Saturday, December 02, 2006

“The Unexpected Power Of Giving Thanks”

(This is from my unedited notes from last Sunday)


Before I start today I thought it’d go over some facts about the real History Of Thanksgiving…

The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, to commemorate the harvest reaped by the Plymouth Colony after a harsh winter. In that year Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. The colonists celebrated it as a traditional English harvest feast and invited the local Wampanoag Indians.

FACT: The first feast wasn't repeated, so it wasn't the beginning of a tradition. In fact, the colonists didn't even call the day Thanksgiving. To them, a thanksgiving was a religious holiday in which they would go to church and thank God for a specific event, like the winning of a battle.

Days of thanksgiving were celebrated throughout the colonies after fall harvests. But, all thirteen colonies didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving at the same time until October 1777. George Washington was the first president to declare the holiday, in 1789.

A New National Holiday
By the mid–1800s, many states observed a Thanksgiving holiday. But a poet and editor named Sarah J. Hale started lobbying for a national Thanksgiving holiday.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, looking for ways to unite the nation, talked about the idea with Sarah Hale. In 1863, he gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring the last Thursday in November a day of thanksgiving.

In 1939, 1940, and 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt, wanted to lengthen the Christmas shopping season, so he proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November. There was a big controversy over that, and Congress passed a joint resolution in 1941 decreeing that Thanksgiving should fall on the fourth Thursday of November, where it is nowadays.

But, you know what?

I think thankfulness is actually too powerful of a thing to only focus on it for one day a year. What if you lived everyday like it was thanksgiving? How would that change you?

Today I want to talk to you today about “The Unexpected Power Of Giving Thanks”. Being thankful and giving thanks when things are going good is hard enough for most us. It’s so easy for us to forget to be thankful or take time to be thankful.

What if I told you that if we can learn to give thanks not only when things are good, but also when they’re bad that it would open us up to God doing powerful things in our lives?

I want to look at a story that many of you have probably heard from John 6. It’s the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. There’s something strange that Jesus DOES that I want us to see today.

John 6
Jesus crossed over the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miracles as he healed the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up into the hills and sat down with his disciples around him. 4 (It was nearly time for the annual Passover celebration.) 5 Jesus soon saw a great crowd of people climbing the hill, looking for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, "Philip, where can we buy bread to feed all these people?" 6 He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Jesus is testing Philip and the others. Have they learned from all the miracles that they’ve seen him do at this point? Will they have faith or fear?

This is an important lesson for them to learn, because they’re going to face impossible situations and their going to need to learn to trust and rely on God in those situations!

Jesus is using this situation to test them! How will they respond?

Let me ask us this question...

  • How many miracles do you have to see God do in your life before you believe God can take care of your current problem?
  • How many do you have to see before you respond in faith instead of fear?

When we get into a problem we always have the choice between faith and fear. But have you ever thought about this?

You can’t lose by having faith. But, you can’t win by having fear! What do I mean?

If you respond in doubt and fear to your problem what will happen? The best case situation: probably nothing. You’ll find out your fear was for nothing! Worse case situation: you’ll be in exactly the place you were afraid you’d be! The fear didn’t change ANYTHING!

If you respond in faith what will happen? The best case scenario: you give God a chance to move and do something and he will do something BEYOND what you expected! The worst case situation: you’ll be in the place you were afraid of, BUT you’ll know you’ve been trusting God so he’s in control and he has a plan!

Do you see why you can’t lose by having faith?

It’s because you won’t end up in a worse situation having faith, than if you doubted and feared, but by having faith you COULD end up in a situation you BETTER than you would’ve NEVER experienced without God! Let’s go back to the story…

7 Philip replied, "It would take a small fortune F26 to feed them!"

Ah man! Philip didn’t pass this test! Why? He only looked at the hugeness of the situation and he was focused on what they didn’t have! Not only that, he focused on what THEY would need to do to try and feed them.

But wait a second there’s still hope! Andrew’s about to say something…

8 Then Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up. 9 "There's a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?"

Ding-Ding! You’re getting warmer with that answer, Andrew! Do you see how Andrew’s focus is different than Philip’s? He sees the hugeness of the situation, but he doesn’t look at what they don’t have. He looks to what they DO have!! That must’ve been as good of an answer as Jesus thought he was going to get, cause look what he says…

10 "Tell everyone to sit down," Jesus ordered. So all of them – the men alone numbered five thousand – sat down on the grassy slopes.

Now I want to give you a chance to notice the crazy thing Jesus is about to do, before I tell you what it is. Ok? Now remember there’s 5,000 people, not counting the women and children! Watch and listen see if you catch something strange Jesus does. Ready?

11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and passed them out to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish.

Did you catch it? Let me read it again… Anyone want to take a guess about what the strange thing Jesus does?

Here’s your hint: it has to do with our topic today - thankfulness.

The strange thing Jesus does is he THANKS God!!! He thanks God for ONLY having 5 loaves and 2 fish when they have to feed probably at least 10,000 people!!! Jesus thanks God for what they have!

If WE were there we’d probably start they prayer, “God, we have a BIG problem here and I don’t know how, or if you can, or want to help us. We only have 5 loaves and 2 fish God and we have to feed ALL these people! HELP!!!”

Notice there was no “thanksgiving” in that prayer we’d do! Remember, Jesus is trying to teach them something here!

He’s trying to teach them that when you’re in a situation over your heads to start by looking at what you have and being thankful for what it! Thank God that you have something to start with!

This reminds of what I heard about the famous author Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For his part in an attempt to overthrow Adolf Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran minister, was hanged on April 9, 1945, after 2 years imprisonment in a concentration camp. He wrote:

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?”

Jesus prayed and said, “Thanks God for these 5 loaves to feed these people.” Then it says he prayed the same thing, “Thanks God for these 2 fish to feed these people.”

Scottish minister Alexander Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit and he always found something for which to be grateful. One Sunday morning the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to himself, "Certainly the preacher won't think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a wretched day like this." Much to his surprise, however, Whyte began by praying, "We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this."

Learning to thank God for what you have, instead of what you don’t is all about being optimistic.

This is about seeing the glass half full instead of half empty and about being grateful for that half of glass! But optimism isn’t just about looking at what you do have instead of what you don’t have, it’s also about looking at what is, instead of what could be worse

George Mikes, in the book “How to be Decadent” tells this story…

*In Budapest, a man goes to the rabbi and complains, "Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?"

The rabbi answers, "Take your goat into the room with you." The man in incredulous, but the rabbi insists. "Do as I say and come back in a week."

A week later the man comes back looking more distraught than before. "We cannot stand it," he tells the rabbi. "The goat is filthy."

The rabbi then tells him, "Go home and let the goat out. And come back in a week."

A radiant man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, "Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there's no goat -- only the nine of us."

The man’s view changed because he realized what he had could be a lot worse!

We naturally look at what we don’t have and compare ourselves to a better situation someone else has, but we SHOULD compare ourselves to a worse situation someone else has.

Optimism is all about not losing hope. Hope has to do with expectation! Paul says this about hope in Romans 8:24-25

24 Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom. For if you already have something, you don't need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don't have yet, we must wait patiently and confidently.

Hope is a form of faith. It’s expecting God to use what is to make what isn’t!

Watch what amazing thing happens…

And they all ate until they were full. 12 "Now gather the leftovers," Jesus told his disciples, "so that nothing is wasted." 13 There were only five barley loaves to start with, but twelve baskets were filled with the pieces of bread the people did not eat!

10,000 or more ending up FULL from 5 loaves and 2 fish would be a big enough miracle, but it gets even BIGGER and BETTER! There were leftovers!!!

They ended up with MORE than they started with!?! How cool is God!?!

He can do such a big miracle in your life that you end up with more than you started with!!!

When I first came across this passage , realized how strange it was to give thanks when you didn’t have enough me and Sue decided to try it. This was when I was at 3 Cities Assembly in Burlingame.

It was during a time when we didn’t have very much money. We were really struggling. But, instead of complaining about how short we were on money we decided to start thanking God for what we had!

We started experimenting with trying this and something cool happened…

We were at Costco buying some groceries which we hardly ever did, but I had gotten a Costco card from the church to use for buying using supplies or whatever and we went there to get food, some other things and diapers.

We got there, got what we needed and then got in line. When we got in line we saw a guy we knew from the church named Dan. He was right behind us in line. We started talking and they started scanning our things.

As I’m talking to Dan he doesn’t something strange that I don’t notice. He runs his card through the credit/debit machine. It doesn’t click to me what’s happening at first, cause the machines were farther back, kind of behind where you stand and talk to the cashier.

All of a sudden I realize something weird is going on and I say, “Hey, Dan! What are you doing?” He says, “I’m paying for your things!” I was like, “Wait, you don’t have to do that!” He says, “I know, but I want to!” I’m still shocked and a little embarrassed and I say something like, “Thanks! But…” Then we thanked some more times.

We really didn’t have enough money to live and God totally provided for us through Dan! It was such a cool miracle for us to see after we had started thanking God for what we had instead of what we didn’t!

Thankfulness is not a magic trick. It doesn’t always get you you’re way. But, it always puts us in the right attitudeno matter WHAT happens!

I wonder if ingratitude is one of our greatest sins?

The 5 loaves and the 2 fish weren’t much, but they were better than nothing! At least it was some food that could feed someone! Even if there wasn’t a miracle God should still be thanked for what he had given them!



Even though I clutch my blanket and growl
when the alarm rings, thank you, Lord, that I can
hear. There are many who are deaf.

Even though I keep my eyes closed against
the morning light as long as possible, thank you,
Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off
rising, thank you Lord, that I have the strength to
rise. There are many who are bedridden.

Even though the first hour of my day is
hectic, when socks are lost, toast is burned and
tempers are short, my children are so loud
thank you, Lord, for my family.
There are many who are lonely.

Even though our breakfast table never looks
like the pictures in magazines and the menu is at
times unbalanced, thank you, Lord, for the food
we have. There are many who are hungry.

Even though the routine of my job is often
monotonous, thank you, Lord, for the opportunity
to work. There are many who have no job.

Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate
from day to day and wish my circumstances were
not so modest, thank you, Lord, for life.


I want to encourage all of us to try something different. Go against your natural reaction. The next time your about to complain to God about a problem you have, stop yourself and thank him for what good is happening. Thank him for what you have. Then, pray and give him your problem and see what happens!

I want to end today with communion and remember what God’s done for us through Jesus and thank him for it all.

1 comment: said...

You better go to and find out about the first Thanksgiving .

The real truth is there.