A Thanksgiving message of Sunday, November 22, 2020 for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:
It’s Thanksgiving week. It’s normally a time that sets the stage for a family gathering to celebrate a brief time of rest and enjoy a wonderful meal. Thanksgiving is a time of reflection as to blessings received and for God’s wonderful goodness.
Well, for this year, the celebration of Thanksgiving takes on a slightly different meaning. It’s been a year to remember, and for some of us, it’s been a year to forget. I don’t need to rehash what kind of a year this has been, but we can all agree that news of uncertainty from March of this year until now has brought about a good amount of stress and anxiety. It’s important to have faith in situations like this, but it has gone on for so long and we do not appear to have an end in sight. Our church, it’s family, members and friends, have had to alter behaviors to the degree that it has kept all of the stress and anxiety of the virus at the forefront virtually every single day. It’s been tough. Our faith has been tested, for sure.
Well, let’s not let a cause for celebration be put aside. We can’t afford to dwell on those things that make us anxious. Prolonged stress and anxiety are not good for us. If we don’t consider remedies for our stress and make effective use of them, it has a negative impact on our mental and physical health.
Let’s consider an approach that will give some perspective as to why, in the midst of a year of complete uncertainty, we need to look upon and embrace the things that reflect goodness and comfort. Today, and perhaps more than ever, our certainty in troubled times is in the presence and reliance of Jesus Christ.
It’s time to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ.
And strengthen it even more.
If we can identify the reasons for us to be grateful for where we are right now, it will help us along to be able to truly say “thank you, Jesus” this time of year and any time of the year.
Let’s look at what the Word says to help us to see that we need to focus on what is good—-because we need what is good right now.
Philippians 4:8 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Each of these things is likely the opposite of how many of us have felt all year long. It’s been stressful to hear news of cases, tests, masks and lockdowns day after day after day. We need to look at how God has enabled us with the ability to deal with stress and anxiety. It’s the passage just before the one we just read:
Philippians 4:6-7 ESV
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The key here is to seek after the Lord with prayers and petitions, which I’m sure many of you have done, and to allow God’s peace to overcome your anxiety.
All of these things can be looked at with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, which embodies all of these good things:
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
In my messages, I come back to these passages a lot. Honestly, we all need to understand the importance of remembering that you are never truly alone in Christ. The Holy Spirit is your eternal Helper that provides you with guidance and instruction when you need it most. It can’t be overstated, especially when we are going through difficulty.
How do you see good things around you when a lot of things seem to be not very good? It comes down to your perspective. Your attitude. Your outlook.
So, let’s release any stress or tension that you may be experiencing, and let’s look at why we need to focus on God’s goodness, which will have a favorable impact on our perspective of life and where we are to take it.
Psalm 34:8 ESV
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
James 1:17 ESV
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
1 Timothy 4:4-5 ESV
4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
God’s goodness is ever present, but just like anything else, if we don’t recognize it, we are stuck in our uncertainty.
Let’s take this up another notch:
How grateful are you for God’s goodness?
How grateful are you for what God has done for you?
The word “grateful” is an adjective, and it describes a way of showing appreciation for benefits. The word “thankful” is also within the definition. 1
I’ve learned to take the word “grateful” and reflect upon how much God’s goodness has prevailed over this year’s uncertainty. I am indeed very thankful for the benefits that I receive in my relationship with Jesus Christ.
So, let’s ask the questions I just posed to you once more:
How grateful are you for God’s goodness?
How grateful are you for what God has done for you?
You will need to stop and take the time to reflect upon God’s goodness to see the number of reasons why you are grateful.
One reason to be grateful is God’s powerful presence in your life.
What’s the benefit? Security. He relieves our anxiety with His loving presence and comfort.
Psalm 100:3-4 ESV
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
There’s nothing more comforting than the presence of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
John 10:14-16 ESV
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
In this security that we rely upon, Jesus is our Protector.
Proverbs 18:10 NIV
The name of the Lord is a fortified tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe.
God also fights our battles for us. There’s nothing going on throughout the entire world and beyond that God cannot handle. He is the One who ensures us that we have the victory. Here’s a passage of the story of David and Goliath that affirms this statement:
1 Samuel 17:41-50 ESV
41 And the Philistine (Goliath) moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”
45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.
David was only a youth at the time of his encounter with Goliath, and yet he had greater faith in the room than hundreds of adults. He was used by God to make an important point to everyone who witnessed this event.
God responded to David’s faith by showing up and showing out for Him. He was victorious because of His complete faith in God. There was no discussion of defeat. David was confident that he would win and he gave God the credit for it.
We are to be grateful that Jesus Christ has the victory!
And the ultimate reason for gratefulness of Jesus Christ is how He protects our lives but also our very souls:
Romans 8:31-39 ESV
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We should be grateful for the everlasting love that Jesus Christ has for each and every one of us.
1 John 4:7-10 ESV
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Be grateful for His presence.
Be grateful for His comfort.
Be grateful for His protection.
Be grateful for His strength.
Be grateful for His everlasting love.
We are to be grateful that Jesus is the firm foundation of our faith. No matter what is going on outside, we can rely upon the Spirit that dwells within to carry us from moment to moment each and every day.
Please spend some quiet time this week in prayer and reflection of the goodness of Jesus Christ. He is why we need to be thankful in spite of everything that is going on right now. He is the reason for our gratefulness.
Be grateful that you have Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life.
© 2020 Melvin Gaines
1 Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Grateful. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grateful