On Thursday, many Americans will enjoy a day off from work so they can gather with their family and give thanks to Almighty God for the many blessings that He has showered upon them during the past year. Those of us who are idealistic, some would say na=EFve, can envision Thursday as a day that all Americans will humbly and sincerely count their blessings and offer praise to our King for the mighty things He has done. Realistically, what will happen in more homes than not is that the ladies will work harder than any other day of the year in order to provide a feast that would make Martha Stewart glow with pride. Most of us guys, the self-designated “taste-testers,” will waltz through the kitchen during the commercial breaks of the ballgames to grab a slice of turkey or a bite of sweet potatoes. The kids will be playing, oblivious to all of the activity, with cousins and neighbors whom they have not seen in quite some time.

When the meal finally hits the table the crowd will already be in place. Some will bow their heads and mumble a few words before digging in, others will simply dig in, and a few will take time to truly thank God — the One who meets our every need, the One from whom all blessings flow. I am an authority on the different Thanksgiving crowds because I have been a part of each of them. After having been in so many different Thanksgiving crowds I have come to the conclusion that it is good to give thanks, and it is good to pause on our designated “day of thanks” to truly count our many blessings.

Giving thanks for God’s many blessings is precisely how the first Thanksgiving originated. Many believe that the first American Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 when a group of Pilgrims shared a feast with a group of friendly Indians. Actually, the first recorded thanksgiving took place in Virginia more than 11 years earlier, and it wasn’t a feast. The winter of 1610 at Jamestown had reduced a group of 409 settlers to 60. The survivors prayed for help, without knowing when or how it might come. When help arrived, in the form of a ship filled with food and supplies from England, a prayer meeting was held to give thanks to God. (Today in the Word, July, 1990, p. 22)

Those settlers cried out for help while they watched their friends and family members succumb to starvation and disease. When God provided for their needs they offered thanks.

The urgency for God’s intervention when facing times of dire need is still with us today. When times are hard we cry out to God and He meets our needs. Notice that I didn’t say, “Wants.” He meets our needs. When times are good we are much more inclined to simply dig-in, never stopping to say, “Thanks.”

Two hundred and fifty-three years after those struggling settlers cried out to God for help, another group of people cried out to God while in the middle of tumultuous and uncertain times. Somebody once said, “all nations grow odious in prosperity.” They certainly grow careless. And it took the tragedy of the War Between the States and the scarred spirit of Abraham Lincoln to plead for Almighty God’s gracious hand to move just as it had in days of old. In the throes of agony over the war, President Lincoln recognized the main ingredient that had led to the troubles hampering the American people. Lincoln said,

We have forgotten the Gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and strengthened us, and vainly imagined all these blessings were produced by some superior virtue or wisdom of our own. Intoxicated by unbroken success we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity for redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God who made us.

It is a good thing to pause, even if for one day out of three hundred and sixty-five, in order to remember Almighty God. Remember His gracious hand. Remember His supply of everything we need. Remember His merciful forgiveness. It is good to give thanks to Almighty God for His grace, mercy, and the supply of our basic needs. It is an even better thing for us, all of us, to be thank-filled people each and every day of our lives. When we live each day thankful for God’s provision of forgiveness, mercy, food, and shelter then we will begin to see our lives transformed.

Our problem today is not that we don’t know how to celebrate Thanksgiving Day — it is that we do not know how to celebrate every day with gratitude and thanksgiving. We, like those in Abraham Lincoln’s day, have forgotten the gracious hand that has preserved us, carried us to this day. Our amnesia has convinced us that we have become our providers and the suppliers of every thing good that happens in our lives. We give ourselves all of the credit for everything good and give God all of the criticism for all of the troubles that try us.

The lack of gratitude and the desire for even more good to come are a plague of biblical proportions that is sweeping our nation. The good that comes our way is somehow not good enough any more — we need, we want, we must have more, more, more! The world does not understand the grace of gratitude. They will only learn what it means to be grateful as they watch you and me. With the population of the disgruntled growing and the dissatisfaction rising, I am wondering how much of an effect we are having? Or is it that we find ourselves among the choir of the ungrateful?

It is important that you and I learn how to live in gratitude so that the world around us can learn that a grateful heart is a content and fulfilled heart. There is an interesting story told in 1 Chronicles 16 that sheds a lot of light upon how important it is to have “reminders of thanksgiving” around to constantly point those in society to the One whose unfailing love will never fail!

Under the leadership of King David Israel became united as one nation. When David conquered Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. David made all of the preparations and set out to bring it back. When the Ark arrived in Jerusalem David appointed the ministers of his day to perform very specific tasks. Listen how it all unfolded,

They brought the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before God. {2} After David had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD. {3} Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each Israelite man and woman. {4} He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel: (1 Chronicles 16:1-4)

David gave jobs to the ministers. The ministers were not to visit the sick and shut-in, perform administrative duties, counsel, or even perform funerals. These are important ministries, but they did not take priority over the task David gave them. Minister, your job is to make petition on the behalf of the nation before God, give thanks, continually offer up thanks to Almighty God, and praise the Lord! Praise Him in the morning. Praise Him at noon! Praise Him in the evening! Give Him thanks at all times!

Why would David, when he was drawing up the job descriptions of the ministers of Israel, set as their priority — petition, giving thanks, and praising Almighty God? That’s a great question. There are probably several answers, but one was because the people needed reminders. The people of Israel needed constant reminders of the blessings and provision of Almighty God. The ministers were to be constant reminders to the people.

When a man would walk by the tent that held the Ark he would hear the ministers thanking God for putting bread on the tables of the Israelites. When a young mother would walk by the tent she would hear the ministers thanking God for loving His people with an unfailing love. When the elderly would walk by the tent they would hear ministers thanking God for His faithfulness throughout the generations. All of the people of Israel would hear the ministers praising God, mentioning the names of the Israelites before the throne of God, and thanking Him for hearing their prayers.

Gratitude can change the course of a nation. Gratitude will change the perspective of a person. Gratitude will cause us to think less of us and more of our Mighty King who provides everything we need!

It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket.

Many years before, in October 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour that would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life. Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean.

For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark was ten feet long. But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation.

Eight days out their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. In Captain Eddie’s own words, “Cherry,” that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off. Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food…if I could catch it.” And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice. You know that Captain Eddie made it. And now you also know…that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, about sunset…on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast…you could see an old man walking…white-haired, bushy-eyebrows, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls…to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle…like manna in the wilderness. (“The Old May and the Gulls” from Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story by Paul Aurandt, 1977)

The gratitude that caused the Captain to daily set aside time to mark the event of grace should be the gratitude of every Christian. Almighty God has given more than a gull, He has given us life, provision for every need, and even His only Son for each of us.

We have lost our memory of the daily provision of Almighty God that has sustained our lives and this nation through the good times and the bad. As a result we have become a nation that expects more than we are due. As a result we have become a nation that is dissatisfied with God when He “gives us this day our daily bread.”

Let it be known the fault does not lie at the feet of the nonbelievers of our nation. The fault rests at our feet, those who have known and yet have forgotten. This is why it so important for you and I to learn how to remember all of God’s mighty blessings.

David, when he appointed his ministers, gave to Asaph, his Senior Minister, this Psalm of Thanks to the Lord. Listen to the constant reminders that the ministers would recite before the people.

{8} Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. {9} Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. {10} Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. {11} Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. {12} Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, {13} O descendants of Israel his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones. {14} He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. {15} He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, {16} the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. {17} He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: {18} “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.” {19} When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, {20} they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. {21} He allowed no man to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: {22} “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” {23} Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. {24} Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. {25} For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. {26} For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. {27} Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place. {28} Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength, {29} ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. {30} Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. {31} Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!” {32} Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! {33} Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. {34} Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. {35} Cry out, “Save us, O God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, that we may glory in your praise.” {36} Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the LORD.” {37} David left Asaph and his associates before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister there regularly, according to each day’s requirements. (1 Chr 16:8-37 NIV)

The very first line of David’s Psalm of Thanksgiving says, “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.” It is our responsibility to make known what the Lord has done to the people of this nation and everyone we meet.

Now that we understand our responsibility, how important it is for us to serve as reminders of His grace, mercy, and provision, let’s focus on how we can serve as solid reminders. How does a person who is basically cynical, skeptical, and ungrateful learn how to become a person who exudes gratitude at every turn? I appeal to God’s Word for the answer, “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

I want to share with you three practical steps to becoming “thank-filled” reminders for the Kingdom of God. These are practical steps that you and I can practice every day of our lives. As we practice these steps we will see Almighty God transform us into “thank-filled” people. We do need a word of caution at this point: Any great athlete who stops honing his or her skills will see those skills fade into a distant memory. So it is with us. If we ever think we have arrived and stop putting these steps into practice then our skills will wither away.

First, recognize your need. You and I will never become anything more than what we are until we recognize our deep need for Almighty God’s intervention. We can not blame our lack of gratitude on the circumstances that surround us. We can’t blame others around us who are ungrateful. We can’t dismiss our thankless hearts by saying, “That’s just the way I am.” We need to see that our lives are dominated by what we think life owes to us and confess that sin to the Father.

The situations and circumstances that you and I will encounter in life will be similar in many regards, but the way that we respond to them will vary greatly. We can respond in a way that gives glory to God and serves as a fragrant reminder to those around us of God’s blessings. We can also respond in a way that hurts those around us and robs God of his glory. Let me give you an example.

Two golfers stepped up to the first tee on the St. Andrews course at Ardsley, New York, one of America’s oldest courses. The elder one was a kindly man who played a thoughtful, deliberate game. The younger man was full of pride and impatience. On the first hole he sliced, lost his ball in the tall grass, shot another one, and had a score of eight instead of four or five.

On the second tee he began to lecture the caddie: “Keep your eye peeled. I’m not here to do your job for you!” Thereafter, every bad shot was the caddie’s fault! At the end of the first nine holes, the young man was so enraged that he discharged the caddie and carried his own bag. “That caddie doesn’t like me,” he said to his companion, ” and I’m **** sure I don’t like him. He made me nervous. Thank God he’s gone!”

After several holes had been played without a word, the older player broke the silence: “Several years ago a little kid from Yonkers came up here and was taken on as a caddie. He was a wonderfully sweet-natured boy; quick-witted, willing, and had a nose for golf. Everybody liked him. His name was William; he had a clubfoot. But that didn’t affect his quality as a caddie. It was a pleasure to go out with him. A certain famous doctor, a member of the club, became interested in William and took him South on a long trip. When William returned, he went back to caddying. The doctor, however, had to give up golf shortly after that because of his health. He died a few months later. One morning I was playing a round with William carrying my bag. Spring was running riot all over Westchester County and the fields and hedges were alive with blossoms. William gathered flowers until he had quite a bouquet. ‘Who’s the girl, William?’ I asked. ‘I haven’t any girl, sir,’ he said sheepishly. ‘They’re for my friend, the doctor–twice a week I take flowers to his grave.’ “You see,” the man went on, “the doctor took him down South that winter and operated on his foot. He made the boy whole again. And William never forgot the doctor’s act of kindness.”

“Now that’s a caddie worth having,” the younger man said. “What ever happened to this William?” “He carried your bag today for the first nine holes.” (Bits and Pieces, Oct, 1990)

William wasn’t the man’s problem. What one man saw as a precious man, a man whom he could bless, the other man saw as a curse. Which characterizes your life?

Let me ask you a few questions so you can try and determine your place on the scale of thanksgiving. These may hurt if we are honest with ourselves, but hopefully through the pain brought on by truth we will see our deep need for Almighty God. “Would your family and friends describe you as a person overflowing with gratitude or as a grumbler?” “Does your family and co-workers see a thankful heart being formed in you or do they see your heart growing harder by the day?” “Do you take time every day to stop and thank God for the little graces that make life so full?” “Do you feel like life has dealt you a bad hand or do you see His hand carrying you through?” “Do you spend more time talking to God, thanking Him, or telling your buddies how bad you’ve got it?”

These are important questions for all of us if we seek to get honest with God. It is only by getting honest with God that He can then begin to form a heart of gratitude and thankfulness within us.

Secondly, we need to practice thanking God for all things. I know, all over this sanctuary, there are people right now who are thinking of the most extreme situations that have ever taken place in your life and you are thinking, “Thank God for…? Yeah, right!” Let me ask you some more questions. “Is He bringing you through? Has He been faithful? Is His healing putting the pieces of your broken heart back together? Could you have done it, or are you doing it on your own?”

To be able to thank God for all things we must practice thanking God for all things. How do you practice? You do it every day, at every occasion, and you never grow weary of practicing.

The Apostle Paul had some terrible situations in life that could have turned him into a sour, bitter, and grumbling old man. They did not accomplish what the Enemy had in mind. Listen to Paul’s words.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. {29} For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. {30} And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. {31} What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:28-31 NIV)

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. {13} I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:12-13)

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. {25} Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, {26} I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. {27} I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. {28} Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. {29} Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? {30} If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (2 Cor 11:24-30 NIV)

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. {8} Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. {9} But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. {10} That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:7-10 NIV)

WE CAN THANK GOD FOR ALL THINGS! We must realize that we can’t agree with that statement when we simply approach “all things” from a rational or logical stance. We can only give thanks for all things when we approach “all things” from a biblical perspective. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians, “Be joyful always; {17} pray continually; {18} give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Th 5:16-18 NIV)

If we are going to be able to give thanks at all times then we must be willing to begin giving thanks right now. I don’t know what it is that you are going through, but I know that it is God’s desire for you to choose to give thanks.

Thirdly, look for things to be thankful for each day of your life. Erma Bombeck, the late author who has caused us all to laugh and on many occasions count our blessings, wrote.

An estimated 1.5 million people are living today after bouts with breast cancer. Every time I forget to feel grateful to be among them, I hear the voice of an eight-year-old named Christina, who had cancer of the nervous system. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she thought long and hard and finally said, “I don’t know. I have two sticker books and a Cabbage Patch doll. I have everything!” The kid is right. (Erma Bombeck, Redbook, October, 1992)

Scottish minister Alexander Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something for which to be grateful. One Sunday morning the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to himself, “Certainly the preacher won’t think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a wretched day like this.” Much to his surprise, however, Whyte began by praying, “We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this.” (Daily Bread, August 26, 1989)

We need to be more like Pastor Whyte and less like the people who complain in the Summer because it is too hot, complain in the Winter because it is too cold, and complain in the Spring and Fall because the weather can’t make up its mind. With that type of attitude there are only about ten days out of the three hundred and sixty-five when we can potentially have a great day.

We must practice looking for things to be thankful for in order that “thankful living” can characterize our lives. There are so many things to be thankful for that we could fill a library of the chronicles of God’s faithfulness and grace shared with us. I’m thankful for the fact that I was able to go to sleep last night. I’m thankful that the Lord gave me the strength to get out of bed this morning. I’m thankful for a voice to praise Him because I can remember a time when I had no voice. I’m thankful that I can read so that I can spend time marveling at His awesome Word. I’m thankful for the ability to hear the praises of the birds offered up to their Creator. I’m thankful for the ability to smell the beautiful perfumes that He had dabbed onto the picturesque scenes of red, blue, green, violet, orange, and yellow that flood the fields in the Spring. I’m thankful for the ability to see the creatures, mountains, streams, valleys, and plains that are part of His glorious plan. I’m thankful for a cool breeze on a Summer’s day. I’m thankful for a blanket on a cold Winter’s night. I’m thankful for electricity that gives us light. I’m thankful for the men that I pray with, talk to, and confide in on Wednesday morning. I’m thankful, no, I am awed by His grace in giving me a wife and three children whom I do not deserve, but whom I love more than life! I’m thankful.

How To Live A Thank-Filled Life
1 Chronicles 16
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