I had a lady come into my office a few years ago wanting for her children to be in our Christian school. She wanted this very badly because she did not want them to be exposed to everything our public schools are doing now. I gave her scholarships for all of her children and I gave her a job since she had not had one because she was home-schooling five children. One day, she showed up to work in a sling saying she had hurt her shoulder at softball practice. Later she went to the doctor and called us wanting permission to have surgery on her shoulder. This seemed strange so we asked why she needed our permission and she said, “So that workman’s comp will cover the cost of the surgery since I got hurt at work.” Of course, this wasn’t true and we had to let our insurance know this so they refused to cover the cost of the surgery. A few days later, I got hit with a lawsuit for several thousand dollars against me and the church. Unbelievable. I thought to myself, “What a way to say thanks for all that we did!”
It worked out. The lawsuit was seen for what it was-fraudulent. But I remember being deposed by her lawyer, my wife and I. And in his questions, he asked how she first became an employee and I explained how we just wanted to help her family and I said, “What a way to say thank you-Sue me!”
Anyway, I’m ok. I have gotten over it. It took a good bowl of Blue Bell vanilla bean ice cream, but I am ok now 😊. The point though is we live in a society where the idea of thanksgiving has all but disappeared. And when it comes to the Lord, we are really bad about having a thankful heart and it is killing us spiritually and relationally with the Lord and one another. This week, I am going to focus on thanksgiving. I know you are amazed at the genius of talking about thanksgiving during the week of Thanksgiving (hehe).
Thanksgiving is so important in our spiritual life. The word ‘thanksgiving’ literally means to give back with a thankful heart. Not only is it good to give back to the Lord out of a spirit of thankfulness, but our level of giving back has a direct effect on how He continues to give to us. When the Lord gives to us, the purpose is not so that we have enough money in the bank or that we have a nice car or even food on the table. These are all important and legitimate concerns, but God’s first priority is that we would develop a relationship with Him that our eternity would be spent in His presence and not in Hell with eternal torment. If we don’t get this one thing, it can truly mess up our spiritual life. Everything we receive from the Lord is for the purpose of building a relationship with us for the sake of our eternity.
Have you ever known a spoiled-rotten kid whose parents gave them everything they wanted-all the time? Do you remember that kid? He was a spoiled brat. Their constant giving without teaching him how to be grateful produced in the kid this idea that the whole world owed him everything, but he did not have to give anything in return. Things were far more important to this kid than people-including his parents.
If the Lord were to give us all that He gives us without teaching us the concept of gratefulness, we would fall into the same trap. We would love the blessings, but our love for God would waiver depending on if He had given us our latest desire. And this type of relationship is not love. It would not hold up on judgment day. We would not be able to walk into the glories of Heaven. For this reason, sometimes, the Lord withholds from us reminding us that He is not our Heavenly Sugar Daddy just waiting for our next request to grant. Instead, He gives and calls us to a spirit of thanksgiving. A spirit of thanksgiving focuses on the person who has given to us more than what they have given. We have to take our eyes off of the object given and look into the eyes of the giver and tell them how much we appreciate what they have done for us. This builds relationship. It saves us from being spoiled-rotten. It helps us to love the One who has given us every good thing in our life. We can measure how much we understand this concept by our reaction to unanswered prayer. If we get upset with God, stop praying, stop reading His Word, stop going to church, stop posting Scriptures on our Facebook wall (Yes, I am old and still use Facebook!), then we can look in the mirror and see a spiritually spoiled-rotten brat. We can know that our relationship with God is based on answered prayers, not true love.
The word ‘thanksgiving’ means to give back. How do we give back to the Lord? He has set up a system of giving back through worship; through giving of offering to the church, giving to the poor, and serving others. All of these are ways to give back to the Lord. Of course, the key is the ATTITUDE!! AT-TI-TUDE!!
You can serve in a soup kitchen every single day of your life, but if unless you consciously do it for the Lord, it means nothing. If you have the right perspective, you will be able to see it in your attitude while you are doing it. We serve, and we give not in arrogance, but humility. We give back in generosity, not as stingy little brats. We give back with a heart of thankfulness not duty.
If we do not live a life of thankfulness to the Lord, we limit what He can give us. How can He continue to give blessings to us if we are ungrateful for what we have already received? If He kept giving, we would fall into that spoiled-rotten-brat trap. Ok baldy…what about when everything is going bad and all of life stinks…am I supposed to be grateful then?? Absolutely, the Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances. The good times remind us that God loves us and wants to give us good things. The bad times remind us that He refuses to let us become spoiled-rotten ruining our eternity. In every situation, there is something to be thankful for. You may have to look for it, but it is there. And when we find a way to be thankful, it allows our Heavenly Father to give more without the danger of us becoming….well, you know by now-spoiled-rotten brats.
When He blesses you, give back to Him your time in worship, your resources in tithes and offerings, your compassion to the poor, and your service to others. And as you give back to Him, He will give you more. And whatever you do, don’t return His generosity with a lawsuit. After all…He is the Judge and jury!
1 Thessalonians 5:12-24
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (NIV)
Lord Jesus, I confess to You that at times all my eyes can see is the negative. I confess that I allow myself to sink into hopelessness, bitterness, and thanklessness. But I know this is not your plan for me. Help me Lord to force my eyes to blessings that You have given. Let me be reminded today and every day that every good and perfect gift has come down from Heaven. Help me foster an attitude of gratitude in all circumstances and teach me to give back to You for all that You have done for me. -Amen.