Title: GIVE THANKS WITH A GRATEFUL HEART
Text: Hebrews 13:15-16
What’s Thanksgiving really all about? Contrary to what might be the scene in our homes this Thursday, it’s not about a huge feast, football games and a long nap. Some think it is the holiday of transforming the stuffed turkey into the stuffed tummy. Rather, it’s about sharing with others with a grateful heart for all that God has done through the last year. The true spirit of our national holiday is expressing it even when the last year was filled with hardship, trial and even grief.
Our early ancestors showed us that when heartache is dominating, it is healed by surrounding yourself with friends and giving thanks. The first lesson from the Pilgrims is that sharing with others with a grateful heart heals the soul!
Can you imagine the loneliness of celebrating Christmas far, far away from your family & friends? That’s what happened to the Pilgrims. They arrived on the shores of the New Americas on December 21, 1620. When they reached the shore, they bowed their knees and thanked the Lord. Some of them had already lost family members on the voyage before even reaching their Promised Land. Here they were in the middle of winter with no food; they threw up some quick shelters, but through the winter disease set in and wiped out almost half of their numbers. Imagine being in their situation and loosing half of your family. I have a family of 5 – half is 2.5. Point 5? (Tummy)
They had every reason to complain, but someone had the insight that aching hearts need to give thanks to the Lord! When spring arrived, they cleared the land and built better shelters. They made friends with the Indians who taught them how to farm in the new land. When November rolled around, 11 months after landing, they gathered their few numbers along with their new friends, shared a common meal from what little they had, and gave thanks to God. Hard times, followed by giving thanks and fellowshipping with friends over a meal…now THAT’S a recipe of how to heal a burdened heart!!
Here’s the principle of thanksgiving I want us to take home today: Gratitude is the heart expressing itself with a gift in a special way. Read Text The lips give wings to the expression of the heart. Thanksgiving starts with a sacrifice of praise to God. And then the grateful heart looks for a way to express it in a tangible way…it looks for ways to share what you have with others.
Let’s take a look at how this passage is lived out in the lives of a couple of people.
I. ABRAHAM GAVE THANKS TO A PRIEST
A. Do you remember the story of Abraham rescuing his nephew, Lot? Lot lived in wicked city of Sodom. There was a battle of 4 kings against 5 kings, and in the process the King of Sodom lost the battle and the people of Sodom, along with Lot, were taken captive along with all the best possessions of the town. Abraham heard about it and took 300 men to set them free. As he returns, the rest of the story unfolds in Gen. 14:17-23.
B. Melchizedek is a priest, and he pronounced a blessing upon Abraham. In gratitude, Abraham gives Melchizedek a tenth of all the returned goods. That was NO LITTLE AMOUNT! This is the first tithe recorded in the Scriptures.
C. If you breeze past that verse you miss an important insight. Abraham tithed to Melchizedek before the Law was even established! That means there was no law that told him to do it; he did it voluntarily. He did it out of gratitude for a blessing a preacher pronounced upon him!
D. But the story isn’t over yet. The king of Sodom is so grateful to have the people saved that he says, “Let me have the people, and you take the possessions you recovered. Here’s another gift given in gratitude. Abraham humbly denies the gift because he knew it wasn’t right to get rich from the possessions that belong to others. Abraham wouldn’t even take a thread or a sandal.
E. Why did Abraham refuse the gift? Because he counted the blessing of God invoked by a preacher to be a far greater value than a few household belongings! Read Text
II. PAUL ON A STORMY SEA
A. Spending the holidays on a cruise ship wouldn’t be too bad? Do you think? But how about being chained to the beams in the bottom of a crude sailboat during a 14-day-long storm? That’s exactly the situation Paul found himself in our next story.
B. Acts 27 tells the story of Paul near the end of his life when he is being transported in chains from Jerusalem to Rome to be put on trial by Caesar. In the middle of the Mediterranean Sea a hurricane force storm assails their sailboat. They jettisoned the cargo and on the 14th night of the storm the sailors were going to let down the lifeboat and abandon the ship. Let’s pick up the story from there. Acts 27:27-32
C. You can bet the tempers were short, complaints everywhere, people were sick, and they were beginning to think of themselves instead of each other. Later in the story the soldiers were going to kill the prisoners to increase their chances of survival. So this is no Carnival cruise ship…it’s the Titanic all over again!
D. How do you restore calmness in the midst of chaos? Acts 27:33-37 Paul took a common Thanksgiving item, bread, and gave thanks! That simple act of giving thanks in the presence of all of them turned the tide! They were encouraged and began to share together their simple meal.
E. Are you beginning to see a pattern? Hard times, followed by a grateful heart and eating together is God’s way to unburden a heavy heart!
F. Next to the grateful heart, there is another key component to this story: Paul was willing to share his piece of bread! It takes a giving heart to be willing to share what could be your last meal with those who were about to slit your throat in order to increase their chances.
G. That simple act captured the hearts of 276 people and changed the mood of that perilous voyage! And you thought giving thanks was no big deal!!!! Read Text
III. JESUS AT THE LAST SUPPER
A. Giving thanks when it’s hard to is what turns resentment into peaceful gratitude. Could you do it if you knew this was your last Thanksgiving celebration? The story of all stories about giving thanks is at the Last Supper. Matt. 26:20-29
- Jesus is reclining at a table eating His last meal with His closest friends. He alone knew what was about to happen in the next gruesome hours…hours that would find Him alone, ridiculed, and in much pain.
- This very night He would cry out in agony that few have ever experienced. He would plead with His Father 3 times to let it pass, but each time He submits to the will of the Father.
- From somewhere deep inside, Jesus puts His own agony aside and He takes His piece of bread, breaks it and shares it with them. And He takes His cup and raises it toward Heaven AND GIVES THANKS!!!
- Somehow Jesus was able to set aside the panic that He is about to die, AND HE GIVES THANKS! Folks, I see a principle here: If you give, even a gift of bread, and offer thanks to God even when it’s hard to…THE GOD OF ALL GRACE WILL SUPPLY YOU THE STRENGTH TO SEE YOU THROUGH!!!
- Notice our text says Jesus even knew who would betray Him and send Him to His death…but he says, “Drink from it, ALL of you!” You too Judas! I see another principle: Grateful hearts have the capacity to FORGIVE the one who would send you to your death!!! Read Text
Now do you understand what kind of sacrifices God is pleased with? It starts with the fruit of your lips in giving thanks. Then it’s followed by doing good and sharing with others. THAT’S the sacrifice that pleases God! And when you do it when it’s hard to, it captures the attention of others and changes their life in a significant way!
I may not be the oldest person attending Hope…but I’m older than a lot of you…and this is what my years of experience have taught me: A GRATEFUL HEART STEMS FROM THE JOY OF THE LORD WHEN YOU KNOW YOU CAN NEVER BE SEPARATED FROM THE LOVE OF CHRIST!!!
It’s only when you are persuaded that God is able to work all things together for the good that you can offer THANKSGIVING for ALL THINGS! It’s then that the peace of God stands as a sentinel guard over your heart!!!
There’s a special blessing of God reserved for those who can quietly trust the Lord with their life…in all things…even in giving, as simple as a piece of bread, when it’s all you have!
You’ve seen it in the example of the Pilgrims, Abraham, Paul, and Jesus. Will this generation see the same transformation brought about by a grateful heart in YOU??!!
(Sing “Thank You Lord”)