.  There are section leaders all throughout here.  They are going to lead each section in our auditorium in the practice of Communion that way it doesn’t feel quite so massive.  It’s going to be a little more intimate.  As the section leaders are walking us through this, I want you to keep this in mind.  We said we’re to be thankful right now for who God is, and I want us to be thankful now for what God does, that He gives us His son, Jesus, and He gives us His Holy Spirit, and He gives us new life in Him.  He saves us by faith in Him.  That’s what we celebrate in Communion.  That’s the gospel.  I want to pray for our time right now. 

Father, thank you for how good you are.  Thank you for your Word.  Thank you for your gospel and for making it all about Jesus.  Thank you that we get to celebrate that right now.  We remember your sacrifice for us, and we remember your unity of the church that you seek.  I pray that we would be grateful and that our gratitude would see from your perspective and point us to your passion in Jesus Christ.  We commit this time to you in Jesus’ name.  Amen

The congregation participated in Communion together. 

We have seen the gratitude that positions us to see from God’s perspective, and we have seen how that perspective is going to point us toward the passion of Jesus Christ.  And we celebrated that together.  We sang about the goodness of God, we’ve taken Communion, we have been united around this idea of who Jesus is and what He’s done for us.  We thank God for who He is and for what He does. 

Now I want us to think about thanking God for what He gives.  When we think about what God gives, we tend to get into a comparison kind of mindset.  I tend to think, well, God didn’t give me as much as that guy, or my car isn’t as nice as this one, or my house isn’t as nice as this one, or they make more money than I do.  Whatever it is we compare, and we think that is somehow a measure of God’s provision for us. 

We are missing the perspective that we were just talking about.  When we compare our possessions, we’re missing what God’s provision is really about.  God’s provision is eternal.  God’s provision is eternity.  It’s his eternal spirit.  God dwelling within you.  That should blow our minds that the God who created the universe dwells inside those who put their faith and trust in Him by the power of His Holy Spirit.  Isn’t that amazing?!?!  That’s what God does and that’s what He wants us to focus on.  When we think about our gratitude, it’s that kind of provision.  It’s that kind of mindset because this life is a blink of an eye.  Eternity is what awaits us.

I want us to look at this passage of scripture in Psalm 100:1-5.  This is one of my favorites.  I love it.  We’re going to read the whole psalm.  It’s only five verses and this is a psalm of thanksgiving.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.

Serve the Lord with gladness;

Come before Him with joyful singing.

Know that the Lord Himself is God;

It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving

And His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting

and His faithfulness to all generations.

 

I just love the way this starts.  Shout!  I don’t think we shout enough.  Shout joyfully to the Lord.  Not just you but all of the earth.  Shout joyfully because we serve Him with gladness.  Come before Him with joyful singing, and we know that the Lord himself is God.  The one we worship, the one whose spirit dwells inside of us.  That’s God over the whole universe!  He’s sovereign over everything.  That’s a reason to shout; that’s a reason to be joyful.  That’s a reason to celebrate and to sing.  That’s why we come before Him.  It’s He who made us.  He said to remember your perspective.  He made us, not we ourselves.  We are His people; we are the sheep of His pasture.

So, what do we do with that proper perspective?  We enter His gates with thanksgiving.  Thank you, God, for loving us.  Thank you for giving us life.  Thank you for who you are.  Thank you for eternal life that we don’t deserve that you freely give.  Thank you for who you are.  God, you’re so good.  We thank Him.  We enter His courts with praise.  It just means we’re lifting up His name again.  We’re saying thank you, God, thank you for how good you are.  And it says give thanks to Him and we bless His name.  We lift up His name.  We praise Him.  We thank God that your name is so good.  The name of Jesus Christ that saves us.  Thank you, God, for how good you are and for the name of Jesus.  And then He says this, for the Lord is good.  Remember that.

Whatever you go through.  Whatever circumstances you’re going through (I know we came in here with hard stuff; I know we came here dealing with difficulties relationally, financially, the holidays tend to highlight that stuff, we bring all of that in here, and it’s easy for us to forget that) but the Lord is good regardless of your circumstances.  The Lord is good, and we can rejoice always in Him, and we can pray without ceasing and in everything we can give thanks because that’s the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.  We can let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts to which indeed we were called to embody.  We can be thankful.  We can let the Word of Christ richly dwell within us.  With all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in our hearts to God and that whatever we do in word or deed we do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

We have His perspective and we see the passion of Jesus Christ.  And then we see that the Lord is good, and His loving-kindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations.  He’s talking about eternity.  His loving-kindness doesn’t stop.  His faithfulness is forever.  Because He is eternally loving and kind, and because He is eternally faithful, we are eternally grateful.  And that’s our proper response. 

But it comes from trusting that He is who He says He is.  And does what He says He’s going to do.  And He gives what He says He’s going to give.  Gratitude prompts us to trust God’s provision.  Regardless of what we see, regardless of what we understand, there are a lot of times I have said, God, I don’t get what has happened.  I don’t understand why this would happen, or how you could let this happen; I don’t understand.  I don’t even like it, God, but I trust you.  And that’s where attitude comes in and enables us, prompts us to trust in His provision.  We can and we should thank God for what He gives because what He gives is eternal.  What He gives is forever.  It doesn’t go away. 

It’s not the temporal blessings that we think about, but it is eternity.  His spirit, salvation, life eternal in Him.  That’s what we celebrate.  And so the way we respond, the way we are going to respond today is something that we do here regularly but I don’t know if we even think about why we do it.  We’re going to give generously to God from what He’s given us.  We say, God, you have given to us, you have given us so much and we’re so grateful for it.  We want to give generously to you.  And it’s not because God needs it.  He doesn’t.  And it’s not because we’re putting a burden on you or an obligation.  I don’t want to do that.  I want us to give because we have said God you have given us so much.  We’re so glad to give here.  We joyfully give. 

I’m going to ask the ushers to come now, and as they come I want to pray that every bit that we give, every single thing that goes into this offering would be for the furtherance of God’s kingdom and His purposes and that He would be glorified with every bit of this.

Let us pray.

Father God, I thank you for your Word.  Lord God I thank you that you speak truth and you point us to your provision that is eternal.  You show us your eternal provision, God.  Help us to not get fixated on stuff that’s temporary but really to gain your eternal perspective so that we would see from your point of view and see as you see and do as you do.  That we would be Christ-like influencers and give generously.  And God, if we’re about to give out of obligation, I pray that we wouldn’t.  I pray that we would give joyfully in response to the truth of your word.  Just like we shout joyfully to the Lord, I pray that we would give joyfully and enter your courts with praise and thanksgiving.  I pray that you will be glorified in every bit of this offering and that it will be used for your kingdom purposes.  It’s in Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen

Discussion Questions

Review the five traits of a Christ-like influencer. Which of these is difficult for you to embrace? What changes could you make this week to pursue Christlikeness in that area?

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16. Where do you see real joy in your life? What in your life challenges the idea of rejoicing always?

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:17. What specifically would need to change in your life in order to be praying without ceasing? How could you praise God in every moment of your day?

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:18. How can you truly be thankful in everything, in all circumstances? What could you do this week to change your perspective toward being more thankful no matter what circumstances you face?

Read Colossians 3:15-17. What would it look like for your life to be gratefully pointed toward God’s passion for His church, His Word, and His glory?

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