TURKEY DAY OR THANKSGIVING”                By Pastor YAU

Text: Philippians 4:4-7                                               November 23, 2008.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   The Turkey Day: When I first came to Memphis in early 1993, I heard the older generation Chinese in the church called Thanksgiving “Turkey Day.” I thought it must be an expression of street language. But few years later when I was enrolled in a computer class, the instructor told the class that the following week’s class was postponed because of the “Turkey Day,” I began to have some odd feeling: WHY do people change a time to give thanks to a time of turkey?

2)   Thanksgiving Day: Calling Thanksgiving “Turkey Day” is not a small thing. It represents either ignorance of the history and meaning of the occasion or personal rejection on the idea of giving thanks. Some may not truly understand the meaning of this occasion while others may feel that there isn’t anything to give thanks for. Either way, it is sad to ignore or belittle the Thanksgiving.

 

GIVING THANKS IN THE BIBLE:

1)       Start from the Law: “If he offers it as an expression of thankfulness, along with this thank offering, he is to off cakes of bread made without yeast and mixed with oil.” (Leviticus 7:12) In the early days after the Israelis left Egypt, God had prescribed laws for His people and one of them was to give thank offerings for the blessings of freedom and abundance of harvest in the Promised Land. God did this not because He lacked anything from His people but to encourage His people to express their thankfulness for His blessing and abundance. Why do we have Thanksgiving? Because God asked that we need to have.

2)       Then from a king: “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High.” (Psalm 50:14) This and many, many others in the Book of Psalms, King David did it himself and encouraged his people to give thank offerings to God and to fulfill vows they made to God when asking for deliverance and blessing. The Book of Psalms is full of thanksgiving and praises for the blessings of God. When you were encouraged and got lifted up by reading the Psalms, don’t forget to give God thank offerings as did King David.

3)       Then from the Lord: “Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me and I knew that you always hear me.’” (John 11:41-42) This is the beginning of a prayer Jesus offered to His Father before He raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus thanked God for hearing His prayers. If Jesus needs to give thanks to His Father, God, because God heard His prayers, shouldn’t we give God the same thank offerings for His answers of our prayers?

4)       Then the Apostle: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has giving me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.” (1 Timothy 1:12) In many of his letters to the churches and individuals, Paul used the words “thank”, “thanksgiving” and “thanks be to God” more than 40 times related to God’s grace and blessings on him, many faithful Christians and the churches. He encouraged us to give thanks to God always in today’s text, Phil. 4:6. If you have a heart of giving thanks, you always find things you can give thanks for.

 

BENEFITS OF GIVING THANKS:

1)   The benefit is on you: Either you give thanks to God or to people, the first recipient of that is you. Most of the time when we give thanks to God or people, they don’t receive anything from us except the words or good feeling. But this is a big way to demonstrate your sweet spirit, the kind of a nice person you are and the good relationship between you and God or the person.

2)   It shows your attitude: Giving thanks to God or to people shows you do not take people and things for granted. It means you have a correct attitude to appreciate people when they do you a favor, help you out in some way or provide things for you. Correct attitude is a very important ingredient to smooth relationship, be it at home, in school at work or in church. It means you don’t believe that anyone owns you anything. Anything someone did for you deserved your giving thanks.

3)   It promotes your joy: To have people who love you and help you, do things for you and support you makes your life much more joyful than struggling alone. The feeling of being loved, by God or by people, is heavenly. Showing gratitude and expressing thankfulness certainly helps building that joy of life to higher level. Many people feeling miserable and lonely because they don’t feel being loved and don’t know how to express gratitude when they do. So, try harder to express thankfulness will enrich your quality of life and joy.

4)   It draws people to God: Expressing thankfulness is very Christian from the Bible and everyday life. One of the problems of the Israelis in the Exodus story was their lack of gratitude that turned into murmuring all the time. The New Testament encourages us to give thanks to the Lord for all His goodness and blessing. This in turn promotes positive Christian attitude about life, friendship, family and church. Countless people were drawn to Christian faith because of the positive and joyful Christian life demonstrated in their circle of life. Few people want to join a religion because of the long-faced and bitter life of the members.

 

HOW TO BE THANKFUL? (Phil. 4:4-7)

1)    First thing first: “Rejoice in the Lord, always.” (Phil. 4:4) To have a correct attitude of life, to see people and things in proper perspective, you need to be “in the Lord” first. This means you need to believe in Jesus Christ, to have His attitude and perspective, to see people and things through his lens. No one may see people and things correctly if he allows himself to be blinded by the perspective of this world.

2)    Promise yourself joy: “I will say again, rejoice.” (4:4) Joy is the inner response to the outside world. It is the condition one must have regard-less of his outside environment if he wants to look for reasons to be thankful. We live in this world that provides very little for us to be thankful of. But “in the Lord” we will have the proper spirit to rejoice regardless what may happen on the outside. If you have a joyful spirit, you can always find reasons and things to be thankful of.

3)    Be humble and gentle: “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” (4:5)The Greek word that was best translated in Chinese: humble and gentle. Those who are proud of their success and arrogant in their attitude seldom, if ever, feel they need to be thankful to anyone. They feel that all they have are results of their own efforts and ability. They deserve all the glory and honor of their success. So, be honest, humble and gentle to recognize that without God’s provision, people’s kindness and many assistance and opportunities you did not create, you won’t get to where you are today. This humble attitude and gentle treatment of others will help you to give thanks due to God and others.

4)    Live worry free: “Do not be anxious (worry) for anything.” (4:6) The Greek word translated “worry” in English means “mind dividing”. Worry and thankful just won’t work together. People who have much to worry can’t gear up to give thanks. All of us are finite and don’t know what may happen tomorrow. So, worry is part of being human. We may have million things to worry about family, children, job, health, money, school, marriage, relationships, future, just to name a few. When you are so heavily burdened by worries, you can’t give thanks to anyone for anything. All the worries will divide your mind and make you feeling miserable that you have nothing left to be thankful of.

5)    Power of prayer: “But in everything by prayer and petition.” (4:6)The power of prayer is not in prayer itself but in the one we pray to, God.  God will take care of our worries and will sustain our lives without our constant worry. This is about our faith in Him and His love to us. If we truly believe that God loves us and has all the power to do all things for us, we have no need to worry and will turn life to thanksgiving.

6)    Present your requests: “With thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”(4:6)Paul didn't mean that you couldn’t present your needs to people like your family and friends. What he meant was you should first present your needs to God with thanksgiving even before He answers your prayers. God is the owner of the universe. He has all the resources and power to meet our needs. Why don’t we first ask God for our needs before we ask man? Paul was so sure of God’s answering of our prayers that he asked we present our needs with thanksgiving to God before He answers our prayers.

7)    Have peace of mind: “And the peace of God which transcends all under standing will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (4:7) Paul encouraged us to seek peace of mind in God who transcends all our understanding and who will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Paul was not asking us to put our faith in empty promises or in fallible people. He asks that we put our faith in God who transcends, stands way above, all human understanding and He will protect our hearts and minds from being divided by worry or anxiety then we will have the good reasons to give thanks.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)   It is Thanksgiving: No, we shouldn’t call Thanksgiving “Turkey Day.” We shouldn’t just give thanks at Thanksgiving time. We should give thanks to God and people everyday of the year. But at Thanksgiving time, it is very important we count the blessings God and many others have given us, helped us, protected us and supported us to show our gratitude and appreciation. We need to do it in words, cards, phone calls, gifts and many other ways so God and people whom we love will receive what they deserve, our Thanksgiving.

2)   Find things to thank: Some have difficulty in finding things they may be thankful of. How about good health? Your family, spouse and children? How about your job and the paychecks you bring in every 2-weeks? How about the love and support of your family and friends? How about the church and many loving and caring brothers and sisters? How about safe driving to and from work without accident? Well I can list a couple more dozens of things you may be thankful of. Be specific and mindful of all the good things in your life and the good people surrounding you and you will find things and ways to give thanks.

3)   Thank for the best: The best of all the thanks we may say is “Thank you Lord for saving my soul.” Repent your sins, ask Jesus to enter your heart, accept Him as your Lord and Savior and thank Him for giving you eternal life. Nothing we may say “Thank you” to may come close to your thankfulness to Jesus for saving your soul.