The Bare Soul - November 27, 2011
The Hope of Thanksgiving

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Hope of Thanksgiving" delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on November 24, 2011.

Hope of Thanksgiving - November 24, 2011

Romans 5:5 - and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

What does Thanksgiving mean to us? Is it that once a year gathering together of friends and family when we refuse to count calories and we enjoy food, family and football? For many of us in America, that is the hope of this annual fourth Thursday in November. For others, it has a deeper meaning. The food and fellowship are still important. However, there is a deeper dynamic that occurs during this day we call Thanksgiving. For those with a faith in God, it becomes a time to ruminate upon our blessings and to give thanks for our bounty. Whatever our station in life, those possessing a relationship with Jesus Christ understand that gratitude of what has been given from the hand of God is not to be taken lightly. We must thank the Lord no matter our lot, even as those struggling Pilgrims did nearly 400 years ago at Plymouth Plantation. While we have so much more than they could ever dream, I sometimes wonder if they had more than we possess? There is a singular quality in these Puritans of old that stands out in stark remiss in many of today's celebrations of Thanksgiving. I submit that that the depth of one's thanksgiving is birthed in the womb of hope -- a hope that comes from above.

If the ordinary man or woman were asked the definition of hope, there would undoubtedly be many answers. However, I speculate that most would equate hope with wishing rather than believing. We might wish for something to happen and we may or may not have the outcome we desire. However, someone who knows the Savior can place their hope in the promises of God. This, beloved, is not wishful thinking. For not one of God's promises has ever failed, nor will one ever. There is always hope if we have put our trust in God. The decision for the Pilgrims to venture forth -- first from England and then from Netherlands to journey to the New World -- was not based on wishful thinking. Those who embarked on that perilous journey on the Mayflower possessed a profound hope and faith that God would not only lead and guide them but establish them in the new land. Their hopes were somewhat dashed as they clung to life that first winter. However, the Lord delivered them and gave them reason to rejoice in the early autumn of 1621 when they enjoyed their first Thanksgiving with their native neighbors. The near hopelessness of losing 45 of their original 102 person company in that first year was somehow less overwhelming as they looked to the future with hope. They had survived only by the grace of God and the faith and hope that their mission would truly be successful due to the aforementioned favor of the Lord.

As God-fearing, Bible believers, they must have taken great solace in the Word of God. I believe the Pilgrims would have often reflected on Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where he speaks of faith, hope and love (I Corinthians 13:13). Truly, they had left all they had known in the Old World in faith and hope of a new life in America. Their love for their Savior was apparent, as they only desired a place where they were free to worship as they discerned from God's Holy Word. While both their faith and their love were important, I believe hope's placement between faith and love in Paul's first Corinthian letter resonated with their most trying circumstances . Without hope, disappointment will be birthed in the womb of hopelessness. This would certainly be true if the Pilgrims had succumbed to their predicament and likewise for us also if we give up in the face of severe loss. In short order, this will lead to the loss of love and respect for God and finally to shipwrecked faith (I Timothy 1:19). However, if we know the love of God, and allow faith to nurture hope, we are told in the apostle's book to the Romans that disappointment cannot be spawned when hope is present (Romans 5:5). The love that has been shed abroad in our hearts by an indwelling Savior becomes the lifeline that allows faith and hope to anchor our souls (Hebrews 6:19). Out of this place of fluid faith, hope, and love can flow true thanksgiving that is born out of a truly grateful heart.

I suggest that it is impossible to know true gratitude and thanksgiving unless one is grounded in the love of God. What others might experience is a shadow of reality that has its roots in human sentimentality. For the love of God to prosper in our hearts and lives, it must be quickened by faith and be grounded in hope. In this regard, we expect far too much from those who don't know the Savior to understand the significance of Thanksgiving. It has deep, spiritual roots that drink deeply from the wells of everlasting hope. Those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior will never be disappointed if they surrender their lives to Him. For those who will but trust Him, Thanksgiving will never again be the same. It moves from a purely sensual experience to a spiritual one that is grounded in hope and love for the One who has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Like the early Pilgrims, we can have the assurance of hope that does not disappoint with an outcome of love and thanksgiving.

Heavenly Father, thank You for your blessed hope. Thank You that Your love enables Your hope to anchor our souls with an assurance You will always be there for us, no matter what may come. Thank You for the gift of thanksgiving that comes from persevering through the hope of Your promises. For as we give thanks back to You, we receive a bounty that we cannot contain. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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