THANKFULNESS (LESSON 1)
What is the month of November known for? It's known for Thanksgiving. So for the next month, we will be talking about being thankful.
What are some of the things you guys are thankful for and why? (Get answers from class) We all have something to be thankful to God for. And even if you don't have that much as far as material things or even a very good home life, God has still given you much to be thankful for. If you've accepted Christ into your heart as your Lord and Savior, you can be thankful for victory over death. You can be thankful for deliverance from your sins and salvation. You can be thankful for God's love, mercy, and grace.
Yes, we all have much to be thankful for. Unfortunately, sometimes we forget about all the good things that God has done for us and promised to us, and we lose focus and become ungrateful or indifferent towards God. As a matter of fact, the Bible warns that in the last days, people will become more and more selfish and less thankful to God. People will even stop acknowledging that they have any reason to be thankful to God. In 2 Timothy 3:1-2 it reads, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy..." That verse goes on to say a lot, but one thing that it mentioned was that in the last days, people would become unthankful.
How many of you would agree that we are living in a society that has become unthankful? People don't acknowledge God anymore or give Him the credit He deserves as Creator of the universe. Scientists would rather believe that we evolved from monkeys than to be thankful to God for creating us. People are no longer thankful that Christ died on the cross for their sins. They feel that they can save themselves or make it to heaven on their own terms. People don't give God honor and glory for their success in business. They will tell you it's because of their own hard work that they have accomplished these things. A lot of people don't even call Thanksgiving Day "Thanksgiving." They'd rather call it "Turkey Day." Yes, being thankful seems to be a thing of the past.
Nowadays, people don't even practice common courtesy and thankfulness towards each other. I think we all grew up with parents who taught us as children to say "please" and "thank you," but somewhere along the way this world has become full of selfish people who don't have any manners. We are like a bunch of spoiled children. We often even treat God as though He owes us something. I'm reminded of a story I once heard about an unthankful little girl. (Mouseover or click here to read this short story.)
* Well, being rude to each other is bad enough, but when you stop being thankful to God, you have stepped into the realm of disobedience and rebellion. You may one day find that you have lost those very things that you took for granted!
Anyway, now let's look at some Bible verses concerning being thankful. First of all, have you ever noticed that it is usually easier to have a heart that's happy and thankful when everything is going your way? For the most part, a person will usually say, "Praise the Lord" in the good times. But the Bible says that you are supposed to be thankful to God no matter what your circumstance is. We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." This verse is saying that God wants you to find something to be thankful about no matter what is going on in your life. So even though you are here at this institution away from your families, what can you still be thankful for? (Get answers from class.)
I would say you can be thankful that you are still living. You all know someone who didn't live to see another day. You can be thankful that you are safe. You can be thankful that God is a forgiving God. And you should always remember that whatever you are going through is not going to last forever. Be thankful about that. And know that God didn't promise that you wouldn't go through tough times, but He did promise to be there with you in the tough times. Be thankful that God has not turned His back on you.
* But maybe that's not your problem. Maybe you stick close to God when things are going bad. Maybe it's when things are going good that you forget to tell God "thank you." How many people here will honestly say that they've spent more time praying and reading their Bible while they've been here at camp than they ever did when they were out? Sometimes it is not until we have no where else to turn that we reach out to God. And that's okay. God is always there, waiting to help. But how are you going to act once your prayers are answered? Are you going to forget that God was always there for you and walk away from Him without a word? Let's read a short story of some men who did just that.
Luke 17:11-14 reads, "And it came to pass, as he (speaking of Jesus) went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed."
So we see these ten men were in trouble. They were down and out and diseased. Their faith and, also, their need led them to seek out Jesus. They were just like us. When we are down and out, we turn to Jesus to help us. And Jesus had compassion on them and cleansed them and took away their leprosy and made them whole. He then told them to go show themselves to the priests so that they could rejoin the citizens of that country. But let's see if these men thanked Jesus after He answered their cries for help.
Luke 17:15-19, "And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole."
We have here ten men who had much to be thankful to Jesus for. But after they got through the hard time and were healed, only one returned and told Jesus thanks. What about you? When you receive a blessing or answered prayer from the Lord, will you be like the nine who never came back to tell Jesus thank you, or are you going to be like the one who fell at Christ's feet? How do you think that made Christ feel when only one man out of ten bothered to come back to say thank you?
And you know what? God doesn't want us to say thank you just because he's on some kind of ego trip. He wants you to be thankful because He knows that your thankfulness will keep you close to Him. There is story after story in the Bible of people who had reasons to be thankful to God. Some of them remained thankful and walked with the Lord and God used them in great ways. Then there are others who were not thankful to God and ended up missing out on what God had in store for them. We should have an attitude like King David when he said, "Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever." (Psalm 30:11-12)
Don't be like Satan. Satan stopped being thankful to God and began to think that it was all about him. Satan forgot that he was a created being. Satan became big headed, and now he's hell bound forever. He will ultimately lose everything because of his wrong attitude.
Now, maybe you are sitting there thinking, "Well, I say thank you to God in my prayers every day." Well, that's great, but being thankful to God should show itself in actions as well as words. So let's look at some ways that you can show God your thanks.
One of the first things that comes to mind is that God gave us life. I think that oftentimes we even take that for granted. When is the last time you thanked God for creating you? We can thank God for giving us life in a lot of different ways. We can thank Him by taking care of our bodies -- by eating right and exercising and not doing things that we know are medically harmful to our bodies and minds, for example, smoking cigarettes or weed or drinking alcohol. I Corinthians 3:16 reads "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" Are you thanking God for your body, your temple, by putting these substances into it? Of course not. Show God thanks by valuing and treating with respect your body.
Another way we can thank God for giving us life is by valuing the lives of others. People nowadays don't value life. Murders happen every day. Babies are aborted every day. Life has become disposable. But Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that all life is valuable to God. It reads "Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee..." God knew all of us before we were even born. We are all precious in God's sight and made for a purpose. And if you are thankful for your life, you should also value the lives of the other people that God made.
And what about your salvation? You can thank God for saving your soul by being someone who shares the Gospel of Christ with others. Salvation is a gift that you should want others to receive. If you have asked God to forgive you for a certain sin, you can show Him that you are thankful for His forgiveness by not committing that sin anymore.
What else? You can show God that you are even thankful for the earth and thankful to Him for making us caretakers of it. The way you show that you are thankful for the earth is by not messing it up. Don't throw your trash out the window of the car. Don't put graffiti on trees and walls, etc.
Are you thankful for your ability to earn money? You can show God that you are thankful for the money you receive by using a certain portion of it to further the spreading of the Gospel.
These are just a few things that we should be thankful for. The point is to never take God's goodness and mercy for granted. Don't be like those nine lepers who only came to God when they wanted something and then He never heard from them again. Show God how thankful you are through your actions as well as your words. Remember to be thankful not only during the Thanksgiving holiday, but every day.
If Jesus is your Savior and Lord, be thankful!