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Thanksgiving Eve: November 23, 2006 – “Be Thankful”

01 Dec

Text: Philippians 4:6-20

Be Thankful

            Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our sermon this evening is the Epistle which was just read.

            Tonight is Thanksgiving Eve.  In approximately 12 hours or less, Tom Turkey will be making his entry to the oven.  The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year.  Everyone will be out at the wee hours of the morning trying to get the best deal on all the items on their Christmas list.  But what does all of that have to do with our text for this evening?  Absolutely nothing!  In Paul’s day, they didn’t have Thanksgiving as we have it.  But he does write something to the church at Philippi that could be seen as his way of giving thanks.

            Paul had a special bond with the congregation in Philippi.  His letter to them is filled with joy.  Paul had not written because there were major problems in the congregation.  Rather, he wrote to encourage them in their faith—not to be discouraged by his chains, to show Christ’s humility to one another, to receive Epaphroditus back with honor, to place no confidence in their own works but to cling to the Savior and His gift of eternal life. 

            Two verses earlier in verse four, Paul gives us these words.  Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!  At the seminary, there is a beloved professor who teaches New Testament classes.  When he gets to Philippians 4, he tells us that we need to continually rejoice in the Lord, and if we don’t, we should pack our bags and leave the seminary.  After that class, he would always walk into the classroom and before he could remove his coat and hat, he would ask us if we were rejoicing in the Lord.  Our answer would always be yes, but were we really rejoicing in the Lord?  Do you always rejoice in the Lord?  Do you give thanks when your car dies in the middle of the road or when your power goes out in a storm?  Of course not!  And why is that?  It’s because of our sinful nature.  The “Old Adam” in us keeps popping up and causing us to be human, to be sinful.  Our sin keeps us from rejoicing in the Lord, regardless of what it is that we have or do not have.  But through Christ, we can be thankful and we can rejoice in the Lord.  

            The advice he gives to the Philippians then is just as valid to us.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Christians are never to worry about a single thing.  Unless we can constantly get rid of our worries before they worry us, joy would cease, and that noble, gracious yieldingness would disappear.  We are to pray and not to shrink from petitioning and to let the actual things asked for be always made known to God.  Then no worry will ever be able to arise.  In what better hands can any trouble of ours rest than in God’s hands?

            It is hard to be anxious when you’re thanking God.  If we review all of the blessings which God has already given us, both physical and spiritual, the evidence is overwhelming that our God loves us and is able to care for us.  Even the poorest believer has riches in heaven because of our Savior, forgiveness of sins won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross for all of mankind.  The grace of free forgiveness is enough proof that our future is in good hands?  So why worry?

            Ultimately, God’s forgiveness is what drives away our worry by giving us peace.  Is it a wonder why when the sermon is over, you almost always hear Paul’s words: “And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  They are words of assurance for us that God has given us His peace and that by that peace, we have received the free gift of God through His Son, Jesus Christ: forgiveness. 

            Where does true peace come from?  Does it come from us?  Our military?  We cannot produce peace with God or peace with ourselves.  True peace is God’s work and God’s gift to us.  With hands and hearts and minds centered on what is excellent and praiseworthy, all done by the power of the Spirit living in us, the God of peace will be with us, filling us with peace.

            In looking at this text, verses 11-13 stick out as a prime example of what we should be saying, regardless of the circumstances. 

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

            Did you hear what Paul just said?  Paul is saying he is lacking something, but that’s ok because he can live with that.  He’s been in need and he’s had it all.  Regardless of the situation, Paul is content with what he has.  The same goes for us today.  We’re content because we have a loving Savior who promises to take care of all our needs, not because we’re helpless to change our situation.

            A popular song from several years ago has a line in it that says, “it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you got.”  How true is that!  I’ll give you an example.  At the seminary, the food wasn’t the greatest but it wasn’t the worst.  There was always something to eat.  You may not like what is served, but at least there was food.  What about the person who will be sitting at the Salvation Army tomorrow trying to warm themself up while eating some turkey that someone donated?  Do you think that person will complain because they got dark meat instead of light meat or that they ran out of gravy for the mashed potatoes?  They will be happy that they have something to eat.

            We’re not always happy that we’re in the situations that we’re in or liking the idea of eating Easy-Mac several nights a week until the next paycheck comes but we make due.  And why do we make due?  I can do all things through him who gives me strength.  You see, God never gives us anything that we cannot handle.  He will bring us right up to that line and push us to our limit, but will never push us over that line.  Paul has learned and has taught us that whether he has more than he needs or goes hungry, his God will care for him by giving him strength to do all things. 

            It is interesting that Paul says he “learned” how to be content.  Contentment is not an attitude we’re born with.  It is a lesson we learn, as the Holy Spirit works trust in our hearts through the Means of Grace.  Our society is growing more and more materialistic and dissatisfied with its possessions.  We act as though we were drinking salt water: the more we drink, the thirstier we become.  We need to proclaim boldly to our fellow Christians that the secret to being content is not what we have but whom we have: Jesus Christ.  True contentment comes only through trust that Jesus loved me enough to die for me, that He lives, and that He will continue to care for me in every situation.

            And what better way for this text to end.  And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory forever and ever.  Amen.

            And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, until life everlasting.  Amen.

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Posted by on December 1, 2006 in Religion, Sermons

 

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