Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 November 24, 2019
“In All, Give Thanks”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
We again reach our national day of thanks on Thursday coming. Once again, we expect to enjoy the usual blessings of the day: rest from ordinary labors, plus enjoyment of good food, good company, and good activity. Let us not fail, in enjoying the gifts, to thank the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Hear now the Word of God written, which testifies ever to the Word of God living, the Lord Jesus Christ.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The Thessalonian church—at the time of Paul’s first letter to them—was a struggling, infant church. Paul founded the church at the outset of second missionary journey (ca. A. D. 49), and, upon arrival in the city, he preached there for three Sabbaths (cf. Acts 17:1-9). After these three Sabbaths—perhaps after a mere fifteen days—opponents of the Gospel drove Paul and his associates from Thessalonica. Hence, humanly speaking, the Thessalonian church both was established incompletely and was open to attack—both from opponents of the Gospel and from false or incomplete teaching. Yet, the church somehow survived and thrived. Paul learned of this and rejoiced, and he wrote to rejoice with the church and to supply teaching—either by way of friendly reminder of old material or introduction of new material.
After the main body of teaching in 1 Thessalonians, Paul gives a series of staccato exhortations to the church (5:12-24). The text containing these exhortations was the text for an extended series of messages early in my ministry, entitled To the Struggling, Infant Church—which our church then was. Our text today, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, comes from these exhortations.
The Holy Spirit, through Paul’s pen, urges us to give thanks in all. First, God calls us to thank Him on prosperous occasions. This seems, especially in this week, as natural as breathing. Who wouldn’t give God thanks for blessings received? Yet, in such blessed estate, lies a formidable temptation—namely, to forget God and to applaud ourselves as the cause of our prosperity.
Moses, led by the Spirit, warns severely against this in Deuteronomy 8:11-20:
“Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His rules and His statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, Who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, Who brought you water out of the flinty rock, Who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He Who gives you power to get wealth, that He may confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.”
Note well the passage’s concern: we are prone to forget God, and, in the forgetting, we invoke His hot displeasure with us. We can avoid such lamentable state if we, upon receiving evident blessing from God, remember Him and thank Him for His goodness unto us.
Second, God calls us to thank Him on adverse occasions. This is more difficult to do for most of us, for the temptation to despair before God sometimes is strong unto near-irresistibility. We face temptation to despair in adversity concerning God’s power, asking ourselves, in effect, “Can’t He do something about this?” We are tempted to despair, in adversity, concerning God’s wisdom, asking, “What is He thinking?” We even face temptation in adverse times concerning God’s love—we ask, “Doesn’t He love me?” God is at work for His glory and our good even in adversity. Hence, let us give Him thanks even in those harder times.
After all, thanksgiving in all is God’s will for you and for me in Christ Jesus. God is worthy of our gratitude, and we do well to remember that He is worthy when things are well with us and when ill. He is worthy of our thanks when we feel like rendering it unto him—and when we don’t. Also, when we thank God at all times, we keep providential events in proper perspective. He is greater than our circumstance, and He is wiser than we. When we thank God at all times, we exalt Him as the loving, wise, Ruler of all—and we testify by implication that we are none of these.
Again, I wish you each and all a happy Thanksgiving Day. Let us remember, as we enjoy the blessings of the day, to thank Almighty God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let us thank Him for Who He is. Let us thank Him for what He does. Let us also thank Him for our many blessings from His hand—which are but a subset of what He does.