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Message Monday: A Thanksgiving Meditation

22 Nov

Image result for christian thanksgivingIntro:

  • Just a few months ago I finished a counseling case that I thought would especially apply to our message today.
  • After talking with her and gaining her permission, let me share her case with you. I am going to call her Lisa, though that is not her real name.
  • In our first few sessions when Lisa entered the room it was evident that she was an emotional wreck. At times it was all she could do not to hold back tears. At other times she was livid.
  • For years her mother had berated her and put her down.
    • Lisa was told a number of times that she should have been aborted and that she owed her mother for deciding to have her.
    • She was berated for converting to Christ as a young lady, and for raising her family in church – even though the mother claimed to be a Christian.
    • She was also mercilessly criticized for taking in her sick father and caring for him because her mother and father were divorced.
  • Lisa had tried talking with her mother to let her know how much her words hurt, but Lisa’s mother only continue to berate for sharing such things.
  • At the same time when Lisa would try to distance herself from her mother, her mother would inevitably find a way to rope her back into her life – from fake illnesses to imaginary emergencies.
  • Lisa had recently begun to try to distance herself from her mother before we began counseling, but did not know if she was in God’s will.
  • As our counseling began, I wanted to share with Lisa the great joy she should have in trying to please Christ.
    • In our counseling I began to share with Lisa that she had followed the right process laid out in Matthew 18:15-20 by talking with her mother first and trying to get her to understand.
    • I also shared from Titus 3:10 that says after warning a divisive person twice that you have nothing else to do with the person because they are warped, sinful and self-condemned.
  • Towards the end of our counseling I began to share with Lisa one final challenge. You see, Lisa needed to have a forgiving attitude towards her mother – in spite of all the suffering she had been through.
    • Jesus commands us to forgive others that our trespasses may be forgiven by the Father in Matthew 6:14-15.
    • If Lisa’s mother was not able to ask for Lisa’s forgiveness, it was a pretty good indication that she had never experienced God’s forgiveness.
    • While Lisa’s mother may never ask for her forgiveness Eph. 4:32 says that she should have a forgiving attitude like the one Christ exhibited as He desired to forgive us.
  • We began to try to build this attitude of forgiveness by asking Lisa to put together a scrapbook of her life that she could give to her sons.
    • Instead of communicating all the pain, hurt, and disgust about her mom we asked her to write with the pictures the reasons she thanked God for her mother.
    • Lisa began this assignment with gusto – she was a scrap-booker. She gather the materials and all the special papers and pictures.
    • As she began to layout the pictures Lisa just could not bring herself to move forward because she could not think of anything for which she could give thanks to God.
    • This went on for several sessions and I encouraged her that even in spite of her suffering and trial God could take what was meant for evil and work good out of it (Gen. 50:20).
    • Soon thereafter she came in with the scrapbook and told us she had a breakthrough.
    • In the midst of all the suffering she found two main things for which to thank God.
      • First she thanked God that her mother had not aborted her.
      • Second she thanked God that at the birth of her sons years before, her mother had dropped everything to be there for her daughter.
      • Finally, she thanked God that through this trial with her mom that He had built her testimony to minister to others.
  • With this revelation, I encouraged Lisa to remind herself of those things as God’s way to work grace into her life in spite of her mother.
    • For the sake of God’s best in the relationship with her mother, I asked her begin to pray earnestly for her mother to have a changed heart and come asking for her forgiveness.
    • As she prayed I encouraged her to add more reasons to be thankful to God.
  • By the end of our counseling Lisa had the peace of Christ and was eager to share her experience with others who may have been suffering like her.

Hook:

  • Do you have situations in your life that keep you from being able to give thanks right now?
  • Is there suffering or some kind of hurt that will keep you away from family members or friends that you know you should gather together with at this special time?
  • Perhaps someone in your family has died, and it was their home where the family gathered. Now that is no longer an option.
  • The reason I wanted to share Lisa’s story with you is that her journey so well explains this passage.

Message Points:

  • After building a case throughout 1 Thessalonians that praised the Thessalonians for their faith and their perseverance in the last portion of the letter Paul turned to several concerns that he had for the congregation in Chapters 4-5.
    • He addresses the need to live to please God instead of gratifying their own lusts.
    • He addresses the need to work hard in order to have a good witness with the world and be able to help the less fortunate.
    • As individuals pass away, he talks about the need to comfort one another with the fact of the great resurrection day that is coming at Christ’s return.
    • He discusses the need for us to be ready, and how important it is for us to encourage one another.
    • He lays out a pattern of how church leaders and members should relate to one another.
    • Then finally he comes to this last section that describes a Christian’s daily attitude.
  • His commands here should be understood as three attitudes that he is commanding – be joyful, be prayerful, be thankful.
  • Because he is talking about attitudes, a how-to process on these things is not very helpful.
  • Paul does not want us to practice a routine or pattern in these three areas without genuinely have the interior attitude that motivates our actions.
  • Thus the most important thing that we can leave here with today is not how to do these things, but why we should do these things. Thus we will seek to answer three questions about giving thanks.
  • So today we begin with our 1st question: Why should we always be joyful (1 Thess. 5:16)?
    • The reason for our joy is not in this world.
    • We may have reasons to rejoice in what we see around us, but the attitude of joy we should exhibit comes from the facts of what Paul tells these believers in 5:9-11.
    • Our rejoicing comes from the fact that if we trust in him, no matter what trials, difficulties, failures, or suffering we face; our eternal destiny is life with him.
    • This is not to say that we live for eternity to the point where today does not matter.
    • Civil War General Stonewall Jackson gets it right when he says, “Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.”
    • We can be joyful because we have the freedom to live our life to the fullest, knowing that our eternity is secure.
  • Once we see that God has secured our eternity and liberated our present, we may think that we can live any way that we desire.
  • So to answer our 2nd question we now turn: Why should we continually pray (1 Thess. 5:17)?
    • The language in this verse may be curious to you. How can we do anything else if we are to do as some translations have translated it “without ceasing” or “continually”.
    • The point in this passage is that we would have a continuing conversation or relationship with the Lord.
    • Think with me if you will about how you text someone on your smart phone.
      • You send a message and have to wait for the answer to come back.
      • Thus you begin to do other things and wait to hear your alert or the vibrating that lets you know you have a message.
      • Then you pick the conversation back up.
      • In fact you can look back at your texts and renew conversations from months or even years back.
    • This is the kind of continual prayerfulness that we should be in.
    • We should desire to have the continuing conversation with the Lord Jesus about our relationship as we live the rest of our lives.
    • If we do desire to have that prayerful conversation with the Lord, we will not be focused on living any way we desire, but be constantly reminded to live in ways that would please Christ just as 1 Thess. 4:1 says.
  • Even so, if we are joyful and prayerful that does not necessarily mean that we are thankful.
  • Thankfulness is more radical than joyfulness or prayerfulness.
  • Thankfulness goes the next step from tolerating our circumstances and talking about them with the Lord to actually telling God thank you for our circumstances.
  • This may be easy for good circumstances, but the problem is when we are in rotten circumstances.
  • So we come to our 3rd question: Why should we give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18)?
    • Notice that this passage says that we should give thanks in all circumstances.
      • This means that if we sit around our tables on Thursday and only give thanks for good things we have stopped short of obeying this command.
      • Thanksgiving is not complete unless with thank God for his work in and through our most horrible circumstances.
    • But also notice that this verse is the only one of the three that gives us a specific explanation of why we should give thanks.
      • We are told that every circumstance is God’s will in Christ Jesus for us.
      • Now think for just a minute about God’s Will FOR Christ Jesus.
        • God’s will was to send Christ out of glory.
        • God’s will was to send Christ into temptation and suffering.
        • God’s will was that Christ would bleed and die.
        • God’s will was to raise Christ back up and exalt him.
      • If this is God’s will FOR Christ Jesus, why should it surprise us that God’s will in Christ Jesus for us involves times and seasons of suffering out of which he will raise us
      • Think again of Lisa’s example.
        • It was hard for her to give thanks until she realized that God had allowed to experience the suffering she had so that He could raise her up out of those trials.
        • God’s purpose for suffering and even our own deaths is not to crush our spirit us but to raise us up as Paul says in 1 Thess. 4:13-14.
    • When we thank God for our terrible circumstances it displays our trust in God amazing, transforming, resurrecting grace!

Conclusion:

  • So let me encourage you today to genuinely give thanks this morning.
  • Think of the worst circumstance or situation that you know of in your life.
  • For some of you it may be that you have realized that you do not have any joy in your life because your eternal security is not certain.
    • I encourage you to come and grab my hand and speak to me about your uncertainty.
  • Others of you may realize that you are far from the Lord and have been trying to live your life without an ongoing conversation with him.
    • Today I encourage you to come and publicly bow at this front pew and commit yourself to renewing and rededicating your relationship with him.
  • And some of you may have circumstances that torment you in your life.
    • As the music plays in just a few moments maybe you want to bow in your pew and pray that God would show you how to thank Him for raising you up out of that situation.
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Posted by on November 22, 2016 in Ministry of the Word

 

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