Thursday, November 23, 2023

Let Us Give Thanks!

 Lamentations 3:22-25

The LORD's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.

Sermon for Thanksgiving Day 11/23/23

Let Us Give Thanks

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Our nation pauses once each year to celebrate a national day of thanksgiving. On the face of it, it sounds like a good idea – but it is religiously somewhat silly. We are to be a people of thanksgiving. Every day is Thanksgiving day for the child of God. We are instructed in Scripture to give thanks always, to thank God with all our prayers, to rejoice with thanksgiving, and to praise God for all His blessings – both temporal and spiritual. Simply setting aside a single day is unthinkable.

Then there is the question of encouraging everyone to thank whatever deity they might worship. It seems as though on this one day we pretend as a nation that all Gods are real, or all gods are equivalent, or all gods are the same God, which seems to me to be a denial of our faith.

Of course, most people don t think that way, and, frankly, most people don't really take the time to give thanks. Our nation has made this the holiday of parades and football games. Many people limit their thanksgiving to the table prayer at the big meal if they think to do it there. It makes one wonder if many people forget even to say grace before their meals in general.

So why do we celebrate this day? Because we have so much to give thanks for! Plus, we, of all people, will not be seen as those who do not care to thank God, for we know better than most who God is, what it is that God has done for us, and how richly He has blessed us! I mean, if those who do not know God and His love will pause for a moment on this day to offer some sort of thanksgiving to the air, we who do know God will surely take time to worship Him in the holy assembly of the saints, and to gather as His holy priesthood to pay our debt of thanksgiving in public – where the whole world may see how God's people truly give thanks!

Our text speaks about God's goodness and faithfulness, but it really doesn't say anything about giving thanks. You will notice that the text doesn't even use the word "Thanks," "thanksgiving," or even the word "praise." Nonetheless, it actually describes real Thanksgiving. And our theme, this morning, is, Let Us Give Thanks.

The verse that describes genuine thanksgiving is verse 24. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." Those few words tell us how to give God thanks. We give God thanks by confessing Him and trusting in Him.

The Lord is my portion, says my soul. That is confession. It is a confession of faith that sees the Lord as the Giver of every good. He is where our riches have come from – and we are rich, even if you don t feel that way. Many people in the world have only the clothing they wear. When they flee as refugees, they can carry all their belongings in their arms or in a cart which they can pull. We cannot. And very few of us have ever had to flee as refugees.

Most people in the world today do not own houses. Most cannot afford a car. Only a minority can have a telephone in their home, a color TV, or even a radio. Most of the world cannot go to the grocery store and buy the incredible variety of foods that we take for granted. When they can get food, they have to disinfect it and worry that it is safe to eat.

We grumble about health care costs and the inconvenience we face, but the vast majority of humanity cannot see a doctor, let alone go to a modern hospital, have expensive and extensive tests, and receive elegant and effective treatments for various aliments which were fatal even in our nation just a generation ago. Oh, how richly God has blessed us.

But best of all are the blessings you cannot stockpile in your pantry or save up in your bank accounts. We have the knowledge of the love and goodwill of God for us. Most of us have grown up in the presence of the preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We have weekly services in which we can rehearse His great goodness His desire to save us, and the salvation which He has won for us.

Because God loves you so much, He sent His Son into the world to be a man. Because of His great compassion, He placed His Son under the burden of the Law – with the same promise of eternal life if He kept it, and the same – and to us more familiar – curse that if He should sin, He would die both physically and eternally. He desired our good and our salvation so much that Jesus never surrendered to temptation – and He faced it more directly than we, and more subtly than we have. He kept the Law and kept Himself pure and holy.

And because God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place, to take on our sins and be punished for them. "He became sin for us, who knew no sin of His own, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." He paid the price, and now He declares that we are forgiven, freed from the punishment and penalty of our sins, removed from the power of sin to threaten and the power of the Law to force and coerce our behavior.

To those who know these truths and believe that God did these things, and raised Jesus from the dead, and who trust God to do the wonderful things He has promised to do because of Jesus, to them God gives eternal life and salvation. And every little bit of all of these blessings comes to us because of the goodwill and the overwhelming love that God has for us.

So, yes, the Lord is my portion! He is the one sure thing in this world. His love is proven over and over again in the furnace of affliction and shines forth in the sheer wonder of His gift. How can we help but confess such a good God and such a rich and giving Father? How can we do anything but thank Him? Let us give thanks! And the truest thanksgiving we can give is to know Him as He reveals Himself in His Word, and confess out loud, not just in church but in my daily life that the Lord is my portion, and I owe all that I have and all that I am to Him!

How sad it is to consider how few of those who claim to know Him take the time on Thanksgiving to gather with His saints to worship Him and demonstrate by their worship that the Lord is truly their portion. The nation, an institution that cannot be Christian, can set the day aside to give thanks, but the people of God often cannot be bothered. How can His children treat Him so?

But thanks be to God you are here! You have come to lift up His name and cry aloud, as our text says, that the Lord is your portion. So, that you have the opportunity once this day to say it, please say it out loud, "The Lord is my portion, says my soul."

He is the Giver of all things, and the One who watches over our lives to rescue us, therefore I have hope in Him. It is because we know of His love and particularly because we know about Jesus and all that Jesus has done for us and won for us that I have hope. Let us give thanks!

— * —

Your heavenly Father will not fail you. He will not let you slip and fall from Him. He will bless and keep you. How do I know? I look at what He has done already. Then, I remember how deep and consistent His love has been. Finally, I remember His promises.

We can give God no greater thanks than to have hope in Him. I place my trust in Him and I look at all of my life through His grace. How can illness or trouble really hurt us if God is on our side? How can our adversaries triumph over us if God is with us? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Obviously, no one can. God has given us everlasting life, and He tells us of His forgiveness even before we can understand our need. In our troubles, God comforts us with the promise that the sufferings of this present age are not worthy to be compared with the glory that He will reveal to us and in us through Jesus Christ. When we are grieving, God promises a day of resurrection filled with profound joy that will outweigh all of the sorrows you may feel.

In sickness, He tells you that it is not for your death, even if this body should die. He assures us that it is not His anger that we feel, even in when we experience pain and weakness, but the power of the enemy which He has overcome for you. We will live with Him eternally.

He also says that He knows that we cannot see or feel the reality of these truths today, but He calls on you to trust His love and His promises – not blindly, but with the cross of Jesus Christ in full view.

In the day of trouble, He tells us that we can dare to trust Him. He will rescue, and He will provide. He has a plan for each of us that cannot fail, and it is a plan for our welfare and our blessing. Therefore we can give Him thanks no more clearly than to fix our hope completely in Him. Faith is the real thanksgiving, a faith that speaks about what God has done and which lives in complete confidence in Him.

That is what God desires for us and in us. He wants us to "fear not", but rather to trust in Him. How can we thank God more sincerely than to live in His promises, and face the life He has given to each one of us to live with the confidence that He has already saved us, that He does love us, and that your life and your times are in His hands for good and not for evil?

And so the real thanksgiving is not simply a table prayer before we eat until we cannot move without pain, although the prayer is a part of it. It is not simply coming to church, although that is surely appropriate as a part of it. Our real thanksgiving is faith which finds hope in our troubles and sicknesses and comfort in our sorrows in God's promises and blessings. Therefore, let us give thanks with both lip and life. Let us speak boldly of His love, openly praise Him for His blessings, and let us live in his good and saving will deliberately and consciously.

It is true, you know, what the Prophet said, The LORD's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. So we will wait for Him, and seek Him in prayer, and always give thanks for all His mercy and goodness!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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