Give Thanks by Philip John

Today’s “guest devotional” is by my father-in-law, Philip John. He lives in Chennai, India, and gave this sermon last Sunday at Ashraya Church , where he is an elder. I found it both encouraging and convicting, and wanted to pass it along. My favorite passage:
Many times we may end up losing something we value very much and when this happens we lose ‘face’. We are seen as losers. We try to resist this by hanging in there by hook or by crook — often by crook which we justify in our mind – ‘we don’t want the Lord’s name to be let down’! But the real reason is that we don’t want to let go of something we want to cling on to. Actually God may be taking away something so He could put something bigger and better in our hands! And in the process of our ‘letting go’ you can be sure that He is changing your character and increasing your trust in Him.
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by Philip John, Chennai, India
A well known prayer of thanks goes like this:
We thank you for the flowers so sweet;
We thank you for the food we eat;
We thank you for the birds that sing;
We thank you God for everything.
When someone says ‘thank you’ to you, are you pleased or annoyed? I don’t I need to take a vote here! We are all pleased.
We want to be appreciated especially when we take the trouble to do something for someone. On the birthday of your spouse you shop around and buy something special hoping that it pleases him or her because you love that person. When he or she the opens up gift, examines it and gives you a hug saying — thank you — you savor that moment feeling totally fulfilled. After all it was worth taking all that trouble!
However, generally in Indian culture this is not practiced a lot. In fact we feel it is discourteous to open a gift in front of the giver. We just take it with a nod, probably muttering ‘thanks’ under our breath. We open it after the person has gone and in the meantime the giver is wondering whether you liked the gift or not. It is an anti-climax!
At a wedding you give gifts to the bride and groom. Most of the time you get no acknowledgement for your trouble, in some cases you get a printed card — thanking you for ‘gracing the occasion and the gift’. Very, very seldom do you get an acknowledgement which says “thank you for the most wonderful flower vase — we put on the dining table and it’s looking great there!” Would you be delighted if you got that kind of an acknowledgement?
I remember my first trip to Tokyo in 88 to judge a dog show. To express his appreciation the President of the Japan Kennel Club invited me to his office and in midst of a gathering of the Directors of the Club, thanked me for doing a great job. He then pulled out a small packet — nicely wrapped – and after bowing low handed it over to me. I got up made a little bow of my own took the gift and put it in my pocket. I saw a look of shock and disappointment on his face and so I asked the interpreter from the corner of my mouth — am I missing something here? She said — Mr. Kariayabu would like you to open the gift. So I pulled it out and tore open the wrapping and proceeded to open the black velvet box — and inside was an amazing piece of jewelry. It was a ring with a large black star pearl set in white gold! I couldn’t help but gasp and say thank you, and the President and the assembled dignitaries derived much satisfaction from my happy reaction!
I realized that it was so much better to say thank you and express my joy in front of the giver – to let the giver know that his or her gift is valuable and appreciated.
Of course saying thank you need not be only when receiving gifts. In life people constantly do things for you. When was it that you said thank you to your wife or husband, your father or mother, your colleagues and those who work with you?

God is no different in this aspect. He appreciates people who thank Him. In Luke 17:11-19 we see Jesus’ reaction when one out of ten lepers came back to offer his thanks. Jesus connected it to the leper’s faith!

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, *Go, show yourselves to the priests.? And as they went, they were cleansed.15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him?and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, *Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?? 19 Then he said to him, *Rise and go; your faith has made you well.? (Luke 17:11-19)

Do you see a connection between faith and thanksgiving (praise)?
What kind of people are we? Are we like the nine who got what they wanted and went on their way? Or the one who returned to say thank you?
We find that by nature we grumble. Most of the time we murmur and complain – nothing we have is good enough. The world owes us much more. But as we use our tongues to grumble and complain we develop a critical spirit. This is the opposite of a thankful heart.
Read Numbers 14:26-28

26 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 27 *How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. 28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say

God hates grumbling and complaining and sometimes He often allows a difficult situation or season to come into our life. He may sometimes ‘disturb’ a relationship or association that is not the best for you. He may cause an unrighteous business you are involved in to close down. He may make you put aside a career that you are in.
And so you ask — “How can we have a thankful heart when something precious is being taken away from us?” We become fearful when we look at the circumstances we are in. Many times we may end up losing something we value very much and when this happens we lose ‘face’. We are seen as losers. We try to resist this by hanging in there by hook or by crook — often by crook which we justify in our mind – ‘we don’t want the Lord’s name to be let down’! But the real reason is that we don’t want to let go of something we want to cling on to. Actually God may be taking away something so He could put something bigger and better in our hands! And in the process of our ‘letting go’ you can be sure that He is changing your character and increasing your trust in Him.
I speak from first hand experience! (testimony)
Many of you are going through rough patches right now. You have been praying and crying out to God. Some of you have moved into a place of despair and a deadening of your spirit.I can’t pray anymore; can’t get myself to even open the Bible. How can I thank and praise God when He is not hearing my prayer? He seems silent and distant and doesn’t seem to care about what is happening to me. If that is you – you are in depression or nearing that stage. But you ask — “what can I thank God for, when I am in this hell hole?”
It is precisely at this moment that you must begin to give thanks. Beloved that is the only way you can co-operate with God to turn this situation around. When you are in depression you are completely in the grip of un-belief. The Bible says that it is faith that will accomplish the impossible. How do you get faith? Faith comes from hearing and meditating on the word of God. But how can you even want to read God’s word let alone meditate on it?
The key is to give thanks. What can I give thanks for, you ask? Well to start with, you give thanks for the most important event in your life — your salvation.
Think of the day when you understood that the Holy Spirit had re-created your spirit in the image of Christ! Think of the huge debt of sin Christ has paid for with His blood. This is not a small thing even though after a few years of being a Christian you may tend to forget the huge impact this has for eternity. Please remember that you are now alive with Christ forever. As you begin to thank God for this amazing truth you will become aware of how He has set you free from the cycle of sin. Habits and attitudes that seemed entrenched were thrown out of the window — some immediately and some over a period of time. In your mind’s eye savor the freedom you enjoyed. Begin to name these and thank God for each of these. Very soon you will realize that you are actually a very favored person for instance while so many are suffering poor health you have good health. While people have lost loved ones and homes in calamities you are safe and protected, and so on?
Begin to thank God that He is in control of your life. Thank Him for loving you with an everlasting love. Romans 8: 37 – 39 says — *No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.?
It was purely by Grace that you were saved. There was nothing that you merited to make you eligible. You didn’t find God, He found you. Actually the Bible says that He knew you before the foundations of the earth. He is your Creator; He knows what is best for you. Do you think He’d give you second best? So trust Him to come through for you. But you must co-operate with Him by yielding and getting out of His way.
All of a sudden your whole frame of mind starts to change. You start to thank God for all that you have and stop majoring on what you don’t have. In doing this you decide to trust God to give you His best. You know what you have done? You have just set yourself up for a miracle!
The apostle Paul says always be thankful in all things – good as well as bad.
In Philippians 4:12-13 he says —*I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learnt the secret of being content in any situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

King David offered thanks day and night. Many of the Psalms he wrote starts with:
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

To conclude these are the things we need to remember:
  1. Grumbling is a natural behavior while giving thanks has to be cultivated. (It is important to teach children to say ‘thank you’, ‘please’ and ‘sorry’)
  2. Everything that happens may not be wonderful but it can be turned around for good! And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28
  3. Thank God in the midst of adversity. Your problems are molding you into a better person. So don’t be tempted to give up.
  4. Genuine gratitude is spontaneous, not forced. Yet spontaneity comes more easily to a disciplined heart. Which means – thank God even when you don’t feel like it.
  5. A prayer of thanksgiving changes the atmosphere and expressing gratitude influences others.
  6. The motive for giving thanks is not to manipulate God but to express your trust in Him.
You have a thankful heart because you are the beneficiary of the sacrifice of Jesus. Freely you have received and so freely give!
Give thanks with a grateful heart..