Harvest Thanksgiving – 7 April 2024

Joel 2:21-27 1 Timothy 2:1-7 Matthew 6:25-33

This week, I have been very thankful for our Easter gatherings and for God’s people shining bright in our community!

Thanksgiving seems like a right and good to celebrate today.

I read this quote from the late Tim Keller:

“It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do”. (Tim Keller)

In biblical terms, thanksgiving is what we are directed to live in, no matter what we feel. We are called to give thanks to God even when we are not ‘feeling’ grateful. I wonder why?

The Word tell us why the posture of thanksgiving to the Lord for the day and our life whatever the emotions of the day is possible and very good to do.

  1. We give thanks to our God for our life in his grace because God can be trusted. His faithfulness to his Word is what makes thanksgiving possible. Joel 2 says;

Be glad, people of Zion,
 rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
  because he is faithful. (Joel 2:23)

We give thanks to God because it brings peace within and peace to relationships. Thanksgiving fosters peace between whole countries and between all people. Paul says to Timothy;

 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

Giving thanks to God any given situation because it helps! It is the counter to that much experienced thing called anxiety.

31 So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

(Matthew 6:31-33)

Yes, we give thanks to our God for our life in his grace because God can be trusted. We can thank him for all his promises to us, despite what we feel, because he keeps his promises to us (Joel 2)

We give thanks to God for it brings peace. We Christians live a peace-filled life in relationship with our God in all his holiness and how we show that this is possible for a nation – for our community.

Paul says this kind of thanking is what our God finds very pleasing. He loves our life of thanksgiving because it opens up the possibility of more people coming to the ‘knowledge of the truth’ about who Jesus is and how he is the only one who can bring a person into a loving and thankful relationship with their Maker.

Giving thanks to God any given situation is very good because it helps! Thankfulness fends off that much experienced thing we have everywhere these days – anxiety.

Thankfulness to God stops us ‘running after; more – more looks, more financial and food security, more eternal youth, endless affirmation from others, ceaseless ‘trying to add’ to our own lives more than living the life God has already given us trusting that he is always aware of us, for us, with us, calling us through.

If living in this thankfulness is so good, then why are we not always living thankful?

Essentially, we still live with this heart of thanklessness by which we live in the illusion that we are spiritually self-sufficient.

Tim Keller, in his book called Prayer, says this heart of thanklessness we all still battle with is set on taking credit for something that was always a gift.

“This thanklessness is “the belief that you know best how to live, that you have the power and ability to keep your life on the right path and protect yourself from danger. That is a delusion, and a dangerous one”.

Why is this lack of thankfulness dangerous to you and I?

Keller says:

“We did not create ourselves, and we can’t keep our lives going one second without his upholding power. Yet we hate that knowledge, Paul says, and we repress it. We hate the idea that we are utterly and completely dependent upon God, because then we would be obligated to him and would not be able to live as we wish. We would have to defer to the one who gives us everything”.

Isn’t it true that:

“We are never as thankful as we should be. When good things come to us, we do everything possible to tell ourselves we accomplished that or at least deserve it. We take the credit. And when our lives simply are going along pretty smoothly, without a lot of difficulties, we don’t live in quiet, amazed, thankful consciousness of it. (Timothy Keller, Prayer (196-197)

Can we see today that this heart of ours left unchecked, un-shaped, un-taught by God’s Spirit in the Word and through the community of faith around us generally takes us away from those three gifts that thanksgiving bring?

As we remain deluded that this life we are living is self-made and that any good experienced is purely a result of my great work we miss out on,

(1) delighting in the truth that God can be trusted; that The Lord is faithful to his promises made in whatever we are feeling/experiencing (Joel 2),

(2) that peace within and peace to relationships for which we long personally and globally. (1Timothy 2), and,

(3) that we have a counter to that thing called anxiety. (Matthew 6)

So, how do we stay in the ‘thanksgiving lane”?

Well, remember;

It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do. (Tim Keller)

We seek, we ask, we pray ‘ahead of time’.

Here is how it works. In Philippians 4: 6, Paul says;

(2) that peace within and peace to relationships for which we long personally and globally. (1Timothy 2), and,

(3) that we have a counter to that thing called anxiety. (Matthew 6)

So, how do we stay in the ‘thanksgiving lane”?

Well, remember;

“Don’t be anxious, but make your requests known to God with thanksgiving”.

This seems counterintuitive.

Normally we ask God for whatever we believe we need in any give situation and then say thanks when he gives it.

But not here.

We say thanks as we ask. We operate with a heart of thanks as we ask, not after.

So, as we ask the Lord for what we need we do so with a heart that trusts his goodness no matter how those requests are responded to. The Lord can say, ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘wait’. And thankfulness says – ‘thanks’ for each of those responses – even the ‘no’ or the ‘wait’.

That seems so hard! But we have some words from God on this:

“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20), and,

“… all things work together for the good of those who love God” (Romans 8:28)

These words are not saying that every bad thing has some kind of silver lining if you just believe enough or if you learn to see it properly.

No, they are saying that bad things are bad, but ultimately they will be overruled by a God who loves you, even in such a way that the intended evil will behind it will finally be outsmarted by God.

He will eventually make that evil intent of whoever it was and the Evil One himself do the very opposite thing that was intended – as Keller says – “a greater good and glory than would have otherwise come to pass” (Keller, Prayer)

Friend, the Lord has that birds-eye view through the cross of Jesus to you and the scope of all human life and history. He also has the vantage point of the end point – you with him resurrected in Jesus. From that lookout, he sees that all things will eventually get to their good outcome in him.

We are called to trust that and thank God for it as we seek what we need and what we know others need. We know him. We know him from the cross and the empty tomb. We thank him for whatever he sends, even when we don’t understand. That is actually ‘faith’.

And it is this faith as we ask and live and pray for others and our country and world and church that brings those gifts of thankfulness into our day:

Our God can be trusted.

He brings peace within and peace to relationships.

He counters all our anxiety.

We are ‘living the dream’ no matter the feelings.

Thankfulness is what we do all the time, and sometimes we feel grateful.