This week Thursday our country celebrates Thanksgiving.
When we look into the Word of God concerning thankfulness, then a great deal of soberness has to enter into our hearts. Soberness because, looking into the Word of God, we discover how little we know about thanksgiving and how little we express gratitude to God. Looking over this past year, which is crowned with His faithfulness and love and goodness, we can blush over how little we prayed and thanked Him. How many are the moments of complaint, doubts, worry, gross blindness? And how few and skimpy are the times of heart-felt thanks and praise to Him from whom all blessings flow? Do we know the grace of gratitude? Is humble, joyful praise and thanks with the fruit of contentment part of our day-by-day life?
We have so much. You know, strange as it may sound, it is in abundance that we become so unthankful. I know that for some who are listening there are hard times and things might not look very encouraging – jobs being threatened and different changes coming into your lives. Perhaps you live with the question whether or not you are going to make it financially or lose everything. Yet there is perfect comfort in the truth that we belong to our heavenly Father. We hear the words of Jesus Christ, “Your heavenly Father knoweth what ye have need of. He feeds the sparrows, and He has sworn that He will also clothe you.” Yet we all have an abundance. Do we know the value of a piece of bread? Do your children know the value of a piece of bread? Do we know what a gift it is to have a warm house, clothes, family, children, parents in a world where children starve and homes are destroyed and countries experience war? And spiritually, how God blesses with His truth and with His Word! How God reveals to us the riches of His Word and His truth!
Now today we want to think about thanks and about giving thanks to God. We have to ask ourselves the question, Do we know what we are saying? Do we really know what it means to be thankful? Do we live a thankful life, not just one day? (We cannot live a thankful life just one day. It must be every day of our life.) And do we know what it is to be thankful for His grace?
King David, an Old Testament king of Israel, certainly knew what thanksgiving was. We read of his expression of thanksgiving in a most beautiful way in I Chronicles 29:13-15. In this Scripture David stands at the end of his reign as king. He has gathered all of Israel before him to install Solomon his son as king. Then he offers a most beautiful prayer of thanksgiving, for God had blessed the deepest desire of his heart, which was the building of the temple. He has been allowed to gather together many resources and a huge store of materials so that the work of building the temple could proceed after his death. He had prepared gold and silver and brass and iron and marble and precious stones in abundance. He had personally contributed out of his own treasures and stores three thousand talents of gold and seven thousand talents of silver. Then he called upon all of the people to contribute to the building of the house of God. And for all of this he gives thanks, because he recognizes both in the abundance of the things that they had, and in the willingness of the hearts of the people to offer unto God, the grace of God over them.
He says these words: “Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.”
David said that all was of God and none was of himself.
That teaches us that at the heart of true thanksgiving to God must be a humble acknowledgment. That humble acknowledgement is this: everything that we have and everything we are is not of ourselves, but all is of God. For all things, said David, come of Thee. And of Thy own have we given Thee. That is the source from which thanks to God flows. The consciousness that all comes of God and that none is of ourselves.
Take inventory today of your possessions. And take inventory of yourself. All the property, clothing, home, cars, money, toys, books, furniture, bikes, barns. And take inventory of yourselves: health, talents, skills, strength, looks, knowledge. Where did that all come from? Whose is it? In any sense of the word can you say that it came from you? Or in any sense does it belong to you? The answer of God is a flat “No!” An absolute “No!” None of it is of yourselves. All of it is of God. Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” It is the Lord’s. All commodities, raw materials, all abilities to convert energy and resources, all wealth, property, skill, possessions, life, all belongs to Him. He created it, He owns it, He gives it. And not one speck of it comes from our own selves or is owned by us. All things come of Thee. None of self; all of Thee.
Indeed, David asks, who am I, and what is my people? The answer to that is: creature, dust. Dust piled high and held in place by God, dependent upon God for every ounce of strength, every breath of air, every beat of heart, every particle of life.
We spend so much of our time in this life getting our daily bread. Hours we spend getting our daily bread. Yet everything is given to us. The strength of the body and mind, the pay check, down to the last crumb on our table, the smallest thread on our clothes. All of it is of Him. None of it is of ourselves.
And David wishes to drive that point home. I should say, God, the Holy Spirit, wishes to drive that point home to our hearts. Not only what we call our possessions belongs to Him, but also our giving, what we give to God, our offerings. And of Thy own, says David, have we given to Thee. He is referring to the offering that he has taken for the building of the temple that Solomon was to build. As you and I place an offering into the collection plate in the church worship service, we must confess that “we give Thee but Thy own.” We are tempted to say at that moment, “Well, here is something we give to God, is it not? Does not God say, ‘Render to me an offering; bring an offering into my courts’?” Yes, He says that. But we offer only what He has placed into our hands. Just like you, as a parent, put a dollar into the soft, little hand of your child and tell him to put it into the collection plate when the deacons pass it along the row, so the check and the money and everything that you have has been put into your hand by God. All we can say is “Thanks, Lord. Thanks for the privilege of rendering to Thee what Thou hast first given to me.”
Still more, the willingness to give is given of God. Six times in I Chronicles 29 David speaks of the fact that the people willingly offered to the Lord out of their substance. Then he says that this willingness is also something that God worked or gave to be in their heart. It was the grace of God that worked this willingness, this cheerfulness to contribute so abundantly towards the building of the temple. How is it, he asks, that we are able to offer so willingly after this sort? How is it that there is this cheerful, this willing desire to give so abundantly to the future cause of the building of the temple? Well, says David, this willingness too comes of God.
And that means that all spiritual good in us is of God. All of Thee, none of self. We read in Philippians 2:12, 13 that it is God who worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Faith in Jesus Christ, love for God, thankfulness for God, willingness to sacrifice for the name of Jesus Christ, repentance from sin, good works. All of these things come of God. Absolutely every spiritual good and every spiritual desire that you have is of God. God gives it to you. None of self, all of Thee. Lord, Thou hast worked all of this in our hearts. Our thanksgiving, our ability to praise God, the joy of our heart to adore God, the ability to say “Thanks, Lord. Thanks for Jesus Christ. Thanks for the forgiveness of my sins. Thanks for Thy love. Thanks for the Holy Spirit.” All of that too is given to us. None of self, all of Him.
Shall we say that together? All that I am, physically, spiritually, I owe to Thee.
Understand that this is not simply an acknowledgement of the head. But this must be done from the heart. In his heart David knew this. It is one thing, of course, to know this in the mind, to think, “Yes, God owns all. God has given all.” It is one thing to see another person’s name on a piece of property and to know that it is not yours even though you want it to be yours. So our nature says, “Mine! My wealth, my might, my diligence, my thrift, my home, my farm, my business, my wife, my children, my clothes.” But in the heart and in the soul we must acknowledge in all humbleness before God that it is not ours. It is His.
So long as the flesh in us says, “This is owed to my skill, this is mine,” we cannot give thanks to God. Any man, any boy, any girl, any woman who thinks that he has come into the possession of something or that he has something due to himself is a fool. Everything comes into our hands in one way: God gave it, God inserted it into our hands. When you contemplate how one prospers and how another struggles then do not say, “By my hand I have gotten me this wealth.” The mind which thinks and the tongue which speaks are not mine. Everything that my hand touches, everything that my mind thinks, every penny that passes through my fingers, not a smidgen of it is mine.
That is what we must acknowledge and that is what we must show in our use of all things. That cuts right to the bone, of course. All thinking which regards something as mine and does not regard it as something given of God to me, all such thinking is pagan, is a denial of God Himself. Not just the one-tenth tithing. Not just what we give to God in the church or Christian school, or to the poor. Not just those things are His, but everything is His. All that is in heaven and all that is on earth is His, says David. My wife is given to me. She is not my property. She is God’s gift. My parents, my children, my husband, the boards under my feet, the car, the saving passbook, the clothes in your closet. All of Thee, none of self.
Let me ask you: are you a pagan or a Christian? Today men say, “We have so much to give thanks for: food, shelter, freedom, work, home, family.” To whom do you give thanks?
Thankfulness always has an object. You cannot just be thankful. You have to be thankful to someone. Who? Are you thankful to yourself, to the country, to fate, to chance, to Lady Luck … or to God? Out of a humble acknowledgment that God owns all and gives all, only out of that can come true thankfulness.
Then David goes on, in that beautiful prayer, to acknowledge that he is a pilgrim, that is, he sees himself as one who, by the grace of God, no longer belongs to this present life. His life is a pilgrimage. He is journeying through this life. And all the things that God has given to him He has given to him for his provision, for his pilgrim journey, for his stewardship. And still more, he acknowledges that he is not going to live for ever. All of those things that God has given to him are not going to abide. They do not leave a permanent mark. There is nothing that abides. There is nothing in this present life that has enduring power. It is all short. It all passes away. So, by grace, we confess that we seek a land which is to come, a land that Jesus has spoken of, a land full of the rich and abiding and satisfying blessings of God, a land which flows with rivers of the love of God and is covered with the fruits of His goodness. We are pilgrims journeying for that day. Now God gives to us all that we have. That is our confession.
Shall we not give thanks? Shall we not join with king David today and shout, “Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name”?
You cannot be thankful? You cannot be filled with humble praise? You are not full of humble contentment and joy in your heart before God? With gravy and potatoes, meat and the finest deserts, clothing, shelter, church of God, family, with a Bible in your hand, with the knowledge of the love of God poured into your heart? You cannot be thankful? With God’s faithfulness keeping you in every step of your way, guiding and defending you, bringing you at last to Canaan’s shores? How can we not but give thanks? Why are we so often irritable, grumbling, complaining, crabby? It is because we forget. And this is what we forget: that we have nothing, deserve nothing, can do nothing. All is of God, none is of self.
Every day we have to wake up and every night we have to close our eyes with these words, “O Lord, I thank Thee for all Thy goodness to me, one who deserves and can do nothing.”
The word “thanks” that David uses is a word that means “to throw out the hand.” A man throws out his hand to encompass all that is around him. He points to everything around him and he ascribes it to God. Shall we do that? Home, food, possessions, clothes, shelter. It is all from God. Church, school, family. It is all from God. Grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, heavenly promises, the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It is all from God. No matter where we turn. No matter what room you enter in your house, no matter what piece of food you place into your mouth. No matter what it might be, you have received it from God. He has given it. Thanks and bless His name. Call upon Him. Render Him the gratitude of your heart.
But that is not all that we have, you know. We also have trials and sorrows and fears and worries and difficulties. These things, too, which cause us to tremble do not come by chance, but they come by the fatherly hand of God. It is not true that God sleeps and the devil sneaks in a few things past Him. Somehow they get past God and are out of His control. No. These things, too, work in God’s hands for our salvation.
Give thanks for everything, for He is your God. Faithful and true, abundant in mercy, pilgrim’s Guide, Friend, and Guardian, almighty God who controls all things for your good.
And do it with joy. Let your voice shake the ground. Praise Him. Praise Him for giving you these things, you who deserve nothing and can earn nothing and have nothing. Praise Him for that grace which will never fail, for His promises which are never found empty. Praise thy God, O Zion. Remember His goodness. Whether that be in happiness and abundance and with a full house, or whether that be with a heavy trial and with a threatening future and with a difficult burden that causes you to cry to heaven for help. Nevertheless, praise Him, for He is thy God. All things come of Him. He will be our Guide even unto death.
What do you have that has not been given to you? Can you name one thing?
Thank Him and praise Him who shall be faithful to you even unto death.
Let us pray.
Our Father, we thank Thee for Thy precious Word. We pray that Thou wilt teach us truly to give Thee praise and thanks in this day. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.