Sermon Pasadena February 26 2000
In one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, he explores the sin of ingratitude. You may remember the story of King Lear and his three daughters.
Two daughters flatter their father into giving them a third of his kingdom. The third daughter realizing that her sisters are lying about how much they love their father in order to gain his possessions refuses to flatter her father. He interprets this as ingratitude and divides her third between the other two.
Now the story unfolds to the point that King Lear is driven mad by the two daughters’ harsh treatment and ingratitude.
At one point Lear speaks of ingratitude as a marble-hearted devil.
The inability or refusal of human beings to be grateful or thankful is played out every day in destroyed and destroying relationships.
One of the hallmarks of our times is exactly this failing.
2 Timothy 3:1-2
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Paul remarked on this sin of ingratitude, when he wrote of the corruption of the human mind in the introduction to the book of Romans.
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
A lack of appreciation for God and the resulting thankfulness can take us away from Him and increasingly into our own selfish minds.
An example from the time of Jesus demonstrates that it is even possible to be the recipient of a direct and personal blessing from God and still be ungrateful. In fact this example seems to say that it is uncommon to be thankful.
11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God,16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?18 “Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
We are commanded as followers of Jesus Christ to be people who express thanks, often and for many things.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always,17 pray without ceasing,18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.
The attitude of being grateful is one of the characteristics that separates us from the carnal mind. To the degree that we think about what is we should be thankful for and then express it as the word of God commands, we will be growing.
Paul wrote to the church at Colosse about the nature and character of the converted person. He said:
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Here Paul mentions thankfulness three times in as many verses.
Verse 15: Thankfulness is associated with the peace of God that is to rule or arbitrate or decide every debate that we have with the world around us.
The BKC says at this point:
An attitude of gratitude contributes to an enjoyment of spiritual tranquility, whereas grumbling makes for inner agitation.
Verse 16: Thankfulness is associated with having God’s word dwelling in us. We are to sing with grace in our hearts to God. This is a phrase that the NIV translates:
…with gratitude in your hearts to God.
The phrase in Greek is : en te chariti; lit., “in grace”. It can mean either (a) God’s grace, (b) graciousness in Christian singing, or (c) Christian thanks.
Verse 17: Thankfulness is toward God the Father through Jesus Christ.
Now Paul practiced what he preached – he was grateful for many things, as we shall see.
And there are many things in the Christian life to be thankful for.
Learning what they are is quite an education, because in ordinary life we are not taught to be grateful for the kind of things that the Bible reveals.
An example from Paul’s life is found in his letters to Timothy.
In the first letter he expresses gratitude for his calling and the ministry that Christ has given him:
1 Timothy 1:12
12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry…
In the second letter he is thankful to God for Timothy’s calling and ministry:
2 Timothy 1:3
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day…
Paul was in prison and remembering with gratitude his helper, Timothy, whose godly characteristics were a joy to Paul.
So here is a question for us as we begin to draw out the lessons for ourselves:
Are we grateful to God for our own calling and that of others close to us? When did we last thank God for someone else’s calling, let alone our own?
We’ve spent some time of late thinking about relationships – and here is another way we can enrich them – by consciously thinking through what it is we should be grateful to God for in other people.
And while the calling of another person is something to be profoundly thankful for, there are aspects of other people in terms of their helpfulness to us that we should not neglect.
If you have a wife who has chosen the role of housewife and mother over a career for a while – that is something to say thank you to her for.
If you have a husband who is willing to work so that you may have security and the ability to live reasonably well -- if he goes to work every day and works hard for you – that is something to be thankful for, and to tell him so.
If you are a child or a young person and you have parents who provide for you – that is something to be thankful to them for.
If you have children who help you and obey you, that is something to say thank you to them for.
It’s often in the expressing of gratitude that we fall down.
But as we have noted, we are commanded to be thankful and that means it has to be expressed.
Paul was grateful for the people of God. In his ministerial role he did not treat the brethren as if they were his possession. He knew that they were his to serve, but not to possess.
He was thankful for what God was doing in His people.
To the Romans he said he was grateful for the faith they exhibited everywhere.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
When he traveled to Rome, he was met by the brethren along the way and was thankful and encouraged. Luke records it this way:
15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
To the Corinthians he said that the fact that God had offered them salvation filled him with gratitude.
1 Corinthians 1:4
4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus…
With the Thessalonians it was the joy he felt at their involvement.
1 Thessalonians 3:9
9 For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God,
Every time he recalled the brethren at Philippi he was thankful.
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
The Ephesian church impressed him with their service and love for all the saints.
15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:
Just as he prayed with thanks to God for the Ephesians, he did the same for those in Colosse and Thessalonica.
3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
1 Thessalonians 1:2
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,
As with Timothy he was grateful for the calling of other individuals, such as Philemon.
4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers,
There were people in the church at Rome for whom he publicly gave thanks:
3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
In the preceding verses of this chapter he thanks the deaconess Phoebe before them all:
I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.
The brethren in turn no doubt gave thanks for him. Certainly the elders from Ephesus felt that way about him.
32 “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.33 “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.34 “Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me.35 “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.37 Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him,38 sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.
Sometimes it seems that the ministry goes through trials so that others can become involved in the resolution that comes from God through the expression of faith. That in turn has an effect on our gratitude.
So you see that thankfulness is bound up in some significant deepening of our relationship with God.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-11 Jewish New Testament
3 Praised be God, Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, compassionate Father, God of all encouragement and comfort; 4 who encourages us in all our trials, so that we can encourage others in whatever trials they may be undergoing with the encouragement we ourselves have received from God.
5 For just as the Messiah’s sufferings overflow into us, so through the Messiah our encouragement also overflows. 6 So if we undergo trials, it is for your encouragement and deliverance; and if we are encouraged, that should encourage you when you have to endure sufferings like those we are experiencing. 7 Moreover, our hope for you remains staunch, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, you will also share in the encouragement.
8 For, brothers, we want you to know about the trials we have undergone in the province of Asia. The burden laid on us was so far beyond what we could bear that we even despaired of living through it. 9 In our hearts we felt we were under sentence of death. However, this was to get us to rely not on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead! 10 He rescued us from such deadly peril, and he will rescue us again! The one in whom we have placed our hope will indeed continue to rescue us. 11 And you must add your help by praying for us; for the more people there are praying, the more people there will be to give thanks when their prayer for us is answered.
In thus same letter Paul also shows how thanksgiving can echo around the church.
You’ll recall the offering that was being taken up in a time of famine. Notice how Paul describes the end result of giving generously:
2 Corinthians 9:10-15
10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God,13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men,14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
Of course before Paul Jesus had set the example Himself, as He thanked God for the kind of people He had called:
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.
At the time of a miracle He thanked God for His involvement, indicating His subservience to the Father:
41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.42 “And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
The giving of thanks is characteristic of those closest to God.
Take Daniel as an example:
19 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.20 Daniel answered and said:
1 “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
For wisdom and might are His.
21 And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.
22 He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And light dwells with Him.
23 “I thank You and praise You,
O God of my fathers;
You have given me wisdom and might,
And have now made known to me what we asked of You,
For You have made known to us the king’s demand.”
Later when Daniel was under pressure his pattern of behavior remained constant:
10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.
As I say, those close to God understand that thankfulness is a necessary part of worship and relationship toward God:
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
11 “You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”
9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,12 saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God,17 saying:
1 “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
18 The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
1 A Psalm of Thanksgiving.
1 Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
3 Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.