What we have to be thankful for
WHAT WE HAVE TO BE THANKFUL FOR
1 Chronicles 29:16
November 21-22, 1998, #826
“Everything has come from You and everything belongs
to you.” 1 Chron. 29:16 (NCV)
I’M GRATEFUL TO GOD …
1. FOR ________________________________________ HE’S SHOWN TO ME.
“You have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God.” Eph. 2:8 (NCV)
“I will… not forget the glorious things God does for me. He forgives all my sins. He heals me. He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with love … He fills my life with good things … He is merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; He is slow to get angry … He never bears a grudge … He has not punished us as we deserve for our sins.” Ps. 103:2-11 (LB)
2. FOR ________________________________________ HE HAS FOR ME.
“`I have good plans for you,’ says the Lord, `I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future.’” Jer. 29:11 (ICB)
3. FOR ________________________________________ HE’S PREPARED FOR ME.
“We know that our body…will be destroyed. But when that happens, God will have a house for us. It will not be a house made by human hands; instead, it will be a home in heaven that will last forever.” 2 Cor. 5:1 (NCV)
“God has reserved for His children the priceless gift of eternal life; it is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in His mighty power, will make sure that you get there safely to receive it because you are trusting Him… So be truly glad.” 1 Peter 1:4-6 (LB)
4. FOR ________________________________________ HE’S MAKING IN ME.
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases him.” Phil. 2:13 (NLT)
“And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him.” 2 Cor. 3:18 (LB)
HOW TO GIVE THANKS TO GOD
1. by ____________________________________________________________
“Sing out your thanks to Him; sing praises to our God …” Ps. 147:7 (LB)
2. BY ____________________________________________________________
“Since we have a Kingdom that nothing can destroy, let us please God by serving Him with thankful hearts.” Heb. 12:28 (LB)
3. BY ____________________________________________________________
“Give an offering to show thanks to God. Give him what you promised.” Ps. 50:14 (NCV)
“Celebrate the Harvest Festival, to honor the Lord your God by bringing Him a freewill offering in proportion to the blessing He has given you.” Deut. 16:10 (GN)
· Review my commitment
· Renew my commitment
· Out-do my commitment
4. BY ____________________________________________________________
“Thank the Lord! Praise His name! Tell the world about His wondrous love and how mighty He is!” Isa. 12:4 (LB)
WHAT WE HAVE TO BE THANKFUL FOR
1 Chronicles 29:16
November 21-22, 1998, #826
One year ago this church made history. You remember it was Building For Life Sunday. You gave the largest offering of any church in the history of the world – over two million dollars cash and 28 million dollars of commitment for a 30 million dollar commitment offering one year ago today. Since this week is the one year anniversary of our Building for Life campaign I’m going to give you a one year up date.
We haven’t talked about it for an entire year on Sunday morning and, as I’ve said, this is the one year marker in the three year campaign. Those of you who are new and weren’t here a year ago this building we built here is the first of seven buildings that are going to build on this campus. A year ago we began a three year giving campaign for Building for Life which is a Phase Two development of the projects on our church property. We’re raising nearly 30 million dollars to do six different projects. We are going to build a Ministry Center, which will be the nerve center of our campus. We’re going to build a Life Development Center for our kids’ and adult classrooms. We needed to build some additional parking spaces. We needed to build an interim youth facility, the big tent. Then we’re going to build a bridge across the creek from Margurite Parkway for a second entrance – a five lane bridge. Then we’ve purchased another 41 acres next door, the gravel pit next door. All rolled into this one campaign over a three year period.
Let me give you a status report because this Thanksgiving we have a lot to be thankful for after one year. A lot more to be thankful for than even a year ago.
1. The first thing we did, the new parking lots were opened up in August – 525 new parking spots. We had to do that because when we start building the Life Development Center we’re going to lose spots so we have to put one back there. So the very first thing we had to do before any building was to put in the parking spots.
2. Then the second thing we did was erect the Life Development Interim Facility – the youth tent. We needed that space immediately. Since we opened that temporary facility up for the youth on weekends now, junior high and high school combined, we average over 1,500 teenagers each weekend here at Saddleback church. It’s incredible. That space also provided immediate space for adult Bible studies, for Celebrate Recovery, for banquets, for CLASS classes and all kinds of things.
3. After months and months of delay our Ministry Center is finally beginning to be erected at the front of the campus. You can see those steel girders going up. It’s getting exciting. That building is going to be the nerve center of our campus. It’s a high capacity building. It will house the offices of all 211 staff members of Saddleback. It will house workspace for the 150 ministries of our church. It will house practice rooms for our musicians. It will house our counseling center and much, much more. We’re real excited to see it finally going up. It’s going to be equipped with state of the art technology, Internet and everything prepared for the 21st century to meet the needs of our family.
4, Then I’m real happy to announce this morning that we’re going to begin the five-lane bridge in and out of our property in three weeks. We’re not going to know what to do; we’re all going to get home so quick. We went through all kinds of environmental studies, federal permitting, geo-technical traffic studies, negotiating with the city of Mission Viejo, etc. We break ground on the bridge in three weeks. If the money comes in at the right time we will be able to open that bridge before Easter. That’s all up to the funds coming in.
5. We’ve completed the interior design of the Life Development Center, which is going to be our state of the art children’s and adult education classroom building. While we were working on that design we found a way to save several million dollars on it more than we thought we’d be able to save.
Then at the same time we’ve been working on all five of these projects, we go out and purchase that 41 acre gravel pit right next door, which means we’ll eventually have a third entrance to the property. Rocky Road will be renamed Glenn Kruen Boulevard. Our ultimate worship center will be built over on that site over there. So far we’ve struck a deal that we’re making principle payments only, no interest. This last year we have paid three million dollar on principle on the property. While we have been doing that the property doubled from 13 million to 26 million dollars in value. That’s a God thing!
An update on the Building For Life fund. Last November, a year ago, we all committed to give 30 million dollars over a three year period above our tithes and offerings for these six projects. That’s about ten million dollars a year. I’m happy to report in the past year you have given over and above your tithes and offerings – in addition to regular given – you’ve given for these projects nine million dollars, which is incredible! We can thank God for that!
Let me tell you why that’s a miracle. I don’t know if you saw this in the paper this last week but there was a full page article on “Good Times in Orange County.” It says that Orange County is a virtual Shangri-La economically and it’s talking about that these are the best days economically in Orange County’s history. Then it says, but the bad news is we’re getting stingier. Even though the economy is robust, this last year the median donations actually dropped $26 from the previous year and Orange County residents gave the lowest in giving in eleven years even though it’s the best economy ever. It says Orange County is dead last in giving in America. We’re the stingiest county in America. It says the number of people who gave to charity dropped dramatically. We’ve never had a great track record in the area of charitable giving. It’s just not a part of Orange County tradition.
So I want to say to you why this is a miracle. In a sea, an ocean, of selfishness, of materialism, where Orange County is dead last in charitable giving, you folks in this church gave over and above normal offerings nine million dollars. That is a miracle of generosity. We ought to thank God for that!
What did we do with all that money? Last year we took six million of that money and spent it on developing these six projects and we put three million dollars in the savings. The next 6-7 months will be the most expensive part of our Building For Life campaign. In order to finish the Ministry Center out front and the bridge in the back, we need to give about eight million dollars – speed it up – in the next six months. In other words, about by June. Let me encourage you to keep on being faithful. Don’t back off. Keep on giving on your commitment during that time because the next six months is going to be the most expensive time. We’ve got a little savings but we’re going to need eight million to finish these two projects.
By the way, if you remember a year ago, we had a little deal. Some of you remember. I agreed to lose a pound of weight for every million you gave. I stand before you today 30 pounds lighter! I’ve lost 30 but you’ve only given nine so you’re 21 behind, so put up or shut up!
There’s a whole lot more I could tell you about. If you’re a visitor, we don’t normally do this on a weekend but this is a one year anniversary. All of the details I’ve put in a Building For Life update. All the exciting things that are happening on these six projects. When you leave everybody’s going to be given one of these brochures. It will catch you up on all the things we can be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
This week our entire nation will celebrate Thanksgiving. The irony of it is that very little thanks to God will get done. We are so busy preparing, cooking, entertaining, watching football, eating, that about the only real thanks that gets done on Thanksgiving is done in a single prayer – possibly – before the big meal. And it’s done by one person. We miss the whole point of the holiday to give thanks to God for what He’s done in our lives.
So today I want to share with you a way I think you can make this Thanksgiving different. It starts with first realizing that everything you own, everything you are comes from God. Without God there would be nothing in your life. The Bible says in 1 Chronicles 29 ”Everything has come from You and everything belongs to You.” If you did not have God in your life, if God had not even created you, you would have nothing. So it all starts with God. So when we start saying, “What can we be thankful for?” we really have to thank God for everything. But I figured you didn’t want to wait around till about 2:00 for this sermon today so I’m going to shorten it and pick out four things.
You remember when The Sound of Music came out, there was a song “These are a Few of My Favorite Things.” This morning I want to do “These are a few of my favorite things I thank God for.” In my mind, these are the big four. These are the top items. If you know Jesus Christ, if you are a believer, you have every reason to thank God for these four things. If you get these four down, you’ve got the top priority items.
1. I’M GRATEFUL TO GOD FOR THE GRACE HE’S SHOWN TO ME
The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8 “You have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God.” What is grace? Grace is everything God does for you even though you don’t deserve it. Grace is God giving you what you need, not what you deserve. The Bible says that everything you have comes by grace. Last spring we did a ten week series on this. You might want to listen to a few of those tapes during Thanksgiving. Everything God does in you and through you and for you and to you and by you is by grace. You don’t earn it, you don’t deserve it, you don’t work for it. It’s just a free gift.
In Psalms 103, there’s a laundry list of just some of the things God does in our lives by grace. He says, “I will not forget the glorious things God does for me. He forgives all my sins. He heals me. He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with love. He fills my life with good things. He is merciful and tender to those who don’t deserve it. He is slow to get angry. He never bears a grudge. He has not punished us as we deserve for our sins.” Are those things to be thankful for? I’d say so.
Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t give you what you deserve? Aren’t you glad instead that God gives you what you need? If you don’t understand grace, and if your heart doesn’t explode with gratitude when you understand the grace of God, you have no idea of what bad shape you were in before you met Christ. Let me summarize it in one word – hopeless. You had no meaning, no purpose in your life, guilt, fear, bitterness, worry, regrets. You had nothing you could do to get rid of them. You had no hope for the future. You were headed for hell not heaven. There was nothing you could do about it. You would never be good enough to earn your salvation. But God came along in His wonderful love and said, “I’m just going to show you grace.” So this thanksgiving, I am thankful to God for the grace that He has shown me.
2. I AM THANKFUL TO GOD FOR THE PLAN HE HAS FOR ME.
We talk about this a lot at Saddleback. Life is not an accident. You were made for a reason. You were made for a purpose. God has a plan for your life. Your parents may not have planned you but God did. No baby is ever born by accident. There are illegitimate parents but there are no illegitimate babies. If you’re alive and you’re breathing and your heart and pulse are going, that means God has a plan for your life.
Now God’s plan is a good plan. It’s not a plan we have to worry about, that we have to be afraid of, be anxious about. It’s a good plan. God says this in Jeremiah 29 “`I have good plans for you’, says the Lord, `I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future.’” Is that something you can thank God for?
God’s plan is so good and so great that He even takes our mistakes, our faults, our failures and the things that other people do to hurt us and weaves them in and brings good out of those. God’s plan for your life is not all happy, all comfortable. God’s plan includes pain in your life. And God’s plan includes some disappointments. And God’s plan certainly involves some discipline. If you were never disciplined, you would never have any character. God’s plan in your life involves some unanswered prayers. Yet He does it all for good. It’s for a future.
He has shown me grace and He’s given me a plan, a plan that when the more I discover it, the more I get in the center of it, the more my life unfolds and my true potential comes out. He says, I have good plans for you. I’m grateful for the plans He has for me.
3. I’M GRATEFUL FOR THE HOME HE’S PREPARED FOR ME IN HEAVEN
2 Corinthians 5:1 “We know that our body will be destroyed. [Some of you think it’s been destroyed already!] But when that happens God will have a house for us. It will not be a house made by human hands. Instead it will be a home in heaven that will last forever.” Human beings were made to last forever. Every human being that’s ever been created, God made them, not for just the time here on earth. God makes human beings to last forever. One day your body is going to die, but that’s not going to be the end of you. One day your body will decay and fall apart and cease to exist. But that’s not going to be the end of you. The Bible says you were created in God’s image and that means you have a soul. You will spend eternity one of two places – heaven or hell, depending on whether you received Christ and trusted His grace or not. Heaven and hell are real places. They’re not some figment of somebody’s imagination. They’re not some symbolism. They are real places. Jesus talked more about heaven and hell than He did about a lot of things. And I guess He knows more about it than you or me. He says they’re real places.
As Christians, we don’t have to be afraid of the future. Christians, of all people, are the most confident about death because we know where we’re going. You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready to die? Are you ready to meet your maker? You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.
Only a fool would go all through life totally unprepared for something you know is inevitably going to happen. You know you’re going to die. The latest statistic tells us that in America the mortality rate is 100%. Everybody in this room is terminal. Every human being is terminal. It’s just a matter of time. But we don’t have to be afraid of that. We can actually be thankful to God because He’s shown us His grace. And while we’re on earth He has a plan for us and when we leave this earth, if we’ve trusted Christ and His grace, He’s going to take us to heaven. And I’m grateful for that. A home in heaven!
What is heaven like? Four words:
Reunited. In heaven we’re going to be reunited with loved ones who are believers. We’re going to see those again who’ve known the Lord, who’ve trusted Christ. We’re going to be able to fellowship and love each other there, reunited with those loved ones.
Rewarded. The Bible says in heaven we will be rewarded for our faith, rewarded for our service, rewarded for our trust in Christ, rewarded for our faithfulness in praying and serving and giving and sharing. And there will be eternal rewards. The Bible is very clear about that.
Reassigned. In heaven, we will all be reassigned new tasks to do, new things to do with our lives that keep us occupied. They’ll be things that you like to do, not some bad tasks like some bad job here on earth. God understands your shape. He knows how you’re wired. You will be reassigned things to do that are fulfilling in heaven. Contrary to popular opinion, when you get to heaven, you’re not going to sit on a cloud in a sheet and play a harp. (To me, that would be hell!) I can’t think of anything more boring. And this whole thing about heaven being all white… Heaven is going to have lots of color. God invented color. If you think the world is beautiful – and it’s an imperfect place – how much more is heaven going to be beautiful. It’s going to blow your mind. Your senses will be fully aware because there won’t be any sin there to hold them back and harm them. You will be reassigned work to do.
Released. The Bible says that in heaven we will all be released from pain, from fear, from depression, from sorrow, from conflict, from tears, from stress. The Bible says there will be no tears in heaven. There will be no sorrow. They’ll be great joy.
Who is heaven made for? The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 1 “God has reserved for His children the priceless gift of eternal life. It’s kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God in His mighty power will make sure you get there safely [Circle “make sure you get there safely.”] to receive it because you’re trusting Him so be truly glad.”
Does everybody go to heaven? Absolutely not. No, everybody does not go to heaven. If God let Hitler and ax murderers and rapists and genocidal dictators into heaven it would be hell. So heaven is only for His children. How do you get to be His child? By asking in faith to become a part of His family, by trusting in His Son, Jesus Christ. You say, “After I become a believer, what if I sin as a Christian? What’s going to happen?”
What do you mean “if”? It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. You will sin. You will blow it. You will make mistakes. Christians aren’t perfect. They are forgiven. There will be times in your life that you will want to let go of God’s hand. The day when you trusted Christ, you put your hand in the hand of God and He grabbed onto it like a heavenly Father. There are days when you want to let go but He’s not going to let go because He loves you too much. There will be days when you say, “God, I don’t want to be a Christian today. It’s too difficult, too hard, too unpopular. There’s too much cost.” Or whatever. There will be days when you have doubts. Yet the Bible says, God in His mighty power will make sure you get to heaven safely. Once you put your hand in His hand it’s His responsibility to keep the commitment that you made.
Aren’t you glad for that one? Aren’t you glad that when you doubt God, He doesn’t doubt you? Aren’t you glad that when you feel far away from God, He still loves you and nothing can ever stop Him from loving you? Aren’t you glad that it’s His power that keeps you saved, not your own? That’s something to be thankful for. Of course, if you had to earn your way to heaven doing good works, then obviously, logically, the moment you stopped doing those good works, you’d lose your salvation. But you’re not saved by works so you don’t stay saved by works. You’re saved by simply accepting God’s gracious gift of grace. Once you’ve accepted that gift, you put your hand in His hand and it is His power not your own power that keeps you saved. I don’t care what happens in my life, I know the finish line. I know the end of the story. No matter what happens in the rest of my life, I’m ending up in heaven. I’m thankful for that. I am grateful to God that He didn’t put my salvation in my own hands and leave it up to me, because what if I blew it in the last hour before I died? That is great news.
I’m grateful to God for the grace He’s shown me. And I’m grateful to God for the plan He has for me. And I’m grateful to God for the home He’s prepared for me. But there’s one thing that really overwhelms me. My heart explodes when I think about this issue.
4. I’M THANKFUL TO GOD FOR THE CHANGES HE’S MAKING IN ME.
I am so glad that I am not the same person I used to be. I am so glad I’m not that same person. God is helping make changes in my life that I could never do on my own. I’m so grateful for that. I’m grateful to God that I’m not the person I’m going to be. But I’m grateful to God that I’m not the person I used to be.
God looks at us and says, “I see that lump of clay. I could do something with that.” God saw your potential when nobody else saw it. And when maybe everybody else is writing you off and saying, worthless! God says, “No. I see the diamond in you and I made you and I value you. I’m going to start making some changes in you.” The moment you became a believer He started that personal improvement program. He’s chipping away at your life, changing you and making you different.
God does love you just the way you are. When you come to him you don’t have to say, “God, I promise to clean up my whole act, get it all together.” You just come to Him with the good, the bad, the ugly. He loves you just the way you are. He loves you far too much to let you stay that way. So He starts making changes in your life and in my life. Philippians 2:13 “God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him.” He not only gives you the desire to do the right thing, He gives you the power. God never asks you to do something He doesn’t give you the power to do. Many of you have seen radical transformation of your life that no one else could have ever made, no human being, no program, no therapy could have ever possibly done. Changes in your marriage, changes in your relationships, changes in your own life. You ought to be thankful from the bottom of your heart.
I think the problem is that the longer we’re Christians, the more we forget what a good deal we’ve got. We actually forget what it’s like to live without hope, to live without help, to live without God’s power and presence and peace and protection in our lives. The Bible says that when we come to Christ He starts changing us. 2 Cor. 3:18 “And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him.” This is God’s goal for us – to make us godly, to make us Christlike.
This is the purpose of Saddleback church. The bottom line in everything we do – why we do what we do – is that verse. We are in the life changing business. That’s Saddleback’s business. When you boil it all down, it’s not buildings, it’s not programs, it’s not music, it’s not message. We are in the life changing business. Jesus has the power to change you that no body else can do. Jesus changes wife beaters into loving husbands and I’ve seen that happen in this church. Jesus is the power to take addicts in the street and turn them into responsible citizens. I’ve seen that in this church. He has the responsibility and the power to put marriages back together when there were daggers of hate going in those counseling sessions. I’ve seen that happen. I’ve seen lives turned around. I’ve seen selfish, arrogant, pompous businessmen and businesswomen become loving, humble, unselfish servants of God. Only God can make those kind of changes in our lives. A transforming power. I’ve seen people who were consumed with worry, consumed with fear, consumed with bitterness, consumed with guilt and low self esteem and depression, seen them blossom in the power of God. That’s what I love about this church – this constant parade of changed life after changed life after changed life. In the last six years, over 6000 people have been baptized here at Saddleback and every one of them are standup presentations saying, “I am a changed life. I’m not perfect. I don’t have it all together. But now my feet are in the right direction. Thank God I’m not what I used to be.”
If you have never been baptized you need to be and say to the world, “I will never be the same again. I’m stepping across the line publicly.” Say to the world, “I am not going back and to prove that I’m not going back I’m making a public declaration of my faith because I’m grateful for the changes He’s making in my life.”
How do you give thanks to God? If you’d come to mid week service you’d know. Four ways to say thanks to God.
1. By singing. Psalm 147:7 says “Sing out your thanks to Him, sing praises to God.” Nothing makes you more aware of God’s presence faster than praising God. I love the story last week of the woman who was the atheist and the skeptic and she just couldn’t believe in God. She said, when I go to church and sing a song, during the song I’ll believe in God – five minutes. She did and Bam! The moment you step across the line you know peace that floods your soul.
The Bible says to sing our thanksgiving to God. You say you can’t sing? You don’t have to. The Bible says make a joyful noise. Even pigs do that when they eat! Some of you couldn’t carry a tune in a baggie but you can still sing to the Lord. You’re a prison singer – always behind a few bars and never have the right key. Your voice should be cultivated – plowed under.
Where can we sing to God? Everywhere. Since God is everywhere you can sing your praise to God everywhere. You can sing to God in your home. You can sing to God in your office. You can sing in your car. You can sing in the bathtub or the shower. You can sing your praises playing golf or shooting pool or washing dishes or planning a program. You can sing to God putting your kids to bed. You can sing to God when you get up in the morning. Christianity is a singing faith. Did you know that more songs have been written about Jesus Christ than any other single subject in history? More than love songs or anything else. More songs are written about Jesus Christ than any other subject. Why? Because He’s the one worthy of our praise.
I know that there are some people who come to Saddleback and they come late intentionally saying, “I’m just going to hear the message. I don’t need the music.” Big mistake! You are missing out on an important healing element in your life. You need something for your head and you need something for your heart. Psychologists have discovered that singing praise actually lifts your spirits. There are physical changes that take place in your life. Praise renews. Praise rejuvenates. You’re missing out. You’re cheating yourself. I actually know a psychologist that when people come to him for counseling one of the first questions is “Did you sing the songs in your church last week?” If they say no, he says, “You need to go home and sing them.” It’s a mood lifter, a depression lifter – praise. If you’re feeling down this holiday season, just start singing and watch the miracle of thanksgiving take place in your heart.
2. By serving. We sing with our lips but we serve with our lives. The Bible says, “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Hebrews 12 says “Since we have a kingdom that nothing can destroy, let us please God by serving Him with thankful hearts.” When we serve God, it’s not some chore, some duty, some obligation. It’s a privilege. The motive for serving God, the motive for using my talents and gifts is serving God and others in ministry is gratitude.
If God never did another single thing in your life, you owe Him everything. If He never did one more thing for you. You say, “I work for what I got. I worked hard for it.” Where did you get your talent? God. Where did you get your energy? God. Where did you get your health? God. Your mind? God. The opportunity? God. Freedom? God.
Everything you have is a gift of God. So at Thanksgiving, don’t just eat food and watch football. Thank God for what He’s done in your life. Thank Him through singing, thank Him through service – by doing something totally altruistic, totally unselfish, by using talents and gifts that you’ve got to help people in a way that you don’t get anything personally back from it. It’s just in gratitude to God. I wish I could read to you the stories of the 3,500 plus people in our church who are involved in ministry at Saddleback in one of the 150 different ministries, who week end, week out, give their lives. Some in obscure jobs, some in little jobs, some in menial tasks, some in very visible tasks – all with a heart of gratitude. Serving God with thankful hearts. You need to remember that all work is God’s work if it’s done in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s not divided into “This is spiritual, teaching a Bible study and this is secular, cleaning a carpet.” Somebody made the chair you’re siting on and when they did that, they had a ministry to you. You wouldn’t have anything to set on if somebody didn’t make the chair. If they did it in the name of Jesus with a grateful heart, it was ministering to you. It’s all God’s work. We sing our thanks with our lips but we serve with our lives.
3. By giving. The Bible says “Give an offering to show thanks to God. Give Him what you promised.” The Bible says that the level of my giving shows the level of my gratitude. If I’m not giving, I’m not very grateful. The bottom line is: I’m not very grateful. Obviously “thanks” and “giving” go together. One of the ways we give our thanks is through giving.
Let me suggest an annual habit for you to develop. Obviously the best time to do this habit is at Thanksgiving. I review, I renew and I outdo by giving commitment.
1. At Thanksgiving it’s the best time of year to review my giving commitment, to go back and say, “What does my giving say about me? What statement is it making about me?” I review my giving. I ask myself six questions:
1) Have I been giving this past year based on reason or revelation? Am I just giving what I think I can afford to give? Or am I giving what I know God wants to give through me?
2) Is my giving this past year stretching my faith?
3) Has my giving showed my hope of eternal reward or my interest in material things?
4) Has my giving showed how much I really love Christ and His church family?
5) Has my giving represented a genuine sacrifice? Was it really a sacrifice?
6) Does the amount I’m giving truly express the level of thanksgiving that I have for my life, my family, my church and my salvation?
You can make up your own list. But I would suggest that you first review your giving at Thanksgiving.
2. Then also at Thanksgiving, I suggest that you renew. At Thanksgiving time, I renew my commitment. I say, “God, I just want to remind You that this next year I again commit to being a tither – 10% of all I make goes back to You. And I again commit to being more than that. I commit to becoming a more generous person.
3. I try to outdo. I want to grow in my faith every year. I want to grow in my generosity, grow in my gratitude. I’m not going to give the same thing I gave last year. That’s staying level. But every year I want to be giving more. Because as I give more to God, I see more of His blessing in my own life. So I try to raise that level.
One of the things Kay and I have done for many years is try to make a large end of the year gift, just to make sure we’re outdoing what we did last year. We’re not going to stay at some level. We want to be growing, going in our loving.
Again, I wish I had time to read to you some of the stories people have written me this past year in the first twelve months of building for life. People have told incredible stories about how they said, “We’re going to give to this because it’s important, at personal sacrifice.” It wasn’t “God, if You give us the money, then we’re going to give it.” No, it’s “We’re cutting back in order to do this.” And watching how God has blessed their lives as they put Him first place in their finances.
The Bible says this in Deuteronomy 16 “Celebrate the harvest festival to honor the Lord, your God by bringing Him a free will offering in proportion to the blessings He has given you.” This is a biblical principle. Three hundred fifty years ago, the Pilgrims sat aside a day called Thanksgiving in the fall. But three thousand years before that, God established a Thanksgiving festival that He called the Feast of Weeks where His people were to bring Him an offering. I challenge you that either today or next week, give an offering of gratitude to God. Give a gift of thanks at Thanksgiving.
We give God thanks by singing, serving, giving and
4. By telling. Tell others about Him. Every time you tell somebody the good news you’re thanking God. Isaiah 12:4 says “Thank the Lord, praise His name. Tell the world of His wondrous love and how mighty He is.” We have the greatest news in the world and the good news keeps getting better because the news in the world keeps getting worse. It’s better than the cure for cancer. Everybody needs Jesus. Everybody needs what we know. You can only be the authority on your testimony. You are the authority on how God’s worked in your life. And if you don’t tell it, who will tell it? Not me. If you don’t tell your story, if you don’t share your faith, it’s not going to get shared and the world is at a loss because of that.
This Thanksgiving, look for somebody who you can share your faith with, somebody you can invite to church where you can communicate and say, “I am a Christian.” That’s giving thanks to God when you do that. That’s what baptism is. It’s saying, “I am thankful for what God has done in my life.”
Next weekend, I’ve asked Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, to come speak here. He’s giving a message to Seekers, to the unchurched, people who don’t know Christ. I hope you’ll bring somebody. I hope you won’t just come to hear Franklin Graham yourself. But say, “I love somebody who doesn’t know the Lord. I care about him and I’m going to make sure they get here next week.” It’s a way of giving thanks.
This power of thanksgiving is amazing. There’s miracle-working power in the power of praise and thanksgiving. There’s a great story in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas had been out talking about the Lord and they were thrown in prison in Philippi. They’re in this dark, dank dungeon of a jail and in the middle of the night, at midnight, they decided to start thanking God in their circumstance. They start singing and praising God and God does a miracle. He sends an earthquake the earthquake is so powerful that it rattles all the jail doors loose. It’s the original Jailhouse Rock. The jailer goes, “I’m going to kill myself because all the prisoners are loose now and they’ll kill me.” Paul says, “No, we’re all here.” The jailer says, “What kind of prisoners are you?” “Christians,” Paul says. So the jailer takes Paul and Silas to his home and they pray and they bind up their wounds with bandages and Paul tells them about Christ and that night the jailer’s whole family accepts the Lord and are all baptized that night. The prison doors were unlocked when they began to praise and thank God.
What prison are you in this morning? An emotional prison? A financial prison? A relational prison? Are you locked up with guilt? Are you locked up with worry? Are you locked up with discouragement and disappointment? Are you locked up in a habit that you can’t break loose from? Conflict? Whatever it is, start thanking God. And watch the prison doors open wide.
The attitude of gratitude can do a miracle in your life. It releases the power of God when we thank Him, when we praise Him. Today, instead of complaining about your problems, start counting your blessings. Instead of looking at what you’ve lost, start looking at all you have left. Say today, “Dear Jesus Christ, I am so grateful for the grace that You’ve shown me, for the plan that You have for me, for the home that You’ve prepared in heaven, and for the changes You’re making in me. Help me to show my gratitude by singing, and serving and giving and telling others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”