Times For Thanksgiving!
Times For Thanksgiving!
1 Thessalonians 5: 18
The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Thessalonica, "Give thanks in all circumstances."
There are times when that is easy to do.
In those times it is easy to sing, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."
- It is easy to give thanks when a baby is born.
- It is easy to give thanks when we get well after a sickness.
- It is easy to give thanks when a child does well.
- It is easy to give thanks when we are promoted on the job.
- It is easy to give thanks when we get a pay-raise.
- It is easy to give thanks when the sun is shining.
There are other times when it is not easy.
In those moments, it is difficult to give thanks to God.
- It is not easy when the baby cries at 2:00 a.m. in the morning.
- It is not easy when we get sick, and stay sick.
- It is not easy when our children get in trouble.
- It is not easy if we do not get a job promotion.
- It is definitely not easy if we get fired.
But Paul said, "In everything give thanks."
In all "circumstances" give thanks.
No matter what happens to us, we are to give thanks.
How can we do that?
We must remember a very bad circumstance.
It was terrible!
A cross was lifted up on a lonely hill.
A body was crucified and His blood was shed.
Jesus was killed!
We know that even in that experience, God was working.
That is why we can give thanks in all circumstances.
In every circumstance that happens to us, God is working in it to mature us.
He can take any circumstance, and use that to help us to become what we ought to be.
Let us look some of the times that we can give thanks.
We can give thanks in difficult circumstances because God will use those times to surround us with His love.
We must see how intense God's love is for us.
God created the world and put us in it to share its joy, but like rebellious children, we did not want to live by His rules.
We wanted to do it our way.
We told God to get lost and we walked away from Him.
We walked in to suffering, despair, emptiness, and pain.
We deserved it, for that is what we chose to do.
The good news is God didn't let us stay there.
Many fathers with rebellious children would disinherit them, but not God.
Instead, God came looking for His children who had turned away from Him.
"Where are you, Adam?" He asked.
Down through history God has cried out our name, "Where are you?"
He wants to find us.
He wants us to come home to where we need to be.
He wants us to experience the joy of His love.
He was nailed to the cross and died upon it.
This was His supreme call to every one of us.
"Come home. I love you, and I want you to know that."
The Christian religion has a unique facet.
In it, God comes looking for us.
That's not the way it is in the other religions of the world.
People have to go looking for God in those religions.
But they will never be successful in looking for God in those religions.
Some religions say, "This is what you have to do. You have to work your way back to God."
But how do we do that?
How do we work our way back to God?
How do we get to where we could stand in His presence?
How perfect do we need to be?
God comes looking for us!
He is knocking on the doors of our lives.
In everything we experience, how ever difficult it might be, God may be trying to speak to us.
In that moment we may discover that the love of God is real.
He is always seeking us.
He is not willing to let us go.
He will not let us go.
He seeks us out.
A man tells of riding on a horse, and fell off.
He hit his head, it stunned him, and he lost his sense of direction.
He did not know where he was or how to get home.
It was getting dark, but he felt, that if he stayed where he was, the horse would find its way home.
When his father saw the horse, the son knew his father would come looking for him.
So, he sat in the darkness, waiting for his father's voice.
Do we wait for God's voice in the darkness?
Sometimes in the difficult moments, we will discover that God is surrounding us with love.
We will discover that God is there waiting for us, and ready to help us.
We can give thanks in all circumstances because God is seeking to surround the us with His great love.
We can give thanks in difficult times because God may be using these moments to forgive and to remake us.
We must remember what a difference Christ has made in our lives.
We must remember how much we had to be forgiven.
We must remember that Christ was willing to forgive, forget,
and then use the experiences of our lives to mold us into what He wants us to be.
This is the gospel for us!
Christ wants to forgive us of our mistakes and to mold us into His will.
In the difficult times, as we realize and confess our mistakes, God is willing and ready to forgive us.
A young girl went into the pastor's office, and told him that she was going to have a child.
She was afraid to go home for fear of her father.
The pastor went and talked to the father, and the father said in anger,
"Never, never can she set foot in my house again."
The pastor simply said, "Be careful, now, because never is a long, long time."
Fortunately, in that circumstance, the father forgave.
It's not always that way.
Sometimes "never" is said and meant.
Sometimes reconciliation does not take place.
Sometimes forgiveness does not happen.
We may find forgiveness difficult, but God is ready to forgive.
Whatever we have done against Him, He's ready to forgive.
He will also forget it and put it behind Him and never remember it again.
Whatever that sin has been, forgiveness is available.
In difficult times we may experience anew the presence of God in forgiveness.
A worker working on one of the cathedrals in Europe was carving a piece of wood, a figure,
and made a mistake with it.
The master craftsman saw it and was very angry.
Then he took his own tool, and began to shape something out of that mess.
He began to shape a new figure.
After he had shaped it, the master gave it to the worker to finish the task.
The workman was forgiven for his mistake, and something new happened because of it.
This is what God does with you and me!
There are times when we are broken.
Then God takes our brokenness and uses it to shape us and make us into something new.
Have you become something new because of the forgiveness and grace of God?
When you left your sins behind, have you gone on to something better?
In difficult moments, we can give thanks because we leave our sins behind.
God uses those moments to reshape us and to renew us.
We can give thanks in difficult times because we discover a sure and certain hope.
The disciples remembered this, when they came to celebrate the supper.
Paul reminds us to remember our Lord's death.
The disciples remembered the crucifixion, and their despair because Jesus
whom they loved had been killed.
Their purpose for living had been shattered.
They knew the moment of despair and anguish that we know.
When a loved one dies, we don't know how we are going to make it through.
When difficulties of life hit us, we wonder how we will make it through them.
When frustrations and disappointments come, we're not sure that we can handle them.
There are times when it seems that everything around us has gone to pieces.
We look at the tragedies that sometimes beset us, and we ask,"Where is the meaning?"
What is it all about?
We don't know.
Life seems confusing and difficult.
We can't understand it.
We know those moments of depression and despair.
We must never stop at the crucifixion.
We must celebrate the resurrection.
That was what the disciples came to understand.
That which seemed to be the worst thing that could ever happen was turned into something
that was the best that could ever happen.
The best was the redemption of all mankind.
Christ took the crucifixion and turned it into a resurrection.
He took that which looked terribly bad and made something wonderfully good out of it.
That is what the gospel is all about!
In all the difficult experiences of life, God is working to bring something good out of them.
When we come to those moments of grief, and stand at the graveside of those we love,
if we will just listen we will hear the voice of Christ saying to us,
"Whoever loves me will not die but live forever."
In those moments when you are disappointed and frustrated, and you do not know what it all means,
listen and hear His voice saying, "He who loses his life for my sake will find it."
To give yourself to love, to give yourself to peace and justice,
and to give yourself away to service is to find what you are here for.
When life looks confusing, just listen -- you will hear God say:
"Don't worry, I'm going to bring it out all right in the end.
I'm working to accomplish My purposes for you. I am building My kingdom."
Christ will take our lives and give them a sure and certain hope
and will remind us that nothing can ultimately defeat Him and, therefore, us, if we are His.
He holds us in His hands, and He will never let us go.
Therefore, let us thank God at all times and in every thing!
Let us thank God for surrounding us with His love!
Let us thank God for His forgiveness!
Let us thank God for all the different times that He has given us new opportunities!
Let us thank God for that sure and certain hope!
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White