The following article is taken from a lesson that I was blessed to share at our Church, Point Of Mercy, in Nashville, TN. The Senior Pastor, Pastor Denny Livingston ask me to speak, and it was my honor to do so. Colossians 3:15 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. The first time we find any form of the word Thank in the Bible is in the word Thanksgiving in Leviticus Chapter 7. It is a form of Peace Offering, referred to in this chapter, as the Sacrifice Of Thanksgiving. You don’t see the exact word again until Nehemiah chapter 12. The Apostle Paul picks it up in The New Testament, and uses it several times. The only other writer in The New Testament to use it is John in the book of Revelation. Paul thought it was so important that he commanded us to Be Ye Thankful. He was saying, it’s not just a pleasant outlook on life. It’s not one of those things that would be nice if you did it. It isn’t just an optimistic viewpoint, it’s a command. The same God that said Be Ye Holy said Be Ye Thankful. Tonight I’d like to share with you why, and specifically, why it’s so beneficial to our lives.
I. Elevates Our Focus
What makes this concept important enough to be a sacrifice in The Old Testament, and a Command in The New Testament? Because of what it does and what it prevents. We don’t think of it this way, but Thanksgiving is a weapon. It’s a defensive weapon that is powerful enough to withstand any foe. I think it’s because Thanksgiving is designed for us to focus on something besides ourselves. The Hebrew word for Thanksgiving is Todah, and the Greek word is Eucharist. One means to stretch out your hands, and the other is where we take a term for The Lord’s Supper. Thanksgiving is so much more than what it appears on the surface. It’s engrained in the very nature of being a Christian. Both outstretched hands in praise, and the act of The Lord’s Supper are pointing towards God and away from self. Consider this for a minute. The difference in the word Think and Thank are the letters I and A. When our focus is on what I’m going through, it can narrow our viewpoint, and limit our vision to only our own problems. When we take the time to say Thank you, or to be Thankful, it elevates our horizon to see All of the blessings that God has given us. We see more than just “I” level stuff, we see All of those He has brought into our lives. It shifts our focus from us to The Almighty. The One that loved us enough to die for us, and rose again so that we could live through Him! Before I share with you all it’s benefits, I’d like to clear up a few misconceptions about Thankfulness. Growing up, Mom and Dad used to tell me, You need to accept what you cannot change, and to change what you can. I thought accepting that certain things couldn’t be changed was admitting defeat. They weren’t saying that at all. What they were saying was to focus my energy on the very real difference I could make, and not to waste it on what I couldn’t do. People view Thanksgiving the same way. People who take time to be thankful can be viewed as not being driven. You hear things like, “Well, isn’t that cute? It must be nice not to have a care in the world.” Really? The world looks like they’re coasting on their laurels, they’re just smelling the roses. To be Thankful doesn’t mean that you don’t have any passion, it means that you recognize what you do have. I submit to you that Thanksgiving, or being Grateful, and Ambition are not rivals. In fact, when functioning correctly they are partners. Together they will achieve more than you ever thought that you could.
II. It Brings Clarity
Psalms 17:15 15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content. Satisfaction and Content are two very different things. David said I’ll be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness. Paul said whatever state I find myself I’m content. The two didn’t disagree. David was saying I won’t be satisfied until I’m like Him. It’s still about being like Jesus, it’s not about going to Heaven. As Pastor’s Dad says, Heaven isn’t the goal of the Christian, it’s his destination if he achieves his goal of being like Jesus. God doesn’t want you satisfied, He wants you content. Thankfulness is part of that contentment. Satisfied in Psalms 17:15 means fulfilled, Content in Philippians 4:11 means independent of external circumstances. It’s still not about what happens to you, it’s about what He’s doing in you! A Thankful heart doesn’t do nothing, but it does do independently of its circumstances. Gratitude propels you forward, it doesn’t keep from action. We’ve seen, through countless examples this year, people who had enough reasons to give up. Yet, they didn’t give up, or go under, they said Thank you for what they had, and they went after their dreams. We are not to be Satisfied with our mission until every Soul that we have touched has at least acknowledged the love of God in their lives. However, being content is a matter of survival! Thanksgiving brings you clarity, and that clarity is a shield against wrong mind sets. Psalms 100: 4 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, [and] into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, [and] bless his name. The famous Psalm says to Enter into His Gates with Thanksgiving. We view this as a celebration, and it is, but let’s look at it the way David would have viewed it. We know from Pastor’s Teaching that Gates are made for a defense. David was a King, a Jew, and a Warrior. Thanksgiving here means the same as in Leviticus, it’s a sacrifice, a peace offering. Some Jews say roughly at least 100 different types of Thank You’s to Heaven daily in prayers called Berachot. In 1 Chronicles 23:30, David appointed Levites to praise and thank God everyday.
III. Regulates Our Point Of View
1 Chronicles 23:30 30 And to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even; David knew you have to protect the gates, and I submit to you that there was no weapon in all of David’s arsenal as great as a thankful heart. Thanksgiving is defensive because it aligns us as Pastor has been teaching, vertically with God and horizontally with each other. We have the realization that God is the cause of both our success to this point, and the source of our continued prosperity. He has Fitly framed us all in the manner that pleased Him. This eliminates a lot of things. First, it should help us to overcome our fears. If we recognize that The Lord is for us, then truly who can be against us. This doesn’t mean that you won’t fight worry. Unfortunately, I’m by nature somewhat of a negative person. Truth be told, I expect things to go wrong, but I’m working on it. I believe with all my heart that my God will take care of me! I struggle with my own fears and insecurities, but when I’m thankful, I’m no longer looking at what I can’t do. Instead, He reminds me of All He has done, is doing, and has promised to do in my life! It also guards against other things that can creep in due to a wrong mindset. Let me give you an example. As Christians, especially at our Church, we don’t have much trouble with greed. I can use it as an example without offending anyone because you are all so generous. It’s not something that you struggle with. Let’s look at a character who did. It didn’t happen over night, you don’t wake up one day an become Ebenezer Scrooge, Scrooge didn’t become Scrooge overnight. When we meet him, he’s a full-blown scoundrel. His nephew comes in and is happy about Christmas. Scrooge says what right have you to be merry, your poor enough. His nephew says what right have you to be dismal, you’re rich enough! Scrooge didn’t become the way he was overnight. A Father mourning the loss of his wife, the abandonment of that father, unbalanced ambition, the loss of the woman he loved to his own arrogance. The death of his beloved sister, the nephew’s mother, all gave Scrooge the excuses to slip into what we see at the beginning. Greed is an ugly monster, it can’t seem to hide its claws. It’s not what you call a door opener, but it has a partner. Greed’s sister is a lot better dressed. She can look very sympathetic when she sits down beside you. When she says you deserved that promotion, you’re just as good as she is. Look at her, she’s got what you should have had. She’s got what you should have, and what have you got? Before you know it, Envy has unlocked the door and let greed, hurt, anger, and a whole horde of things in. Maybe you don’t have a problem with envy. Fair enough, maybe your opponent is regret. Maybe you’ve messed up, made mistakes, failed, and flopped time and again. I’ve been there. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. By my physical nature, it would be easy to wallow in them, and I’ve made that mistake before. But I have the choice to choose not too. Just as the example of envy bringing in all forms of hurtful things, Thanksgiving ushers in wonderful benefits. Happiness, peace, hope, and reassurance. Instead of regret, I can choose to be thankful. It’s hard to be thankful and to be miserable at the same time. It’s hard to stay angry when you remember that God forgave you of those mistakes. Yeah, but look where I could have been. Okay, let’s do that, but from a point of thanksgiving for a minute. You could have died in your mistakes, but God forgave you. You could have been rejected, but the problem is He accepted you and I.
IV. Valuing Others
Thanksgiving is about value, valuing in the right way, what and who God has given you. We should be Thankful to Him for all He has given us. This includes all the people who He has placed in our lives, even the ones we don’t like. They serve a purpose, if not, He wouldn’t have put them there. I don’t like kale, but it’s good for me. We should value both who and what has been placed in our lives. We’re not to be materialistic, but we should be thankful for the materials that we have. The Jews freely gave their gold to build the Tabernacle, but they had gold to give. You and I may not have gold, but then we didn’t go through 400 years of Egyptian bondage either. We should be thankful for what and who fills our lives. When we are thankful, it tunes our senses. It isn’t only about smelling the roses, it’s about keen senses. The same nose you smell the roses with, will also smell smoke if your house is on fire. If you have a cold, you may not smell it. If your ears are clogged, you won’t hear the alarm. If your eyes are so blurred by what you don’t have, you won’t see all that you already have. Thanksgiving helps you appreciate what you have, but puts your tasks ahead in perspective. We are thrilled with the response from the Conference, but Pastor and Pastor Jason and everyone already have plans to make it bigger next year. Not because we aren’t thankful, but in fact because we are. We are so grateful that The Lord used our Church to minister to Kingdom workers. The more we can reach, the more impact in their lives, the more impact they will have on others, and the more souls that will be reached. Thanksgiving will reduce stress, reminding us that we are all souls that are here, not for our own glory, but to help The Loving God who gave His life for us and to help rescue more souls from a very real, very near hell! Yes, we have problems, but we have a great God. You have reasons for your sadness, your point of view. You don’t see it as not being thankful. You’re just dealing with the problems, but in dealing with our issues, have we remembered to be thankful? I look around this room and I see people who have been dealt massively unfair battles, and then I remember the video testimony we saw Sunday. My Grandfather was a paraplegic Pastor for forty years. Sis Jennifer, like you, he taught us what a smile looks like from unexpected places. He refused to spend his time sad. Thankfulness overwhelms heavy hearts with the fact that God loves you. I know what it’s like to have a negative bent, but I also know what it’s like to lift mine eyes unto the hills. You see there were times when David called Him the Lifter Up of mine head, and there were times when David said I will lift mine eyes into the hills. You don’t have to wait for God to do the lifting. He lifts your load, but we can always lift our eyes in His direction. It’s hard to be Thankful and to be angry at the same time. Thankfulness combats both anger and depression. Is it easy to be Thankful when you’re angry, or when you’re depressed? No, but that’s why its first introduced in Scripture in the form of a Sacrifice. It’s a Peace Offering, it brings Peace. God, knowing our future struggles, included Thanksgiving in the sacrifices of Leviticus for that very reason.
V. The Sacrifice Of Thanksgiving
Leviticus 7:11-17 11 And this [is] the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he shall offer unto the LORD. 12 If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried. 13 Besides the cakes, he shall offer [for] his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings. 14 And of it he shall offer one out of the whole oblation [for] an heave offering unto the LORD, [and] it shall be the priest’s that sprinkleth the blood of the peace offerings. 15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16 But if the sacrifice of his offering [be] a vow, or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offereth his sacrifice: and on the morrow also the remainder of it shall be eaten: 17 But the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burnt with fire. We can understand the sacrifice of Praise. We get the act of praise when we are tired, but we don’t think of Thanksgiving the same way. Thanksgiving is an insulator, it keeps out cold and harsh things. It is an incubator, it gives birth to miraculous things. To understand it better, I looked up the words. Sacrifice means the slaughter of an animal, Thanksgiving means outstretched hands. The act of Thanksgiving was meant to honor God for His provision in the eyes of all of the people, and to bless the person by whom God spoke to His people. If the sacrifice of thanksgiving was voluntary, it went further, they had two days to eat it instead of one. Voluntary Thanksgiving has long-lasting benefits. One of the translations for Thanksgiving is Confession, though not in a remorseful sense. In the sense of I’m confessing to the world that God has been so good to me! When I confess His blessings, I’m reminding those around me of what He has done for me. I’m Thanking God for His blessings, encouraging myself, and I’m encouraging those around me. David could rejoice about a King building him a house because the last king tried to murder him in his house. David could dance before The King Of Kings on the streets of Jerusalem because he had hidden from Saul in a cold, dark cave. When I’m reminded of what He has delivered me from, it’s much easier to be thankful. Our problem is that when we’re miserable, we don’t want to do the reminding. That’s one of the many reasons that God has connected Thanksgiving with the Ministry. It’s easier to say woe is me, than it is say wait a minute, God’s been good to me. I was lost, but now I’m found. I was alone, now I’m a part of the people of God. I know what it’s like to live in a one bathroom duplex, now we live in our own home. It needs new windows, new carpet, etc, but it’s ours! Why does He specifically connects Thanksgiving with the Priest? For two reasons. Number one, the Thanksgiving Offering was meant to connect us, in a relational way, to the Ministry to preserve our mindset. The Lord intends for us to always recognize the contribution that The Man Of God makes to our lives. God does this, not because His Prophet seeks recognition, but to ensure His people hold tight to their connection with God’s Spokesman. Acknowledging The Man Of God is also an acknowledgement of who sent The Man Of God into my life. I don’t use the term man in a chauvinistic way, but a grammatical way. It shows Who is the source of the Messenger’s message. Everything in The Old Testament is a type and shadow of The New. God wants us all to realize the direct link between the good things in our lives, and our relationship with The Man Of God. When I recognize the lifeline that he is in my life, then I refuse to allow anything to alienate me from that relationship. That includes my own depression, hurt, or situation. Why does that matter here? Because God knows that there are going to be so many times when we are bombarded by our own battles. It would be easy to dismiss the council that He sends through The Man Of God. Except for the annoying fact that He’s right, He’s speaking what God told Him, and I had better listen. It’s saved me from the brink of destruction countless times. When you come to Church, God has a message for you. He has a method to get you out of your mess. He has a Messenger to present it to you, and a Miracle once you receive it. That’s why The Man Of God is so important in your life. Thanksgiving is a form of Peace Offering, our Peace comes through The Prince Of Peace, and is published in our lives through His Leaders. The Pastors God has given us touch our lives with God’s Word, it’s a three-fold chord. In Canada, they celebrate Thanksgiving in October, on a Monday. There, it isn’t about rejoicing over Harvest, it’s about celebrating survival on their journey. We are in a journey together, we are part of each other. I need you, and you need me, and we all need the Church. We are not on this journey alone, we are in this together. That’s the second reason Thanksgiving is connected to Ministry, we all are a part of each other! We are not only to be ministered to, but our gifts, including our Thanksgivings, are designed to minister to each other. Thankfulness recognizes that, Thanksgiving celebrates that. That’s why it’s not an individual act, but one that touched all of Israel. The God receiving it, the Israelite submitting it, the Priest sacrificing it, and the Congregation that witnessed it. Thankfulness enables us to see our brother that is hurting, and to lift their load. In lifting his load, it lifts my load. In making someone else smile, it removes the frown from my face. This isn’t merely about when everything is good and coming up roses, it’s about not checking out when times are hard. Instead of unplugging in the bad times, God has called us to come together, to close the gaps. It’s hard to be sad and be thankful. It’s hard to be angry and to be thankful. You’re asking how can I make the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving? How do I get from just saying I’m Thankful with gritted teeth or sad eyes to that smile. Do something for someone else. The Sacrifice Of Thanksgiving wasn’t only about blessing God, it was about blessing both the Man Of God, and the people of God. When you make someone else smile, it’s hard to stay sad, or mad. Statistics show that the very act of gratitude makes the person serving someone else happier. It makes their lives better. When you give a gift to a child, you can’t frown at that precious smile. When you give food to the hungry, I challenge you to remain angry. When you give someone without a place a stay a home, I defy you to hold on to your own misery. Sure you could do it, but the problem is you have to try to stay miserable. God commanded Be Ye Thankful. He also commanded to do whatever you’re doing with all your might. Are you giving Thankfulness everything you’ve got? Are you smiling because you have to, or because God smiled on you while you were in your sins? Thanksgiving isn’t just a day in October when they eat turkey. I love our man-made trappings of the day as much as the next. I’m the Macy’s Parade guy, watch it every year. But and I’m sorry if this offends you, it is not Turkey Day, it’s Thanksgiving Day. It’s a day when during War, Lincoln took off his iconic hat and bowed his famous head to a God that he believed did exist. He did this to thank Him for preserving the Union that Washington fought for. The same God that, at Valley Forge, Washington knelt to thank for keeping them through Winter. The same act that the Pilgrims, who almost starved to death in their winter, thanked Him for keeping them alive to see Harvest. It is emphatically Thanksgiving Day! We celebrate Thanksgiving because our God traded the robes of Heaven for human flesh. He set aside His glory, to bow His iconic head on a cross. To bring you and I out of a harsh and hopeless future. He did this to make us a part of His Kingdom, and give us an Eternal Harvest. I say again, every day should be an emphatic Thanksgiving! #ThinkThankful