Sunday, May 22, 2022

Giving Thanks for theGood Stuff

 1 Timothy 2:1-8

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.  And for this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.  Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Sermon for Rogate                                                        May 22/22

Giving Thanks for the Good Stuff

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

When Christians give thanks, it is a different sort of activity than when others give thanks.  It can be confusing to someone who doesn't understand the difference between Christians and others - including Christians who do not understand the differences.  First, We give thanks with sincerity, not as though the thanksgiving is extorted from our lips.  We know that God is the Creator and the Giver of all things, not just the things we particularly enjoy and find pleasing to our flesh.  God gives air and muscle tissue.  He gives light and the power of thought and hearing, and the pleasures associated with certain sound combinations, which we call music.  He also presents us with our challenges and sorrows for our maturing and growth.  It is the hard things and the controversies that sort out which are God's and which are hanging around just for the treats.

Secondly, even when we give thanks, it is not about us, primarily.  Our thanksgiving, as noted by Paul in First Timothy, is on behalf of and for the welfare of others as much as for ourselves.  The world knows nothing about such things.  The only time they think about others is when it will profit them personally.  Otherwise, it is always all about them.  But our is never rightly about us.  We are to be like our heavenly Father, concerned about others.  We are also to live out our faith, which means that we know that we already possess everything we will need, and everything we will genuinely want, so when we give thanks, it needs to be in that context.

With those few thoughts, let us look at what Paul wrote to the young Pastor, Timothy, with the theme, "Giving Thanks for the Good Stuff."

There has never been a time in history quite like the days in which we live.  I don't think that they are the best of days or the worst of days.  I imagine how you look at it might depend on what is happening in your life when you make the judgment.  What is true, is that this time in history is different from any other time.  Of course, some people are looking back on "the good old days".  The phrase was coined by a 64-year-old former mayor of New York named Philip Hone in the middle of the nineteenth century.  He wrote "This world is going too fast, . . . Railroads, steamers, packets, race against time.  .  .  .  Oh, for the good old days of heavy post coaches and speed at the rate of six miles an hour!"   That was before our "good old days", I would venture to guess, but still it was when life was simple and people were honest and moral, and prices were down where they ‘belong'.  Those "good old days" are, of course, more myth than reality.

On the other hand, we have the future before us.  How it looks to you probably depends on who you have been listening to.  We have weird weather - and with a Democrat in the White House, the "Global warming" nightmare scenario's are being thrown at us again.  We Have BLM and Critical Race Theory, massive inflation, shortages and predicted shortages, and another election season coming to stir up the media.  The stock market has been insane, and the dollar is hitting record lows against the Euro and the Yen, and oil prices are hitting record highs.   Add to those worries the Twitter controversy with Musk and the war in the Ukraine, and, well, the future could be troubling for many.

We stand here, today, sandwiched in between the "good old days" of yesteryear, and the disquieting possibilities of the future.  And the Apostle tells us to give thanks.  I am suggesting that we should be giving thanks for the good stuff - but I would describe ‘the good stuff' differently than you might.

You see, the life of a Christian is a life of thanksgiving.  In our text, St. Paul is urging us to give thanks.  In other places the exhortation becomes a command, as in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:  In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  The life of a Christian is to be a life of thanksgiving.  But in our text, our thanksgivings are not alone - they are coupled with "entreaties, and prayers,. . . and petitions on behalf of all men."  We are to pray for the sake of all men everywhere - and especially for the blessing and benefit of those who are charged by God with governing and protecting us - "for kings and all who are in authority".

We are offering these prayers not just to be praying, but with the goal of being able to lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity.  Hidden behind this command is the truth stated clearly elsewhere, that the world exists for our sakes, and for calling the lost and erring into fellowship with Christ.  Luther wrote "The world continues to exist because the Church is in the world.  Otherwise heaven and earth would burst into a conflagration in a moment; for the world, being full of blasphemy and godlessness, is not worth one grain of wheat.  But because the Church is in the midst of the godless, God for her sake permits them also to enjoy the common blessings of this life; and whatever the world has, it has for the sake of the Church.  Thus the angel says to Paul in Acts 27:24, ‘Behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you' though they were certainly idolatrous and godless people."

We are to give thanks constantly, as though we breathe in blessings and breathe out thanksgivings.  We give thanks because are among those chosen by God to be His holy people.  And because we are His people, we give thanks because it is the will of our God and Father that we do so.  St. Paul writes to Timothy that these thanksgivings and entreaties and petitions are good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.  What other reason do we need?  God heartily approves of this simple thing.

And such concern for others, rather than just for ourselves, is so like our heavenly Father, who causes the sun to shine on the good and the evil, and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike.  We don't merely say "thank-you"- we give thanks and we pray for men and women everywhere.  We ask God to create the conditions favorable to life and godliness for all of us.  We thank Him as we entreat Him for those blessings for ourselves and others, because we know that God is listening, and that when we pray as our faith would urge us to pray, "not my will but Thine be done," our heavenly Father smiles and answers each time, "Yes, my beloved child, I shall accomplish my good and gracious will."

Men will climb mountains, travel great distances, beat themselves and deny themselves and starve themselves, trying to do a good work and please God.  Men and women give up their right to marriage and even take vows of poverty for the sake of doing something they believe will look good to God.  Yet none of these things are specifically commanded by God.

Thanksgiving is commanded, along with intercession of behalf of all,  and it is declared by God Himself through the Apostle to be good and acceptable to God.  Here is something we can do, that God has set before us as pleasing to Him.  This is something the weakest and smallest, the poorest and least talented among us can do that is pleasing to God and acceptable to Him, and we are assured of the good pleasure of our God.  We can give thanks.

Not only does God tell us that this is pleasing to Him, but He provides us a rewarding goal for all of these entreaties and petitions, prayers and thanksgivings, that we might have a life of tranquillity and quietness in all godliness and dignity.

Have you ever wondered why life goes haywire?  One reason, suggested by our text, is that we fail to recognize the Giver of all things and we forget or neglect to give Him thanks, or to ask Him to bless us.  James, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus, tells us by the Word of God about this truth.  He writes, "You lust and do not have; so you commit murder.  And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motive, so that you may spend it on your pleasures."  See, giving of thanks is not supposed to be about us!

What James and Paul are focusing on is that we, of all people, are to recognize where our blessings come from.  Some people think that they are the source, or the processes of life in this world just work the way we observe them working –  rather automatically, as if nothing else could naturally happen. Strangely enough, when people do think of God they often think of Him as the source not of their blessings but of their troubles.  Some even blame God when things go wrong, when life hurts, and when they suffer sorrow.  "It must be the will of God."  But then, when times are good and abundant, such people tend to forget God, and revel in the things and the pleasures of the moment.  But that is not the part of God's holy people.

What do we have to give thanks for?  Whether your immediate circumstances are pleasant or difficult, we have Jesus Christ and salvation to be thankful for.  That is the primary "good stuff".  No matter what happens in this life, or how we choose to perceive it, we can give thanks for salvation and we can ask God to extend His grace to others.  Remember, this world, as real as it is, is not the main event.  If life is good today, we know that this is a passing condition.  If life is bad or our health is falling, we know that our troubles are temporary at worst.  Resurrection from the dead, eternal life and salvation are going to be vitally important and of ultimate significance for each of us.

We owe God thanks for the gift of His Son.  The world around us gives thanks, now and then but to an unspecified deity.  We give thanks to the God that really exists – the Triune God.  Think about his; Jesus died in our place.  Now, people visit the graves of those who die for them or lose their lives saving others.  Some visit every year for the rest of their lives.  It is a duty.  They say, "It's the least we can do!"

You and I cannot gather at the grave of Jesus, because He is risen!  No Grave holds Him!  We can, however, gather here each week to speak aloud our great thanks to God for His gift of forgiveness and life through His Son!  Jesus took our punishment, Thank God!  Jesus died in our place, thanks be to God!  We shall rise from our graves to everlasting life of joy and peace and glory, all thanks be to our God!

Even more, we have a High Priest who stands as Mediator for us with God.  Our text says, "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time."  He is not some unrealistic and unknowable God-figure who cannot understand or sympathize with us in our lives, but one who has been here and done all that we must do.  He knows our weaknesses and our sorrows. He cares deeply for us.  He hears our prayers and He loves us so deeply that in all things, He works for our blessing and good.  We can be just like Him - we want to be just like Him - righteous, and holy, and filled with love for those who do not deserve it.  Just as He lived and died for us, we can live for others, and pray for them because we understand by faith that all we need is ours in Jesus Christ - and we have no needs He will not meet.  So we can pray and give thanks on behalf of others, a very Jesus-like thing to do.

We can see the signs of His goodness toward us all around us.  We have all that we have from Him, but even if it were all gone, we would still have the bright and certain assurance of salvation.  Times are generally good, but even if they were not, our salvation is sure, and we have the proven love of God with us.  So let us lift up holy hands, as Paul says, in prayer, petition entreaty and thanksgivings on behalf of all men.  

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

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

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