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Thanks Be To God

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called Thanksgiving Day in October and the Americans having their Thanksgiving Day holiday this coming November weekend, today’s message is about being truly thankful to God.

Thanks be to God is a repeated phrase in the Bible. You find it for instance in 1 Corinthians 15:57, 2 Corinthians 2:14, 2 Corinthians 8:16, and 2 Corinthians 9:15.  Thanks be to God!  Let me read to you from some of the psalms expressing the call to live in godly gratitude to the LORD.  Listen to just part of Psalm 136:1-3 “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth forever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth forever, and then going to vs.26, the last verse, we read again, “O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth forever.” We find Paul saying in Colossians 3:15 to Christians in his day, “…and be ye thankful”. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3 the same apostle exhorts, “We are bound to give thanks always…..” These New Testament exhortations fit alongside the many Old Testament texts urging the same. “O give thanks unto the LORD” is a repeated phrase in both of them. The psalmist of Psalm 116 testifies in vs.17, “I will offer to thee [O LORD] the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.”

Is your mind and heart today and this week, are you thankful to the LORD and are you living in daily gratitude to the God of the Bible for all His mercies and loving kindnesses, day by day, week by week, year after year? With the national thanksgiving day in the USA this week, a time where many are given a holiday from work, even a paid holiday to give thanks, how good to pause, and consciously and conscientiously to express thanks to the LORD for all His blessings.  Do you know the thankful doxology expressed in song that urges us to:

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,

Praise Him all creatures here below,

Praise Him above ye heavenly host,

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen.

Do you take time to give thanks to God and to show thanks also in meeting for Christian worship in praise to the one only true God from Whom all blessings flow? 

Surely when we are faithful and fruitful Christians, we know, by God’s grace, to give thanks to God is our lifelong calling and never should we be distracted from this calling. Always we should be more and more devoted in this calling, even for as long as we live.  The sad reality is, even for God’s people, too often we can fall into ungrateful complaining and murmuring rather than living lives of gratitude to God before Him and our neighbor. Murmuring and complaining in discontent was and is all too common a problem in our fallen world, even among those who may enjoy so much of this world’s treasures and pleasures. Paul writes in Philippians 2:14 these convicting words, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” and in 1 Timothy 6:6 he says, by the Spirit of God, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  David in Psalm 103 reminds himself of the calling to be thankful when he exhorts and encourages himself and others saying, “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

So today let us just think some more about this call to give thanks to God.  Thanks be to God is our thankful theme and let us learn and/or remind ourselves of some basic Biblical teaching, Christian gospel teaching, about being truly thankful.

Let us notice first of all from God’s word that true thanksgiving is God-directed. Being truly thankful is not simply a certain feeling of happiness or a sense of contented fulfillment and accomplishment and security. Rather, true thanksgiving is God-focused acknowledgment and recognition of His boundless mercies to us. When the Bible says repeatedly ‘Thanks be to God’, it is a confession of faith in God where we confess that He has not dealt with us according to our sins and sinfulness, but in grace and lovingkindness has blessed us with countless gifts of love, even for soul and body.

Sadly, in this regard, isn’t it true each year again with Thanksgiving Day, much thanksgiving celebration and feasting on that special day and other times is not at all an expression of ‘Thanks be to God’. It is more a celebration of what people think of as their own achievements and good luck and success on their hard work.  But true Christians are different in acknowledging, as the psalmist of Psalm 139 also relates and expressed in a song based on that psalm: 

All that I am I owe to Thee,

Thy wisdom, Lord, has fashioned me;

I give my Maker thankful praise,

Whose wondrous works my soul amaze. 

‘Thanks be to God’ when it is true thanksgiving.  When you anticipate another Thanksgiving Day celebration this coming week, just consider how many reasons you have to be thankful to God. Has the LORD not been gracious and merciful to you another year in countless ways even? Think of the freedoms we enjoy in North America and the USA! Consider our housing blessings, our food and drink abundance, our transportation privileges, our medical benefits, our health blessings, our church blessings, our work opportunities still, our family joys, our clothing supplies, our luxuries of holidays and toys and leisure enjoyments, our parks and country and province and city infrastructures. And then, most of all, think of all our gospel privileges and riches with the Bible, and the gospel preaching, and so many occasions for learning more and more of the unspeakable gift of God as granted to us in and through Christ Jesus! When you compare the blessings enjoyed in the Western world for the most part, how much more than others is freely and daily granted to us, ultimately always from the LORD. 

Consider even just the fact of freedom of religion and that Christians may go to church openly. We may have the blessing of the preached gospel word and the two Christian sacraments of baptism and Lord’s Supper in addition to the Word preached on a regular basis. What about the blessing of enjoying and benefiting from the gift of the communion of saints together? Should we not be most thankful too that again God has blessed His church another year that in addition to providing for our own needs and that of our families, we could give for the cause of the Lord and the furtherance of His church and kingdom around the world? Then too, must we not say there is reason to be thankful for the way God helped through hard times again this past year? Were there not hard times in our lives, yours and mine, even perhaps now still? Yet the LORD has not forsaken His people and God in Christ promises and proves His comfort and help even in the darkest and most difficult and sorrowful of times.  How many Christians can speak of so much help from God above, even in the darkest and most difficult of times? Psalm 107 tells of different hard situations God’s people go through, but how God is always the almighty Saviour God for all who trust and follow Him. And then you have in that psalm the repeated text at least four times, “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”

Yes, for there is so much reason to be thankful and our text now emphasizes, let us express our thanks to God above, our Triune God as revealed in Christ, the Saviour of sinners.  We read in Luke 17 the story of the ten lepers healed by Jesus at their request, but only one came back to give thanks to the Saviour. Only one, the Samaritan, “turned back and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face at his [Jesus] feet, giving him thanks.”  Are you today and this Thanksgiving week, thinking now especially of the Americans, like that healed leper, so thankful to God his Saviour? Or not? The other nine lepers healed by Jesus failed to be thankful to God. Are you more like them who had no thought or time to be thankful to God? Or are you like the one who humbly and joyfully thanked the Lord Jesus for His mercies to him?  If we are honest, isn’t it true, even as Christians, are we not all more quick to pray to God for help and blessing than to thank Him for His help and His blessings?  Thanks be to God, our text exhorts, as Paul says too in 1 Corinthians 4:7, For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory [boast] as if thou hadst not received it?

Thanks be to God, for of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, and to God alone be all the glory. Every good and perfect gift in life for body and soul always comes from the LORD in His mercy and lovingkindness to us.  Yes, we can be thankful to others in our lives, to each other in our families, and to one another in the congregations we worship, and to those serving for our good in one way or another in our lives, in our society and country and government, etc. But ultimately our thanksgiving is to be God-focused and God directed. Sing praise to Him and give Him thanks, And all His goodness show is the exhortation of Scripture as expressed also in a song based on Psalm 147. “Unto thee, O God do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks…” the psalmist says in Psalm 75:1. If it is well, dear friends, not just on Thanksgiving holidays, but from day to day and all our life long, there are boundless reasons for this to be our testimony before God and each other and before the watching world. Thanks be to God!

When you and I are thankful especially to God for all His mercies and blessings, that too is something by itself to be so thankful for. It is not because you are better than others that you live thankfully before God and others, but God has so blessed you under the ministry of His Word and by His Holy Spirit that, by His grace, you have come to see, when it is well, your thanksgivings must be focused on the LORD. For His goodness and mercy endures forever and God Triune has planned and accomplished a way that His people, as many as turn from sin and trust in Him, might know this gospel truth and enjoy this most wonderful blessing of God for ourselves not only in this life, but even forevermore in the world to come! 

Here we come also to a second key truth that our text phrase teaches us about Thanks be to God.  Very interestingly the New Testament word for “thanks” is closely related and almost interchangeable to the word also for “grace”.  And what we can learn from this also is that true thanksgiving to God is known and shown when you and I realize and cherish also the grace of God towards us as revealed in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners. The reality about our sinful selves by nature is that we are always underserving of every blessing from God, being a guilty, defiled, sinful people by nature.  You and I, along with this whole fallen world, deserve of ourselves only God’s everlasting wrath and temporal and eternal punishment for all our sins and sinfulness. 

But the gospel tidings of the Bible proclaim the precious good news that God sent His only beloved Son to be the Saviour of sinners. That Saviour, Jesus Christ, come in the fullness of time, left the riches and comforts of heavenly glory to come to this earth as Sinbearer and to serve as perfect complete Saviour of sinners. What a Man of sorrows He was here on earth when bearing the curse of God on sinner’s behalf, and suffering the relentless assaults of Satan against Him and the mocking and scoffing of sinners in ridicule of Him. What poverty and hunger and shame and pain Jesus suffered bearing the sins of His people. It all climaxed, as we know, on the cruel cross of Calvary where He was crucified in the sinner’s place to make atonement for sin and to reconcile sinners like us to God His Father.  What indescribable agonies of soul and body He suffered on the cross in making full payment for sin and at the same time offering up to God a perfect righteous life on the sinner’s behalf.  God’s people never can forget it, and always come back to this: How all our blessings for soul and body come to us ultimately because of Christ the Saviour and His once for all sacrifice on the sinner’s behalf. 

And the exceeding riches of God’s grace towards us is boundless in and through Christ the Lord! The expression “thanks be to God” is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:57 when telling of Christ’s victory over sin, Satan, death, and hell for His people, even for as many as trust and follow Him in true faith and repentance.  “But thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”  Yes, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift” as freely granted to us in and with Christ, the crucified and risen Redeemer, Who gave His life a ransom for many. In and through the Saviour, Jesus Christ, trusting and following Him as only Saviour and Lord, you and I may have our sins washed away and our sinfulness overcome. And we become more than conquerors over Satan and this world, and we have victory even over death. True Christians looking to Jesus the Saviour and abiding in Him and His Word are guaranteed, by God’s grace, certain escape from eternal hell and sure entrance into heaven for everlasting life. And in glory the redeemed live in fullness of life, being there in body and soul in endless praise and joy and peace forevermore in the blessed presence of God in the new heavens and earth, world without end. Dear friends, what can compare to such blessing above all? 

True thanksgiving recognizes this and confesses this Christian gospel truth and treasure.  It makes God’s people also on special days and times of thanksgiving most thankful, even when this year times may be tough, money may be short, health may be failing, and loved ones even dying. Do you know what the believers in the Old Testament said accordingly in the last verses of Habakkuk 3? Glorying in God’s forgiving grace in the promised Messiah, they testified, regardless their present circumstances, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall the fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet will I rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like the hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.”

The truth is, the poorest Christian on earth, knowing the grace of God in Christ Jesus and the love of God the Father for Jesus’ sake and the comforting ministry of the Holy Spirit as sent by the Father and the Son, has far more reasons for thanksgiving to God than the richest man on earth who doesn’t know and believe in God as revealed in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners. Thanks be to God is thankfulness saturated with the receiving and realizing and rejoicing in the grace of God for us in and through Christ, the Saviour of sinners.  Do you do this and will your thanksgiving celebrations in life also reflect this Christian thankfulness?

Unbelievers are not truly thankful to God. Oh, in this coming week they may celebrate Thanksgiving Day too, yet doing so with not even mentioning God as the source of every blessing in life. Sadly, even in the so called Christian West in our present day, how few pray and give thanks for their daily bread even. How sad, as if all the food and drink just came there by itself and that it can nourish and strengthen us all on its own accord? Do any of us have any idea how much the body has to work well together for a single morsel of food or drink of water truly to be of blessing to us?  To be mindful of this and to allow a word of grace with the turkey dinner, but then still deny and not believe and trust and follow Christ Jesus, God’s most precious gift of all for us, one so desperately needed by each one of us shall we be truly saved is the height of wicked wretched ingratitude.  God forbid any of you now will so live and die, never really confessing and demonstrating Thanks be to God!  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “Now thanks be to God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ”. Isn’t that the heartbeat of true Christian thanksgiving when it is well with us?

Thanks be to God truly expressed, as taught in the Bible, is thanks from you and me that is God-focused, and thanks that is grace-minded, and recognizing that every blessing in life is all for Jesus’ sake alone. Such is Christian thanksgiving, and may it be much evident in our lives not just with special Thanksgiving Days, but all the days of our life.

Saying that, we also need to mention yet one more truth just from the repeated Scripture phrase, Thanks be to God. Not only does this phrase bring out true thanksgiving is a matter always God-focused and grace-minded, but also it relates giving thanks is never a ‘one-item’ matter nor a ‘one-time’ thing. It is a lifetime calling. While the word “thanks” is in the original in the singular yet it is to be understood as a lifetime of thanks. Is there not endless reasons for you and me to have a wholehearted attitude and mindset of constant gratitude to God for Who He is and what He has done, and what He promises and pledges and gives from out of His abundance of mercy, all for Jesus’ sake alone? “O give thanks, O give thanks, O give thanks” the psalmist of Psalm 136 exhorts. Why? Because, as is repeated 26 times in that one psalm just, “for his mercy endures forever.” The word for mercy there in the Hebrew is ‘hesed’ which is the beautiful full covenant term telling of God’s lovingkindness towards us in and through His salvation work by Christ Jesus.  Literally the second half of the text confesses 26 times, forever is God’s covenant love and loyalty towards us.  As one Study Bible put it, All God does throughout this world [and especially for His people] is soaked in His faithful love.

Surely never can we be done giving thanks to God then for all His mercies now and forevermore in and through Christ, and always there is reason for thankful thoughts, words, and deeds before God and others when one of God’s redeemed children.  One way of giving thanks is with showing our gratitude to God by giving of our first-fruits to the Lord for the ongoing gospel ministry of the Word. Thankfulness is not for nothing described in terms of thanksgiving, giving also of our tithes in praise to God and in care for those around us. There are other ways we can show thanks too, and that is by loving service to others and for and in God’s church and kingdom as God gives us opportunity.  Just being polite and courteous to others and showing a spirit of humble thanksgiving for the least blessing and care shown is so up-building and God-honoring too. 

The point is, being thankful truly can wonderfully be shown in so many ways, can’t it? And being genuinely thankful isn’t only a one-time act, but a heart-felt lifetime calling when it is well with us. Yes, then we say with the psalmist of Psalm 116 as expressed in yet another song:

What shall I render to the Lord, For all His benefits to me?

How shall my soul by grace restored,

Give worthy thanks, O Lord, to thee?

 

Salvation’s cup of blessing now, I take, and call upon God’s Name;

Before His saints I pay my vow,

And here my gratitude proclaim.

 

Within His house, the house of prayer, I dedicate myself to God;

Let all His saints His grace declare,

And join to sound His praise abroad.

Even so, will you, by God’s grace, give thanks to Him? If you are one who doesn’t know this spirit of true thanksgiving before God and your neighbor, why not ask the LORD to teach you this spirit of true Christian thanksgiving? Come to Jesus to learn what it means truly to be thankful before God and your neighbor. You may come to Jesus even now and ask Him to lead you too in true Christian thanksgiving. Don’t live on being unthankful before God and others even a single day longer. 

There is nothing more delightful and meaningful and enriching than living a life of true thanksgiving to God ever testifying in thought, word, and deed before Him and our neighbors, Thanks be to God! Lives lived in true thanksgiving are most blessed lives and of so great blessing also for those around them.  Who wouldn’t far rather live with a thankful person than someone unthankful and complaining always, and being disgruntled and dissatisfied on so many fronts?  God help us be truly thankful at home, at work, at school, in our church, and in our community because it is so pleasant and good and fruit-bearing and God-honoring above all when you and I so live each day. Isn’t being truly thankful in the threefold way explained here also the best preparation for the world to come where eternal thanksgivings will be given to God by all the redeemed, world without end?

Oh, give thanks unto the LORD here and now for the LORD is good, and His mercy endures forever.  Thanks be to God! Yes, thanks be to the LORD even for teaching and exhorting us ever to give thanks to Him as is His due!  The apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  And it is only through Christ Jesus and being joined to Him in true faith and repentance that we learn the way of true thankfulness now and forevermore.  Thanks be to God also now for this message on true and everlasting thanksgiving. Are you thankful to God for this Christian thanksgiving message?  Amen.

Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor           

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