Psalm 9: 1 – 3
1 I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
3I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
Matthew 6:2 (NIV)
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
“Once there was a lady of very high rank who went begging the night before Thanksgiving Day. She wore ragged clothes. She put a shawl on her head and carried a basket. She wanted to test the charity of her neighbors. At some houses, she was given things of absolutely no value. At others, she was told harshly to go away. Only in one place was she received with a welcome and given a large warm meal. That was at the home of a poor man. Here she was taken in to a warm room and treated like royalty.
The next day was Thanksgiving. All the people the lady had visited in the town were unexpectedly invited to the castle. When the servants led them in to the main dining room, place cards showed each person where to sit. On the plate before each person was the same thing that person had given to the disguised lady the day before. Some plates were completely empty. Only the poor man received a huge helping of warm food.
When the countess entered she explained to her guests. She said, “I came to you yesterday to test your charity; I went all about the village dressed as a beggar. Today I am serving you the same thing you gave me yesterday.”
Beginning the first of November many people on Facebook and in their personal journals declared and are declaring at least one thing they are thankful for – something different each day. They are openly and shouting out like a trumpet blast thanking God for so many aspects within their life. We should all focus on that – thankfulness.
What if you took a notepad or a small calendar and daily wrote down things for which you were thankful – big things, little things, things from the past, things in the present. Then on Thanksgiving Day you could read those things and realize all God has done for you. And since we are so close to Thanksgiving, why not start today and continue it until Christmas Day. On that day you can then thank God for the greatest gift of all – Jesus Christ.
This can be a truly enlightening experience because not only as you write it but as you read it later you are being filled with the awareness of God and His love.
1 I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. Psalm 9: 1-3
We all are blessed with so much – many things we don’t even think about, don’t even realize. We are so grateful for what we have. Today, let’s think about the second half of the word Thanksgiving. And that word is Giving.
We have all the blessings from God. Now, let’s give back to humanity and help humanity. How can you, how can I really make a difference? One person, then two, then three, then four, and then a million people making other peoples’ lives better. What better way to say thanks to God? You can do it.
Here is a story about a very successful businessman who now spends his life teaching others how to succeed. Here is his story in his words:
“I remember one Thanksgiving when our family had no money and no food, someone knocked on our door. A man was standing there with a huge box of food, a giant turkey, and even some pans to cook it in. I couldn’t believe it. My dad demanded, `Who are you? Where are you from?’
“The stranger announced, `I’m here because a friend of yours knows you’re in need and that you wouldn’t accept direct help, so I’ve brought this for you. Have a great Thanksgiving.’
“My father said, `No, no, we can’t accept this.’
“The stranger replied `You don’t have a choice,’ closed the door and left.
“Obviously that experience had a profound impact on my life. I promised myself that someday I would have enough money to do the same for other people. By the time I was 18, I had created my own Thanksgiving ritual. I like to do things spontaneously, so I would go out shopping and buy enough food for one or two families. Then I would dress as a delivery boy, go to the poorest neighborhood and knock on a door. I always included a note which explained my Thanksgiving experience as a kid. The note concluded, `All that I ask in return is for you to take good enough care of yourself so someday you can do the same thing for someone else.’ I have received more from this annual ritual than I have from any amount of money I’ve ever earned.
“Several years ago I was in New York City with my wife. She was sad because we weren’t with family. Usually we were at home decorating the house for Christmas, but we were stuck in a hotel room.
“I said, `Honey, look, why don’t we go out and decorate some lives instead of some old dead trees?’ She didn’t know what I was talking about. Then I told her about my Thanksgiving ritual. She was enthusiastic. I said, `Let’s go someplace where we can really make a difference. To appreciate who we are, what we are capable of and what we really can give let’s go to Harlem.’ She and several of my business partners who were with us weren’t really enthusiastic about the idea of going to Harlem. I urged them. I said, `Come on let’s make a difference in some people’s lives. Let’s go to Harlem and feed some people. We won’t be the people who are giving it because that would be insulting. We will just be the delivery people. We will go and buy some food for six or seven families for 30 days. We have enough. Let’s just go do it.’
“That’s what Thanksgiving really is, giving good thanks, not eating turkey. My partners started calling rent-a-car places but they were all out of vans. Quickly they shrugged their shoulders and said, `Well it is no use, we can’t help people this year because we can’t get a van to carry all the food.’
“I called them over to the window. They looked down at the street far below. I said, ‘Do you see all those vans down there?’
“They said, ‘Yes we see them.’ I said, “Let’s go get one.”
“First we went down and tried walking out in the street in front of the vans. But we learned something about New York drivers that day. They don’t stop; they speed up. Then we tried going to all the traffic signals while the cars were stopped, knocked on the window, and said, “Can you help us?”
It wasn’t very long before the perfect van showed up at the traffic light.
It was perfect because it was extra big and it would accommodate all of us. We went up, knocked on the window, and asked, “Could you take us to a disadvantaged area? We will pay you a few hundred dollars.”
“The driver said, “You don’t have to pay me. I’d be happy to take you. In fact, I’ll take you to some of the most difficult spots in the whole city.” Then he reached over and grabbed his hat. As he put it on, I noticed it said, Salvation Army. The man’s name was Captain John Rondon and he was the head of the Salvation Army in the South Bronx.
“We climbed into the van in absolute ecstasy. He said, `I’ll take you places you never thought about going, but tell me something. Why do you want to do this?’ I told him my story and that I wanted to give gratitude for all I had by giving something back.
“Captain Rondon took us into parts of the South Bronx that make Harlem look like Beverly Hills. When we arrived, we went into a store where we bought a lot of food and some baskets. We packed them for seven families for 30 days. Then we went out to start feeding people. We went to buildings where there were half a dozen people living in one room—`squatters’ with no electricity and no heat in the dead of winter surrounded by rats, cockroaches and the smell of urine. It was both an astonishing realization that people can live like this and a truly fulfilling experience to make even a small difference.”
You see, you can make anything in the world happen if you commit to it, take action, and plan a thanks—giving.
Leviticus 25:35-38 (NIV) 35 “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. 37 You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
I have a question for you. What can you give back this Thanks—giving? What can you give back to life because life has been so unbelievably good to you?
Gratitude takes three forms:
1. It is a feeling in the heart.
2. It is an expression in words
3. It is a giving in return.
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it away.
I have some wonderful friends who live in San Diego and they told me this:
“One of the most breathtaking sights in the whole world is a San Diego sunset on the beach. As the sun sinks slowly into the horizon, hundreds of seagulls stand and turn quietly toward the sun to bid farewell. Pelicans then fly by in perfect formation, skimming just the top of the waves in their sunset salute. On the bridge across from the beach, thousands of birds line up on the electrical wires all sitting, facing the sun, and saying goodbye to the day. Perhaps they are also silently praying thank you God for this day that you let me live. They give thanks in silence.”
Matthew 25: 35-40, “‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it we saw you as a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
How do you honor God? According to this, you honor God by helping God’s children.
We are not to be separate; we are to be a team. We are all members of one family and we are to help each other. That is the way to thank God and show gratitude. Yes, you feel gratitude in your heart for all God has done for you. Now is the time to give it away and make others know how good it is by seeing God in you.
Thanksgiving is like rain to a thirsty soil. Humanity is thirsty. Humanity needs your help. You say, “I don’t know where to begin.”
Ask God to show you HOW.
Ask God to show you WHEN.
Ask God to show you WHO.
You will be shown. Probably when you open up your eyes, you will have someone in front of you needing you where only you could make a difference. You might think you don’t have enough inside of you to give. God is inside of you and God will give through you and empower you in the giving.
The mental act of thanksgiving carries your human mind far beyond the region of doubt into a clear atmosphere of faith and trust, of building and strengthening, where all things are possible to you. Then you go into physical action of a thanks—giving. This is a Thanksgiving action prayer. It is an open line to God.
Today choose with me to be the most grateful and happy person alive.
Choose to make a difference.
On Thanksgiving we give thanks, but to whom? It must be an odd feeling to feel thankful to nobody in particular. Christians in public institutions often witness an odd thing happening on Thanksgiving Day. People are thankful in general. They are thankful in a vague, sleepy way.
Let’s each realize the incredible gifts of God we have with us, then we can feel alive in a new and a great wondrous way. It is easy to give thanks when everything is going well. When you have had all the answers to your prayers, you can say, “Thank you, God,” in celebration. I know it is difficult to give thanks when you are in the middle of a challenge. It is hard to give thanks when you are in pain. It is hard to give thanks when you are going through a business problem, a personal bankruptcy, or there are problems mounting up in front of you. This is precisely the time that you do need to give thanks.
I want to share a story with you about Matthew Henry, a famous scholar. He was once accosted by thieves and robbed of his purse. He wrote these words in his diary, “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before, secondly because although they took my purse, they did not take my life, third because although they took my all it was not much, fourth because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed, and fifth because I choose in this moment to freely give to the one who needed it more than I, so that I will not hold on to the possession of the grief of loss in my memory forever.”
Author Dr. Eric Butterworth has written, “You do not need something to be grateful for. You need only the desire to feel grateful and to show it to others.”
How do you show gratitude to others? Show it today and every day!
Join me in a closing prayer.
This morning dear God, I give thanks and I praise you. My world is filled with so many bountiful blessings that I cannot count them all.
As I enter into this special week of giving thanks, I will look for reasons to be thankful. As I think of the life which sustains me, the light which guides me, the love which warms my heart, I say, “Praise God!”
As I give of myself today and every day, my heart is filled with love.Help me to see the truth, to have understanding, to give of myself, to make a difference, to do in my power to be a light and to bring a blessing to my surroundings by a thanks-give-away.
As I reach out to praise You God in everyone I see, I reach out to praise the good You have granted them. I praise You God for all we love which is all-great. We all live, move, and have our being in Your love.
In Jesus Christ’s name, we pray and we believe. Amen.