The Bare Soul
November 29, 2009
The following is the message
text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Thanksgiving Through Hope"
delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on November 26, 2009.
Thanksgiving Through Hope -
November 26, 2009
Psalm 116:12-13 - How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.
Most parents teach their children basic manners when they are juveniles. These include being gracious to others, respecting grown-ups, and saying thank you when someone gives them something. Teaching children graciousness enables them to enjoy life and garner the love and respect of others. Without a doubt, giving thanks is the touchstone that releases blessings in a person's life. As nearly all religions teach a form of reciprocity, there is no clearer message of "getting what you give" than the Apostle Paul's admonition about sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7-8). So, why is there so much grasping rather than giving in our world? What is the motivation for a person wanting to withhold rather than to be a generous giver of thanksgiving for what they possess? For truly, everything we claim to possess was given to us. One might argue, "I have worked hard for everything in my life, and no one has given me anything! I am a self-made man!" While this type of arrogant bravado may sound good to many, it is untrue. EVERYTHING a person has is given to them by parents, teachers, siblings, or anyone with any influence to speak into another's life. The ability for a person to tie their own shoes to that of making wealth are undoubtedly instruction that they received from somebody at sometime in their respective lives. Ultimately, all good gifts come from God (James 1:17) so to believe that someone has engineered their own prosperity is ludicrous and an affront to God's word.
Material things are important to recognize as coming not from ourselves, but from others and ultimately God. However, of even greater importance is our thanks to God for what He has given and continues to give in both the physical and spiritual realm. He has given us basic guidelines to follow to sustain the blessings that the Lord so freely gives. God's requirements of those He has called and chosen are relatively simple. Often they are not easy, but they are not complicated. When many of us accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into our lives as our Savior, we came to a finality regarding who we were and who He is. At that juncture between heaven and hell, we knew that the free gift of God could never be earned but it must be accepted as something freely bestowed from the Father above. So, with this "attitude of gratitude" we accepted the free gift and thanked God for His Son's sacrifice on our behalf. Hence, we may ask along with the Psalmist in our opening scripture the rhetorical question: What can I give back to the Lord for all He has given me? The answer, of course, is nothing but our thanks and praise. To "lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord", is nothing more than to lift up Jesus and praise the Heavenly Father for sending Him to die in our place. For many of us, this was our position for months and possibly years after we were saved through grace. When we thought on Calvary and the sacrifice of God, we were overcome with gratitude and thanksgiving. As time went on, however, we may have grown distant in our understanding and feelings toward God and what He has done on our behalf. The "cup of salvation" is no longer being lifted up in remembrance but has become neglected and empty where once it overflowed.
One reason people are not thankful for what God has given them is that they don't understand or they have forgotten the value of His gifts. So often we judge ourselves by our most recent failure rather than seeing ourselves as God views us. If we had eyes to see the indescribable riches that Christ has bestowed on mankind, then we would be continually thanking Him for the bounty He gives us daily. So, how does one who knows Christ regain their spiritual vision, to once again have "eyes to see" the glorious riches that He gives all who have put their trust in Him? I believe there are two ways that must converge to give wholeness to a thankful relationship with God. One is learning and knowing, once again, our positional standing with our Maker. We must be vigilant to always be asking that God would reveal Himself to our inner man through His wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17-19). If we truly understand that all things that are Christ's are ours also, then we will be once again struck by His awesome gift(s) and will be overcome with joy and thanksgiving (John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:5-7; Ephesians 2:7-9). The other is constantly developing our conditional relationship with our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ by thanking Him for what He has given. While praise and thanksgiving may be the natural outflow of a man or woman's life that understands their position in Christ, times will come when they don't "feel" like praising and giving thanks. According to Paul, it is always the will of God to give thanks, no matter what the circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:18; Romans 1:21; Hebrews 13:15). If we balk at doing this simple daily exercise, we don't allow our hearts to be open to God's revelation of what He has done on our behalf. If we consistently give God praise no matter what, we are "filling the cup of salvation" once again and allowing it to overflow into all areas of our lives. By training ourselves not to grumble or complain, but to instead give thanks to God, we thereby break every chain of the enemy. By our praise, WE command the victory as we lift up the cup of salvation and call upon His glorious Name!
Beloved, God desires us to always be grateful and thankful, even when we don't feel grateful or thankful. The great truth is that He has already given us all things in the Beloved, Jesus Christ. It is our responsibility to acknowledge all that He has given and to continually give thanks and praise. In these times, our cup definitely overflows with the goodness and favor of God on our souls. But even in the times where we don't want to thank God, these are the most critical times to do so. The enemy would seek to keep our cup empty and dusty and hidden in a corner of our soul. However, once we start thanking Him, by a volition of the will, then once again our cup begins to fill and to overflow. Then, we can say with Paul, with true love and sincerity of heart: Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (II Corinthians 9:15)
Heavenly Father, thank you for the wealth that you have given each and every one of us who know your Son as our Lord and Savior. Our cups certainly do overflow with praise and thanksgiving for all you have done. Let us never cease to praise You, Lord, even when we don't see as we should. Heal our spiritual vision as we continually lift You up in praise and adoration. In so doing, always keep our cups of salvation full and overflowing to bless others. In Jesus' Name, Amen!
Your Barefoot Servant,
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