Waynedale United Methodist Church
Saturday, March 24, 2018
Making Disciples of Jesus for the Transformation of the World!

November 12, 2017 Sermon

“Give Thanks With Your Whole Heart!”
1 Thessalonians 5:12 - 24
Ted Jansen  November 12, 2017  Waynedale UMC
1.)        When a football team looks 80 yards down the field it is a long way to the goal line.  The goal line gives meaning to the plays that gain a few yards at a time.  In the midst of the game the team needs to be thankful, encourage team mates, and keep playing. Looking ahead makes a difference.       
            When a parent has a baby it touches their hearts in many ways.   As they look down the field of life at 18 or more years of parenting it sure seems like a long way away.  
            In the midst of the day to day living looking ahead can allow you to have a thankful spirit.  It can encourage you, though at times you get bogged down.  
            I remember being discouraged and a little depressed when our children were all in diapers.  I thought to myself that I was not accomplishing much with their lives, other than changing diapers.  It seemed like years of my life was spent on changing diapers.    You wonder, at times, when you focus on the day to day things, what will be the end result of your investment of time, money and energy as a parent.  It helps to look further down the days and years to allow you to be thankful for each day.   
2.)        Paul wrote two letters to the church in Thessalonica.  Towards the end of the first letter he shares these words, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:24)  God is faithful.  Paul wanted the believers to have this goal, this focus and then live day by day.  Paul is giving instructions about living out the faith and wants them to be encouraged. 
            We read these words, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18) 
            I see Paul wanting them to connect God’s faithfulness and our thankfulness in life.  They need to focus on the fact that God is faithful.  As they affirm that truth they will give thanks.  
            When we look to the truth, that God is faithful, this helps us in the day to day living and in being a thankful person.  
3.)        We are to give thanks.  We are to focus on the gifts of each day.  Last week I shared how a daily practice of thanks will benefit us physically, emotionally and spiritually. 
            I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
            Paul shared that we are to give thanks in all circumstances, not for all circumstances.  There is a big difference in these words.   
            Paul is not calling all disciples to give thanks for all the circumstances.  If that were the case then whenever another shooting, or tragedy, or act of hate or violence happens that would mean we would thank God for that event, tragedy, or circumstance.  That is not what Paul is talking about.  No.  We are not to give thanks “for.”         
            We are to give thanks “in” all circumstances.  This might seems hard and confusing depending on what is happening in our lives.  We might be in a terrible circumstance and find nothing in it that merits thanks.  We can discover that giving thanks can literally transform our lives.        
4.)        I read an article and the author wrote this, “Recently, I stumbled on a book called A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik. I don’t know how it got on my book shelf, almost as if it was meant to be there. I read the first 10 pages and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
It’s about a guy whose life was a disaster. He was miserable, broke, overweight, and on his second divorce living in a crumby apartment in LA with no air conditioning. He was an attorney and he couldn’t afford to pay his employees their Christmas bonuses because his clients weren’t paying their bills on time --- and sometimes not paying them at all.
            It’s easy to complain about your life until you have someone else’s life to compare to. How did this guy survive? What did he do to overcome adversity? I wanted to know more about his journey so I read on. His story is about gratitude, but what did he have to be thankful for?
The premise is that John had an epiphany while he was hiking in the hills of LA on New Year’s Day. He decided that his goal was to write one thank you note each day for the next year, for a total of 365 thank you notes. He wanted to find a reason to be thankful and grateful every single day. Incredibly enough, there were things right under his nose to be thankful for that he hadn’t noticed.”
5.)        Our scripture and this true story tells us a few things. 
            *Giving thanks is not an option.  Paul said that this is God’s will for each of us.   We might wonder at times what does God want me to do.   What is God’s will for my life?  
A beginning point of doing God’s will is to give thanks in all circumstances.     This is God’s will.   We focus on the faithfulness of God and offer our thanks, each day.  We don’t get to decide if this is a good thing, if this is God’s will.  The scripture tells us.     
*Giving thanks is not based on a positive circumstance.   As you look around at your life situation you might not be in a positive circumstance.  It might be negative, it might be stressful, it might be bad.  You are called to give thank in that circumstance.    How do you do that?   You focus on God’s faithfulness and offer thanks.  You focus on what is worthy of your appreciation. 
  When a loved one is dying of cancer in a hospice center you don’t thank God they have cancer and are dying but you can offer thanks for the chaplain who is with all of you.  
*Giving thanks is not based on your happiness.  When we are not happy or feeling good that doesn’t mean that we cannot give thanks.  Our mood is not the determining factor if we give thanks.  It is even more essential when we are not happy to focus on God’s faithfulness.   We give thanks, even though we are not personally happy as we anchor our heart in the faithfulness of God.  (When we do give thanks this will actually boost our mood to be more positive!)
6.)        Children were asked what they were thankful for.  Here are their responses.   (Huff Post)
Shoes.  Getting new shoes.  People who make shoes.  Aiden, age 3
Toilet Paper – Mandy
Our New Dishwasher – 3 yr. old
Cookies.  Many Cookies -  3 yr. old twins
I am thankful for my blanky.  It’s soft, warm and helps me feel good.  I love to give my blanky hugs.   2 yr. old girl. 
Snowmen, daddy and quesadillas.  Genevieve
Dinosaurs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  3 yr. old boy
Trash Truck driver, paw patrol, drummers, grandparents dog, the vacuum.  3 yr. old boy
Fruit snacks.  2 yr. old.
7.)        How is your heart today?  Are you able to be thankful for simple things, like the responses of the children? 
Sometimes our hearts get hurt and we find it hard to give thanks.  It is like this paper heart that experiences something that tears the heart and it has been changed. 
Do you know someone who has suffered the death of a loved one?  Do you know someone that has gone through a divorce, a drug or alcohol addiction, a financial bankruptcy?  Has someone you know ever suffered domestic or other kinds of abuse?  Do you know someone who has stolen, lied, or hurt others?  Do you know someone who sufferers from depression, anxiety, stress, has cut themselves or attempted suicide?  Do you know someone who is hurting because of choices they have made?  Do you know someone who has found out they have cancer, someone who lost a job, someone who is angry because a father left them? 
8.)        The more hurt a person is the harder it is to give thanks.  This person doesn’t want to give thanks, this person situation is terrible, this person is not happy.  
            Yet, God calls us to give thanks.  We focus on the faithful, loving, God who cares for us more than we care for ourselves.       
9.)        Corrie ten Boom was an inspiration and challenge to thousands of people after World War II. Hearts were stirred and lives changed as she told with moving simplicity about God’s sufficiency to meet her needs, even as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.
            Not only was the camp filthy, but there were fleas everywhere. Corrie’s sister Betsie, who was imprisoned with her, insisted that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 was God’s will for them: “In everything give thanks.” But giving thanks in a flea-infested place seemed unrealistic to Corrie—until she realized why the guards didn’t come into their barracks to make them stop praying and singing hymns. They wanted to avoid the fleas! So, the prisoners were free to worship and study the Bible. The fleas, yes, even the fleas were agents of grace, and something to be thankful for.
10.)      I want to offer a prayer today for each one of us that we might be more thankful, especially those who have hurting or heavy hearts today.